This may be the first winter since all three of my kids started skiing that we are not planning on any lessons.
That is not an indication of any COVID-related fears, but instead a matter of having the inability to plan ahead. If we definitively could say which weekends we would be able to travel to Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine, each of the kids would probably participate in a refresher level of some semblance.
I could probably use my own tutorial, grabbing some tips for improvements in the bumps or trees. I thought this could finally be the year I take Bolton Valley’s backcountry instructional tour, but with the Vermont travel restrictions not going away in the foreseeable future, that may have to wait until next winter.
But if the pandemic has had any positive effect on the local skiing economy, it may be the onslaught of newcomers that have been attracted to the sport. Equipment sales have steadily been on the increase since November, an indication that newcomers are looking for winter activities that can deliver them the socially-distanced great outdoors.
“I will say that, based on, particularly, this summer, to see the amount of interest in people hiking and participating in other outdoor recreation … people want to get out and do things,” Sunday River SnowSports School, director Matt Erickson said. “We have several great hiking trails around the area here in Bethel, and virtually every day you’d drive by this summer, all the trailheads were maxed out. So, you were getting people going out to hike just because they wanted to get out. I think we’re probably going to see a bit of that as it relates to learning to ski.”
Ski lessons may look different this year, no matter which ski school you attend. Students should, of course, wear masks and expect health screenings upon arrival. Reservations will need to be made for any potential lessons, which isn’t all that different from the norm anyway.
“Everyone is trying to push online everything — online lessons, online rental equipment — and if we’re able to do that, it minimizes the amount of time individuals have to spend inside,” Erickson said, noting that Sunday River was seeing the normal volume of lesson reservations this season. “So, we’re encouraging, on all fronts, as many reservations as possible.”
The amount of skiers or boarders in a group lesson has been reduced this season at most resorts under COVID protocol, leading some to seek out private lessons for themselves or their families. In fact, some resorts, like Bretton Woods, are only offering private lessons this winter.
“The trend is toward family lessons or skiing with your pod,” Ski New Hampshire spokesperson Shannon Dunfey-Ball said. “Sometimes you want a pro there to take the stress out of learning to ski or to help you improve your skill set, and while some of the protocols may be a little different this year, it’s certainly easy to take lessons to learn to ski or to improve your skiing.”
New England Ski Journal’s Matt Boxler recently spoke with a number of ski school instructors from Stowe, Okemo, Mount Snow, and Mount Sunapee to discover some of the new-school techniques being implemented at those resorts.
“At its core, skiing is a sport of dynamic balance in motion, and in many ways the fundamental principles by which we slide on snow have not changed a lot over the years,” David Yeagle, general manager of the Stowe Ski and Snowboard School, said. “Our focus as instructors is on helping you find what skills will get you to where you want to be. Whether that is new terrain, taking on that beer league race or just gaining more confidence, this will mean modifying or adding skills to those you already bring with you.”
It’s never too late to learn a new skill, no matter how long you’ve been skiing or riding. Take a telemark or moguls lesson at Mad River Glen. Take a $40 clinic at Cannon Mountain to improve your “tree skiing, crud skiing, powder skiing and spring skiing” prowess. Or, head out to a spot like New Hampshire’s Bear Notch Ski Touring Center to take a stab at cross-country skiing.
“My greatest hope is that people want to come and enjoy skiing and if they haven’t skied before to give the sport a try,” Erickson said. “We have a great learning facility, terrain-based learning that really makes the learning process a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable. We did it last year and had great success with terrain-based learning. My hope is that people want to come out and enjoy the outdoors. It’s beautiful up here.”
Cochran-Siegle questionable for world championships
Vermont native Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who had been having a breakthrough season on the World Cup circuit, remains questionable for next month’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Cochran-Siegle suffered a minor broken neck during a downhill crash in Austria.
“I do hope to be back before the end of the season,” he told the Associated Press. “But I need to be smart about this.”
Among the 21 athletes named to represent the U.S. at the championships are Burke Mountain Academy products Mikaela Shiffrin and Nina O’Brien, the University of Vermont’s Paula Moltzan, and Ben Ritchie, of Waitsfield, Vt. and the Green Mountain School.
Elsewhere in skiing news
— Sunday River Resort is looking to make your vehicle base lodge a little more comfortable this winter with more than $1,000 worth of YETI products to help you boot up in the morning. Enter here.
— A skier survived after getting buried in an avalanche on Mount Washington last Friday.
The Mount Washington Avalanche Center wrote the following in a Facebook post: “On Friday. Jan 22, at 3:20 pm, a skier was caught and carried by an avalanche from near the top of Left Gully almost to the floor of the ravine. A ~six inch slab of new and wind deposited snow released from the upper most start zone from skier 2’s feet as skier 1 made his first turn. Skier 1 was quickly swept into and under the moving debris and lost skis and poles. When the flow stopped, he found himself buried face down, fortunately with his head very near the surface, but the rest of his body buried by two feet or more of debris. He was unable to move but could raise his head for a breath.
“Skier 2 did not see his friend and skied away. Ultimately, he alerted others down by the rescue cache. Bystanders closer to the scene, began to dig out skier 1. Others arrived, including Hermit Lake and Harvard Cabin caretakers and later, snow rangers, to assist.”
— A seven-year-old boy suffered serious injuries after falling 35 feet from a lift at Blue Hills Ski Area in Canton, Mass. earlier this week. According to WCVB, the situation remains under investigation, but the boy is expected to be OK.
— A new, $75 million, year-round resort may be in the future for the site of Big Squaw in Greenville Junction, Maine. And speaking of the rebirth of old resorts, the Balsams isn’t quite ready for skiing and riding, but it will welcome weddings beginning this summer.
Catch a new episode of New England Ski Journal TV
We’ve got the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV, hosted by Meredith Gorman, featuring segments on Bretton Woods, Jay Peak Resort and Burke Mountain. Click above to watch.