Katie on top of Blue Mountain
Wearing a friend’s ski jacket and snowpants.
Blue Mountain Resort is voted the best place to ski in Pennsylvania and one of the top five best bike parks, and when I read it has the highest vertical drop in the state at 1082 feet, my heart skips a few beats.
I’m always looking to try something new, so I call a friend to see if I could borrow her snowpants. I schedule a beginner’s lesson at the resort because I know nothing about skiing, mountain biking, or vertical drops. Neither does my guest, Alex.
Beginner Ski Lesson with Sheri
There are two ways to arrive at Blue Mountain Resort: the top of the mountain and the bottom. We stand outside Valley Lodge, looking up. It was quite impressive. The most thrilling I have seen in Pennsylvania.
We follow Sheri Miltenberger, our ski instructor, as she zigzags through a small crowd to the rental stations. Sheri shows us how to put our boots on and assesses the fit while we do balancing drills. On our way to pick up our skis, I find myself adopting Sheri’s quick yet calm pace. It is as if we are on the mountain already.
Beginners Lesson Sign
Inside Valley Lodge
It’s Sheri’s 8th season working at Blue Mountain, and it shows with her ease of instruction on the snow. In just a little over 90 minutes we learn:
· Balancing drills
· Proper equipment fitting
· How to carry and use your equipment
· The wedge (or “pizza”) technique
· How to slow down and stop yourself
· How to turn left and right
· Slope etiquette
· Practicing downhill
· Getting on and off the lifts
Sheri doing the wedge
Our ski instructor showing us “the wedge” technique.
The motion of skiing feels very similar to rollerblading for me, which helps me ease into a natural stride. Although Alex is happy to have learned the basics with Sheri, he is more than ready to trade in his skis for a snowboard, which feels more natural to him.
After the lesson, we take Sheri’s advice and stay on the small slopes and practice on our own. With each successful downhill comes confidence, and each uphill comes an enticing view of the top of the mountain. Eventually, we couldn’t resist anymore.
Katie in motion, skiing downhill
Practicing what we learned on the bunny slopes.
Panic in Paradise
The lift ride to the top of the mountain is splendid. If you enjoy a view more than fearing the height, I suggest slightly turning your head for a sneak peek. However, the sight of us getting off the lift is not so pretty. Fortunately, we manage to stay upright and laugh.
After reviewing the trail map, we decide to take on Paradise Trail because it is marked “easiest.” As we turn the bend, another vista catches my eye and the speed picks up. As the trail narrows and drops so does my stomach. The speed with the view and the drop overwhelms me, and all of the sudden I forget what to do.
Alex shouts “pizza” to me, and I form the wedge Sheri had taught us, and it slows me down. Eventually, I stop completely on a sharp bend. A group of skiers and snowboarders flock around me. I freeze.
A skier with a red jacket glides over to me. He asks me if I’m hurt. I shake my head no. You don’t look good. Do you want a ride down? He says. I don’t want a ride down, but I look downhill. I’ll get you a ride. He says and pulls out his walkie talkie.
Within just a few minutes, a woman arrives in a red jacket, on a snowboard, and with a toboggan attached to her waist. She instructs me on how to get into the sled.
Katie and the toboggan
Catching a ride down Paradise Trail.
She is part of the Ski Patrol, a group of highly trained volunteers that sweep the mountain continuously to ensure safety. As we ride down the mountain, her snowboard glides back and forth, swishing through the snow, entrancing me. Alex follows behind on his snowboard.
We spend the remainder of our time on the bunny slopes. I practice forming big “S’s” in the snow, making sure to go all the way across the trail to maintain a slower speed. With each downhill, I feel a little more ready for the 1023 feet vertical drop. With each uphill, I scan the top of the mountain for the entrance to Paradise Trail.
Both Alex and I leave Blue Mountain feeling thankful for the knowledgeable staff and eager to come back. We make a pact that I will finish a ride down Paradise Trail soon. Maybe it will be on skis… Or, just maybe, on a mountain bike!
Alex on the lift with sunset
Catching the sunset on the lift ride.
Note: My visit to Blue Mountain Resort was sponsored; however, the opinions and photos are my own. To learn more about skiing and mountain biking at Blue Mountain Resort, visit skibluemt.com today.
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