Skiing on the slopes of Crystal Mountain

I don’t like going fast. I’ve been known to curl up in the bottom of small speed boats with my arms over my face and cry at just about the moment the driver accelerates beyond zero miles an hour.

So no one really believed in me, to say the least, when I embarked on my first skiing expedition last Saturday.

To clarify, what no one believed was that I would make it down the bunny hill more than once. There was also a very serious question about my ability to ride the ski lift to the top of the bunny hill without dissolving into fits of terror.

Be that as it may, I am happy to report I did not cry at all during the five or so hours I was strapped to skis at Crystal Mountain. I also made it down the bunny hill at least seven times.

Anyone who has similar fears of going fast, getting seriously injured while skiing, and/or encountering snow monsters, this is for you.

We rolled up to Crystal Mountain at about noon, which is pretty late for most skiers—or so I’m told. I had never, ever even been on a ski-friendly mountain before, so I had no idea what to expect. I imagined a cluster of buildings, arranged in small town German-esque fashion, which is pretty close to what I encountered upon arrival.

There were separate buildings to the right of the main ski center where you could go to barter yourself into some ski lessons, which incidently, 100 percent of the people I talked to told me I should most definitely partake in.

I didn’t have time for lessons, though. Skiing is an exhausting process. First, you have to find the bathroom because it’s about a two hour drive from Olympia to Crystal.

Then, you have to find the ski rental shop, which is cleverly hidden in that little German-esque ski village at the base of the slopes. It’s right below and a little to the right of the main stairwell, after you pay your entry fee ($37 for all day on the bunny hill).

Third, and this is one of the most difficult steps, you have to put the ski boots on. I had to have help for that part. I was prepared for this moment; I had been told to expect ski boots to feel like an instrument of medieval foot torture.

But really, relax. Ski boots feel nothing like foot torture. They actually aren’t all that uncomfortable, they make it incredibly hard to walk up or down stairs.

Now, safely hooked up with snug-fitting ski boots, I got the skis themselves and the poles—all for about $30.

Incidently, I found that ski poles seem to make skiing more rather than less dangerous, because their presence means there is one more thing you can stab yourself with when you inevitably fall. Experienced skiers tell me the poles are actually quite important to helping you navigate the slopes, turn left or right, and maintain balance. All of which, I’m sure, you would learn about in a simple ski lesson. Which, again, I didn’t have.

Now, outfitted and ready to go, I stepped out onto the slopes.

I was pleased to find that the bunny hill is a medium length slope with only about a 30 degree incline. Piece of cake. It was actually pretty busy; when I’d pictured bunny hills in my head in the past I’d always thought of a tiny, cozy-looking hill filled with small children, on which my 25 year old self would stick out like a sore and cumbersome thumb. There’s all kinds of people on the bunny hill though—although few of them had less control over their skis than me.

Needless to say, the first thing I did while waiting in line for the bunny hill ski lift was fall. I almost took out a small child—the first of many times that day that I would endanger the safety of others. It took three fellow skiers and about five minutes to get me up on my skis again. Once that was accomplished, I slipped around for a few minutes, and then collapsed again. And child number two had now almost been knocked face first into the snow by my unwieldy skis.

I fell once more when it was my turn to sit on the ski lift, and again when I got off of it.

If you’ve never been skiing before, skis are hard to balance on. Mostly, you have to get used to the unfamiliar feeling of balancing on something that is trying it’s hardest at all times to slide out from under you.

I, however, was extremely determined to master the act of standing upright on skis, if not also the act of gliding gracefully down a beautiful, snowy hill. And I succeeded, for the most part. – It took about two hours and three runs down the bunny hill before I could go more than two feet on the skis without collapsing. And although I figured out how to stay on my feet, so to speak, for at least the majority of my run down the slope, I definitely never figured out how to turn.

Because of this, I barrelled down that 30 degree incline at probably 30 miles per hour, unable to stop unless I made myself fall.

So to clarify, I really didn’t succeed in gracefully gliding down any hills, but I did learn how to crash down them at top speed and spend at least a little more time upright than on the ground. My modus operandi by the end of the day was to fly down the slope at uncontrollable speed until I couldn’t take it anymore, and then bail to my left and end with a terrific wipe-out.

But the point is: I did it. And I learned a thing or two.

First: lessons are a very, very good idea, and well worth the money. Do that first, if you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding before.

Second: when it doubt, wipe-out.

Third: if you follow the second rule, you can expect to be painfully sore and covered in bruises for at least two days following your skiing adventure.

Fourth: I learned skiing is incredibly fun, and needless to say, the view from Crystal Mountain—and this is the view from the bunny slope, to say nothing of the views from the tops of the real peaks—is gorgeous. This is a testament for those of you who hate going fast—you can do this!

And, in case anyone is still wondering, I didn’t encounter any snow monsters. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, though….