The siren call of a ski slope

Outfitted in all my skiing gear, I navigated my way through the crowd toward the ski lift. It was a gray, dark morning in Tahoe, with powdery snow flurries enveloping us since the early hours. I looked up the snow slopes and watched in admiration as some dexterous skiers performed marvelous twists and turns; it seemed they were having the time of their lives! My excitement started building up and I couldn’t wait to be up on the snow slopes. 

I tightened my gloves-ensconced grip on the ski poles and pushed it firmly into the snow, as I gently glided forward on my skis. The wind was especially chilly that morning, so I pulled my Balaclava closer over my exposed nose and re-adjusted my ski goggles. I was all set to conquer these magnificent snow-covered slopes.

As I settled into the ski lift and we moved up, a spectacular panoramic view unfolded before my eyes. The ski trails zigzagged through the snowy mountain, marked by the brown trunks of pine trees along the slope. The leaves of the pine trees were drooping down with snow, and the trees, from a faraway distance, seemed to merge with the great expanse of whiteness. The world, from a bird’s eye view, appeared more alive, bold, and adventurous, and I was ready to partake in it.

Boreal Mountain lies near the peak of Donner Pass and offers some wonderful beginner-friendly terrain. Moreover, it has some of the best night skiing in Tahoe, and I was looking forward to a full day of skiing.

Pizza wedges, S-curves, and a lost ski

The ski lift soon brought me to the starting point of the trail and I stepped gingerly onto the slope, gliding slowly toward the trail jump-off point. I had taken ski lessons before and had some ski runs under my belt.

I pushed the ground with my ski pole and slid downhill, making a ‘pizza’ with my skis to gather gradual momentum down the slope. ‘Pizza’ is a common slang used in skiing to denote a pizza-slice shape that you make with your skis to control your speed. This pizza can then progress into S-shaped turns as you traverse the terrain. At some point, you realize that these turns can be used to steer your direction as well as control your speed. With the right amount of pressure on the edges of your skis, you can counteract the downward pull of gravity and take control of your run.

A panoramic view from the ski lift. (Photo credit: Lalit Kumar)

The light snow flurries turned into moderate snowfall; I started enjoying my run as the snowfall got heavier. I carved a few S-curves, and as I gradually traversed down the ski trail, I was getting into the flow of things. Suddenly, I see someone behind hurtling down the slope, barely inches away from me. He was flailing his ski poles frantically and seemed to be going down the slope in a straight line; I thought he probably did not know how to make turns; maybe he was a newbie. I tried to steer away to my right, but he crashed into me and in an instant, we were both rolling down the slope. 

Luckily, I landed on my bottom, which broke my fall, though my ski poles and one of my skis came away. I dug the other ski into the snow and was able to arrest the fall after a few seconds. As I picked myself up, I gathered my ski poles and helped the other guy get his act and gears together. He wasn’t hurt either.

If you want to ski these slopes, putting your skis back on again while on an incline is an essential skill to master; there are no flat grounds to put your skis on.

A bit flustered by now, I skied down the remaining slope leisurely, making curves and turns, to my heart’s desire. But as soon as I reached the bottom of the trail, I found myself making my way back to the ski lift!

Skiing is a balance between speed and technique

The second run down the slope was much smoother and uneventful. I was reminded of the fact that our natural response to the force of gravity is somewhat counter-intuitive to skiing; while skiing you lean slightly forward, which is different than your body’s natural response to lean back when on a downward slope.

As I did a few more runs down the slopes, I realized that you seem to have better control with more speed while skiing. It’s just like biking – the faster you go, the easier it gets. But you cannot be reckless on the slope – having that fine balance between skiing skill and speed is critical. So, with every ski run, go a little faster, but safely.

And one more ski run before the sun sets…

It is almost sunset as Lalit Kumar does his final descent on the ski slope. (Image credit: Lalit Kumar)

It was almost 7 pm. The sky had turned dark and the snowfall had gathered momentum. The floodlights of Boreal were gleaming a heavenly bright, reflecting the perfectly white slope and the falling snow. I decided to make one run down the slope before calling it a day.

Skiing is truly an adventure where you get to enjoy nature, mountains, and snow in equal measure. I am told skiing is a wonderful exercise too that helps improve posture, balance, and strength. 

It is also a metaphor for life itself – if you want to race ahead, you must pick yourself up each time you fall. As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin wrote, “Life is like skiing. Just like skiing, the goal is not to get to the bottom of the hill. It’s to have a bunch of good runs before the sun sets.”

Lalit Kumar works in the Bay Area's tech sector and enjoys writing prose and poetry. He published “Years Spent : Exploring Poetry in Adventure, Life and Love” in April 2022. Contact Lalit on Instagram...