Readers may recall that last year, at age 40, I decided to try snowboarding for the first time. My son, who is six, enrolled in lessons through the Mountain Munchkin program at the Blue Hills Ski Area in Canton. When I witnessed how naturally he took to it, I thought, “He’ll need someone going to accompany him on the slopes!” My first lesson went well, and I was planning to return for more, but the mountain closed early, due to unseasonably warm weather.
Over the intervening months, I realized that joining my son on the slopes did not require a snowboard. I could just as easily keep him company on downhill skis. I was SO much more drawn to skiing, possibly because I’d tried it – twice – when I was a teenager. So when Blue Hills opened for the season this year, I decided that before I went any farther with the snowboarding, I’d try ski lessons.
I’m so glad I did. I’ve had two lessons now, and I’m planning to go back for more. It’s a better choice for me: I’m a lot happier with my feet moving independently, rather than having them bound together on a piece of fiberglass.
Blue Hills offers a tidy package. For $70 you can get a 1-hour small-group lesson, a lift ticket, and all the rental equipment you need (snowboard or skis/poles, boots, helmet). For a little bit more, you can make it a private class.
So far, I’ve been working with a very kind and patient instructor, who explains the basics of skiing to me, one step at a time. We ride the Magic Carpet up the bunny slope, and as we ski down the hill, I try to demonstrate that I understand what he’s teaching me. It seems to be working. He says that next time I’ll be ready for Patriot Path, the intermediate slope. His goal is to get me out of the wedge-shaped skis that are reserved for beginners, and up to the next level.
Blue Hills offers group and private lessons for all ages. My son is now in the Junior Program, which meets for 90 minutes on Thursday evenings. I’ve been scheduling my own lessons for Thursday or Friday mornings, when the mountain is not very crowded. Blue Hills is much busier in the after-school hours, and on nights and weekends. Visit their website for hours, prices, class info and lots more. http://ski-bluehills.com/
Another recent adventure was my first attempt at indoor rock climbing. I’ve seen climbing walls here and there, but fear always overpowered any intrigue. So I figured that a good first step would be a lesson.
At its various locations — Hingham, Reading, Framingham, Boston — REI offers all sorts of classes throughout the year: snowshoeing, road cycling, disaster prep, and so on. But Learn To Climb is only offered in Framingham, the one remaining local REI branch with a climbing structure. I noticed that there was a class on MLK weekend, so I signed up and paid online before I could chicken out.
Five of us took for the class – men and women ranging in ages from late 20s to early 40s. In the first hour, we got our harnesses fitted, learned knots and rope handling techniques, and then squeezed our feet into the narrow-toed climbing shoes REI provided for the course. Then we divided into pairs and took turns alternately climbing The Pinnacle (the climbing structure) and belaying (keeping our partner safe by taking up the slack on the climbing rope).
I had tried rock climbing in college, once, for about five minutes. The class was outdoors, on “real” rock. I had a panic attack about eight feet up, came straight down, and spent the rest of the class “just watching.” So I wanted to try again.
I did better this time. Rock climbing requires some strength – you use your arms and legs to ascend what is basically a vertical path. But it’s also very much a mental game. It’s easy to give up, so you need to challenge yourself to keep going, even if it’s scary. You also have to trust your partner to keep the rope tight, so that if you slip, you’ll be dangling in the air rather than plummeting to the ground. I’m not sure whether it was my fingers or my nerve that gave out first, but I managed to make it about two-thirds of the way to the top of the easiest climb. I’m planning to go back to try again. The cost of the class was $45 – well worth it for the experience. (http://www.rei.com/outdoorschool.html)
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com