Skiing 101

Skiing 101

First time skiing? Get SO excited! It is going to be amazing. There is truly no other feeling than flying down the slopes once you get comfortable in your ski boots! Looking up that steep mountain can be a bit intimidating the first time, so the tips below will help you help you overcome your fears and become a ski pro in no time.
first-time-ski-guide

Where to go: If you already know where you are going, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, there are a few things to think about during your research:

  • Proximity to your home: Of course Colorado, Mammoth, and Tahoe are some of the more popular ski destinations in the US, but there are plenty of other areas that can be less crowded with slopes better for beginners that may even be easier to get to pending where you are from. Might as well start small and make those spots your go-to once you feel good in your skis!
  • Mountain difficulty: Each mountain will have a variety of runs ranging in difficulty and those runs are detailed on the mountain’s website. You can find the percentage of run types, see which runs are open, snow fall, and tons of other details about each mountain on its site that can help you figure out if it is the mountain for you! Also, read mountain reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.  Some “easy” green runs may actually be considered blues elsewhere so spot check your final picks before booking.
  • Budget: Ski passes, gear rentals, and lessons costs vary drastically between resort towns. Most ski areas will have average rental and pass prices on their website so make sure to check them out before hand so you are not surprised. Also, most ski towns are far from the airport, so don’t forget your additional transport costs when budget planning.
  • Read about my experiences at Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico and Snow Bird, Utah here.

Where to stay:

  • Ski in / ski out resorts are THE BEST! If you get the chance to stay in one, do so. There is nothing worse than lugging all of your ski gear far distances in ski boots. Ski in / out resorts are usually right on the slopes, have lockers / gear rentals right next to the lifts, restaurants, and a spa all on site for maximum awesomeness.
  • Staying off site is still a great option too, but try to get as close as possible. We stayed in Taos when we skied in New Mexico and it was a 40 minute drive to the ski area every morning and another 40 minutes home every night – doable but definitely not ideal. If you are not driving your own 4-wheel drive car, make sure to ask if the hotel has a shuttle or if there is easy transport to the ski area.

Up the mountain: There are a few things you need to remember on the mountain to stay in peak shape:

  • Stay very, very hydrated! It is the best way to combat altitude sickness and will keep you going longer on the slopes
  • Bring a snack. We always bring a protein bar in our jackets for when we get peckish but don’t want to stop at a restaurant. Just make sure you have it in an inside pocket so it does not freeze!
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen often! The altitude and the snow make the sun a lot more powerful so don’t forget to protect your skin. While a sexy look, you don’t want to take home goggle burn marks!
  • Chapstick and a small travel lotion are also great things to take with you in your jacket pockets for emergencies.

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

Ski gear: As a first time skier, you may be hesitant to make a full investment in the gear you need – totally understandable! Below are the things you should consider buying vs. renting. For additional details, see the full ski trip packing list here.

Buy:

  • Polarized, no-fog, ski goggles
  • Warm gloves
  • Ski mask (balaclava)
  • Ski beanie
  • Ski helmet with vents. While you can rent a helmet, they pack easily, they pay for themselves after about 2 trips, and I preferred to get once that had not been worn (aka sweated in) before.

Rent:

  • Skis, poles, and boots

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Ski lessons: For your first time on the slopes, get an instructor! If you are going with friends, they are going to want to ski themselves and probably won’t teach you as well as a pro, so it is worth the investment to spend half a day getting the basics down. Most ski areas offer adult classes and typically give you a free lift ticket with your lesson. You may feel a little silly on the bunny hill, but everyone started there at some point! My fiancée is 30 and took ski lessons for the first time a year ago. The lessons helped him get confidence quick and (the best part) he couldn’t blame my advice for any of his falls!

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First ski down: I won’t lie to you, your first time down the slope may be a bit daunting. To tell you the truth, I had a terrible first ski experience. My ski instructor told me a decapitation story on the ski lift up the mountain, a girl flew in front of me and knocked herself out on a wooden pole within my first 5 feet down the mountain (helmets are important people), and I almost got run over by a snowboarder. Needless to say, I did not want to go down the mountain the second day, but I somehow managed the courage and I am so glad I did! If you can get through that first day, the second will make you fall in love with skiing. Your legs get used to it, you start getting into the flow, and your confidence builds. Let me tell you, skiing is all about confidence. If you take your time, you will find a rhythm, and you will find love for this amazing sport! Just go slow and know that practice makes perfect.

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Next steps: Ski more and explore. There are so many different ski areas in the US that you never have to go to the same one twice! On top of that, the skiing abroad is supposed to be top-notch, so why not make an amazing international vacation out of it?

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

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Santa Fe, Day 3

Santa Fe, Day 3

Another early morning for our last day in Santa Fe. We packed up our bags so they were ready to throw in the car for our noon checkout, walked the puppy, and headed to breakfast at Cafe Pasqual’s across the street.

Cafe Pasqual's in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Cafe has a stellar reputation in Santa Fe and was recommended over and over for a breakfast-must and we immediately saw why when the folks next to us at our communal table received their food. It was all so delicious and fresh. Everything at Cafe Pasqual’s is made in-house and, for the most part, is organic and naturally raised. We made 10 new friends at the communal table from all over the States and filled up interesting conversation and on the below:

  • Breakfast Quesadilla – Whole wheat tortilla, melted jack, guacamole, scrambled eggs, house-made chorizo and green chile salsa
  • Durango Omelette – three organic eggs, Fra Mani rosemary ham, jack cheese, scallions, guacamole, sautéed field mushrooms, green chile, and house-made toast

After our huge breakfast, we were ready to walk! We hopped in the car and drove over to Canyon Road, home to over 100 art galleries, to walk and see all of the art. The galleries were just opening as we arrived and the art spanned all styles. Each gallery had its own vibe and greeting party upon arrival – my favorite were the dog greeter – always a treat! It is truly awesome how Santa Fe loves and welcomes man’s best friend as much as we do.

IMG_1470 Galleries on Canyon Road Santa Fe, New Mexico

We ended up walking into the McLarry Modern gallery which housed art that completely complemented our tastes. We stumbled upon a room in the back full of colorful art that, upon further inspection, reflected certain infamous people in American culture. Figuring out who was portrayed by the colors and symbols in each painting became a game for us as we traveled through each canvas. We discovered that we unintentionally completely fell in love with Poteet Victory’s Abbreviated Portraits series.

We came to Canyon Road with every intention of just window shopping our way through the afternoon, but once we learned the story behind the series, were entranced by his wife, and taken up to the studio where the works come to life, and meeting Poteet himself, we decided to make Mrln Mnro our first original piece of art (the red and white piece featured above). Such an exciting and surprising day!

After we finalized our purchase, we walked through a few other galleries, learning about the artists, styles, and stories behind the various pieces. All of the art curators at each place were friendly and so knowledgeable and willing to impart that knowledge on us. I don’t think we could have had a better experience.

We had to head back to the hotel and checkout at noon, so we grabbed our bags and our excited dog, and started to long drive back to Dallas. Thankfully, we downloaded some really interesting podcast series, my favorite being Criminal, and took in the Texas views on the way home. We must have passed thousands of windmills along the way. We also passed a donkey that escaped a fence and was being chased by a lone police officer who was trying to corral the donkey while keeping the other horses within the fence boundaries. It was pretty funny!

Road trip to Texas

Road trip to Texas

Ten hours, and a stop or three later, we made it back to Dallas with some great memories and the constant urge to travel again!

Santa Fe, Day 2

Santa Fe, Day 2

The perks of going to bed at 9:30 PM definitely start with waking up early and refreshed the next morning. After a quick walk with the puppy, we hopped in the car, grabbed our Starbucks breakfast, and headed back to the slopes.

We were determined to attempt the blue runs at the very top of the mountain today, since those we did in the middle section of the mountain the day before were not too bad. After a few warm up green runs, we took the lift up to the top of the mountain! The view was out of this world. We started down the blue run and were a little intimidated by how it appeared as the slope totally dropped of into a super steep run! Upon getting closer to the edge though, the slop was wide, do-able, and absolutely exhilarating! Not to mention the view down the entire route was stellar!

Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico

One of the best things about Ski Santa Fe is the length of the runs. You can spend 20 minutes going down if you know the right routes which totally makes up for the long lift ride up! We spent the better part of the morning exploring the blue runs streaming down the top of the mountain and had an absolute blast. The mountain was basically empty to so no lines and having the runs to yourself cant be beat!

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We started our ski day right as the lifts opened and went down run after run until about 1 PM when we needed a food break. Instead of going to the little grill, we went back to the Prius, opened up the hatch back, and ate our Central Market snacks for lunch while taking in the view. Between the breeze, healthy food, the view, and the company – it was absolutely perfect. Reenergized and ready to go, we skied until about 3 PM before out legs started to give out and we needed to call it quits. We checked all of our gear and it started to snow! What a cool way to end the ski day!

The drive down the mountain is so serine and filled with hiking trails which we definitely need to explore in warmer weather on our next New Mexico visit. If I could, I would have had Ryan stop every 5 minutes for photos at the next amazing view, but we decided to just take it all in instead. While I would love to have more pictures of it, sometimes you have to put down your camera and soak it all in.

We got back to the room and Ryan needed a nap. I decided to do a little shopping and took off on foot around the Santa Fe square. It started to snow absolutely giant flakes and turned into a mini blizzard! I caught a few flakes on my tongue and couldn’t get enough of the snow fall and sat on our hotel’s porch watching it fall until Ryan was up and ready to go. We were going to walk down to the art galleries on Canyon road, but due to the snow, we went to the hotel’s highly acclaimed cocktail bar, the Secreto Lounge, for some amazing drinks before the 10 foot walk to our dinner destination – Tabla de Los Santos. After having so much Spanish food over the past few days, we wanted something more modern, and the menu at Tabla de Los Santos made our mouths water. Our celebratory dinner consisted of:

  • Crispy Quail – Buttermilk brined, green chile powder dusted & tempura fried, served over braised organic kale and bacon, local honey drizzle, green chile lemon aioli
  • Warm Goat Cheese Salad – Organic Farmer’s Market greens, toasted pinõn, grapefruit segments, grilled crostini’s, maple balsamic
    vinaigrette
  • Cassis Seared Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast – Butternut squash ravioli, fresh sage & pinõn cream sauce, oven dried tomatoes, sautéed
    baby spinach (This is what I had – I could eat it every day for years! Sooo yum!)
  • Lamb Chops – Orange & wild local honey, garlic mashed potatoes, strudel with spinach, mushroom, feta & oven dried tomato,lamb demi-glace,minted chimichurri.

After that dinner and a bottle of wine, we retired upstairs to relax and get ready for our last day in Santa Fe!

 

Road Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Road Trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

There are so many options around Texas for three-day weekend trips from wine in Fredericksburg, art in Marfa, music in Austin, to the River Walk in San Antonio – all within a few hours and full of great food, culture, and good times. The one thing Texas doesn’t have though is skiing and, ever since our trip to Snowbird, Utah, we have been hooked on the slopes. With all of that said, when we were trying to plan a quick get away for our 2 year anniversary and realized that Santa Fe’s highly recommended slopes were just a 9.5 hour drive away, we just couldn’t stay in Texas.

Road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hotels in Santa Fe are so authentically “Santa Fe”. They are all decorated in the local adobe style and have so much personality. Additionally, most have special rates throughout the year so you can find buy 2 nights, get the third free deals, and much more if you do your research. We found a charming place in the middle of town called the Hotel St. Francis, and were totally sold when we found out the hotel was dog friendly. We were planning on road tripping so why not bring our best friend Dakota?! We bought the HosPETality package which waved the pet-fee and had a doggie bag full of treats ready for us upon arrival. With that taken care of, Dakota was all ready to go for her first big family vacation:

Road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico

After packing for our trip (See my Ski Trip packing list here), we took off on our adventure after work on a Thursday night, right before rush hour. Unfortunately, the road to Santa Fe took every heavy rush hour route all the way through Dallas, but we were lucky that we were at least constantly moving. Our ETA to the hotel was roughly 1:30 AM on Friday morning so we packed lots of high energy drinks, snacks, and adrenaline. Pro-tip, we went to the bulk section at Central Market for snacks which was not only cheap but relatively healthy and definitely delicious. See my upcoming Road Trip Tips post for additional details!

Road Trip Snacks

Our trip was pretty uneventful.. until I took the wheel. It was around 12:30AM in the middle-of-no-where New Mexico where I accidentally hit a piece of tire that was laying in the road and then all hell broke loose noise wise from the passenger seat tire area. We had to pull over in the pitch black on the side of the freeway and use our iPhones as lights to fix the damage. The tire piece hit the wheel well and ripped off a lot of the plastic. We had to drive with some horrible sound effects for about 15 miles to the nearest gas station to buy duct tape and a pocket knife to rip the piece out. It’s never a dull moment, huh? Thankfully, my mister-fix-it boyfriend was able to jimmy the car back together and we didn’t have any issues before arriving at the hotel.

Tired and ready for bed, we walked into the hotel at 2 AM and were greeted by Kevin, the long gray-haired, incredibly nice and puppy obsessed front-desk guy. He was all about Dakota and she was trying to rip her doggie treat bag out of my hands as soon as he gave it to us. The hotel itself was clean, charming and candle lit. We went up to our second floor deluxe king suite and Dakota immediately tested out the bed with its 30 pillows. The whole place was just very comfortable and relaxing overall.

Booking Ski Trips 101

Booking Ski Trips 101

When your travel buddy has 4.5 days of vacation left for the year, it’s basically a crime not to take advantage of them. For that reason, I suggested that we embark on a ski adventure. It took some elbow grease to get the idea set into motion, but one hour on the couch and a great deal on New Year’s travel later, we had a 4 night stay booked at a highly reviewed resort called the Cliff Lodge in Snowbird, Utah!

You know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”? Well that really applies to this trip. Immediately after booking, I clicked into the mountain reviews. They were extremely positive but I started noticing that very advanced skiers were the ones writing the reviews and they were raving about how fantastically challenging the mountain was. That is fine and good but Ryan, my travel buddy boyfriend, was a first time skier and I hadn’t thought to look up things like “best places for first time skiing”. (Duh…) I was basically having an “OMG, what did we do?!” moment on the couch approximately two minutes after booking! After researching more about the amazing ski school at Snowbird and learning that about 30% of the runs are green, I felt better about our decision, considering it was basically non-refundable.

Snowbird Mountain Trail Map

Unfortunately, I then had another thought. “What about the nightlife / other activities outside of skiing?”. Ryan and I planned a 4 day stay over New Years Eve and I wasn’t sure exactly how many days we would actually ski. What if Ryan didn’t like it or one of us got hurt? Snowbird had a spa but outside of that and snowshoeing, it didn’t seem as though there was much else to do for an entire day. Also, while its only 30 minutes to Salt Lake City or an hour to Gorgoza Park for snow tubing, the cost of transport to those places was a few hundred dollars – a big limiting factor. Again, our trip was booked so we couldn’t change the reservation, but this still made me nervous.

Fortunately for us, the Snowbird trails ended up being completely amazing and we were able to find plenty of slopes to fit our skill levels. Ryan’s ski class went exceedingly well and he picked it up like a pro! As you will read in the next round of Snowbird posts, we ended up skiing for 3 of the 4 days, but were also able to find things to do at the resort to fill our time off of the slopes.

Things to consider when booking a ski / snowboarding trip:

  • Proximity of the slopes to the airport – depending on where you choose, the slopes can be hours away, meaning lots of travel time through potentially snowy roads. Utah has a bunch of options within an hour drive of the SLC airport which is why we picked Utah in the first place.
  • Cost of lift tickets and gear rentals – prices vary from place to place so do some research before you book if you are on a budget.
  • Local area nightlife – each ski town has its own personality and size. Some places, like Snowbird, are pretty isolated so you stay on the premise. Other places, like Park City, have a much bigger “scene” with lots of options.
  • Non-ski activity offerings – consider the length of your stay vs. the days you will actually be on the slopes and if all of your party wants to ski / snowboard the entire trip.
  • Ease and cost of travel to other places – if you do want to explore other areas for skiing / snowboarding or for other activities, look up how far the distance between the areas is and call and ask local transport (your hotel will have this information) for costing. Snowbird’s slopes actually have a ski-in, ski-out connection to the neighboring Alta Ski slopes, so for $30 more a day, you have the option to ski either range. An awesome perk for a longer ski trip.

Skis on the lift - Snowbird, Utah