A Southern girl’s quaint winter sport beginnings | SummitDaily.com

A Southern girl’s quaint winter sport beginnings

JENNIFER HUFFMANsummit daily news
Great Divide/Brad OdekirkBreckenridge ski instructor Gates Lloyd gives instruction to Georgia native Jennifer Huffman on Peak 9.

I was raised in the South. When we got snow, television programming was interrupted every five minutes for “Winter Storm Watch” updates, cars lined up in emergency lanes on the highway with their lights flashing, schools and government buildings closed, and not a loaf of bread or gallon of milk could be found anywhere in the city. Mind you, the quarter-inch of snow that had fallen wasn’t even sticking yet – but it could, and we wanted to be prepared. So it’s not that winter sports had never appealed to me; they just had never occurred to me.Having moved to Summit County from Atlanta in August, I’ve come across a key element to socializing here. Most conversations at some point generally revolve around skiing, snowboarding or a plethora of other outdoor winter activities. Knowing that I’m going to have to find my niche in this wintery wonderland, I took on the daunting challenge of learning how to snowboard, how to alpine and Nordic ski, and how to snowshoe. What follows is a brief recap of my experiences.SnowboardingBeing the clumsy and cautious girl that I am, I was pretty sure that my day snowboarding would end in a hospital bed. I went the safe route and signed up for Burton’s Learn to Ride (LTR) program at Breckenridge Ski Resort. The Burton LTR equipment supplied for the program – shorter board with click-in bindings – makes the learning process much more gentle. I met up with my group of three other novice riders and our trusty instructor, Chris Juarez.

“Snowboarding is all about being comfortable,” Chris said. “I just relax and let the board do the work.”After some explanation of our equipment and rules of the mountain, Chris herded us over to a special area set up for beginner snowboarders like myself. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to compete for space (read: be incredibly intimidated) with experts on the slope. The first thing we worked on was getting up on the board and side slipping down the slope on the heel edge of the board. We also worked on traversing in a falling leaf pattern across the slope. Chris gave a lot of hands-on help and positive reinforcement, which really aided in the learning process.As I was going down the hill, I realized what he meant. Snowboarding is kind of a Zen thing, “yoga on skis,” as my classmate, Greg, put it.At the end of the day, I was exhausted but happy that I’d done well.SkiingSkiing was slightly more familiar terrain for me as I had visited Breckenridge in January with my fiancé’s family of skiers. I took the K2 Learn to Ski (LTS) class in Breckenridge to avoid getting stuck crying at the top of the mountain. The K2 LTS program uses shorter skis, which make for slower speeds, a helpful element in the learning process.

My group was composed of two other beginners and our instructor, Gates Lloyd. We got familiar with our equipment indoors, and Gates told us that the only two motions we needed to learn today were turning and tilting our skis.”Your ski is like one big extension of your foot,” Gates said. “Whatever your foot does, your ski will do.”We headed outside to a small slope similar to the beginner snowboarding area. While there, we practiced walking uphill, stopping and tilting our skis. My group became pros at the beginner hill, so Gates decided it was time to take us to the Quicksilver lift at the base of Peak 9. I managed to make four successful runs down the Silverthorne trail on Peak 9 by day’s end, and I feel pretty confident about going out again alone.I learned that in skiing, confidence is a key element. For instance, one of the women in my group was doing a great job with her turns, but her confidence was shot so she fell a lot more.Nordic skiingI opted not to take a lesson for Nordic skiing, so my fiancé and I headed to Blue River Sports in Breckenridge to rent boots, poles and cross country skis.

We drove up to Boreas Pass on a recommendation from the employees at Blue River Sports.After snapping into the skis, we began moving along the trail. The slow pace and moderate terrain are right up my alley. Losing my balance on the narrow skis and falling on sharp rocks, however, was not so much up my alley. I think I’ll opt for the lesson next time, but I’d definitely like to try it again.SnowshoeingHiking in the snow would be the most accurate way to describe snowshoeing. My fiancé was again my companion for trying this winter activity. We headed to McCullough Gulch, strapped on the snowshoes over our hiking boots, and were ready to go – poles in hand and our dog already 20 feet ahead of us on the trail. We had to learn the hard way to be careful to lift the snowshoe up and out of the snow just enough to avoid hitting the other ankle.Snowshoeing is about enjoying the sights and sounds of winter, so I wanted to take my time. We went at a slightly quicker pace to keep up with our dog, who is loving life in the High Country. This, unfortunately, made for very sore calves and thighs that evening. Being a big hiker, though, I really enjoyed the experience and plan on investing in my own snowshoes soon.Jennifer Huffman can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at jhuffman@summitdaily.com.

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