I was happy to find that Everett Potter, SKI Magazine's Savvy Traveler is a kindred spirit of sorts. Like myself, Everett came to the sport of skiing later in life, and much like me, skiing has had a hand in shaping his career. Everett has been a contributor to SKI for the past 4 years, and also writes for Outside Magazine, Food & Wine, Conde Naste Traveler, Diversion, among others.
Following are his ruminations on learning to ski as an adult, his advice to adults just getting started, and of course, some indispensable travel tips...
Ellen Wagner (EW)
So you started skiing in your mid-30's, what was your first ski experience like? Everett Potter (EP)
The very first time I skied, I was at Beaver Creek, in Colorado. I took a lesson. It was horrible. The idea of finding yourself encased in these boots with these very foreign-feeling boards attached to your feet, was just not good. I went from the top of the run to the bottom in the most painful snowplow. I was in my mid-30s at this point, so I think that fear as well as gravity were working against me.
I tried it again about eight weeks later, at Stratton, in Vermont. I had this great instructor who just really opened the door for me, and it was the most amazing feeling. I think that one of the best things about learning to ski as an adult is the way that you can appreciate the difficulty of making the transition to a foreign sport. It's not as second nature to adults. So I think that the rewards can be greater and more complex for adults learning to ski.
What would your advice be to adults who are just getting into the sport of skiing?
Start with a ski school or a ski clinic. The ski school at your local resort or ski hill is probably great, and it's right in your own back yard. A brand name resort like Vail is a great place for beginners to get a real sense of the sport, and it's a great town to vacation in. This also holds true for places like Aspen, Park City, Deer Valley, Stratton, or Okemo--places where you can have a nice, safe-skiing experience. Whistler also offers a wide variety of choices and is particularly good for beginners. Also, always try to ski with someone who is better then you.
You can always do this by taking a lesson. Don't quit if you aren't getting it right away. The learning curve is slower for adults and different for different people. My wife started skiing four years ago, and she caught on immediately. It took me much longer to get to the same place.
So you would recommend ski schools, or clinics as a good way for adults to get their skis on the snow, as it were?
(EP)Yes. I am a huge believer in ski schools. It isn't inexpensive, but it increases your enjoyment of the sport dramatically. Clinics are great too. You can completely immerse yourself for a few days, and as a result, you can hike your ability up a few notches. I took a four-day clinic through the Aspen Ski School with Lito Tejada-Flores called Breakthrough on Skis that completely changed my skiing. Clinics are also growing, especially women's clinics, and the atmosphere is usually really supportive, which makes for an ideal learning experience.
So, you've taken a lesson or two at your local hill, and you're ready to head out West to one of the bigger resorts that you spoke of earlier. What is your most solid and time-tested ski travel advice?
(EP)Well, I think that choosing the season in which you go is of the utmost importance. For one, if this is your only trip of the year, you want the snow to be good, and second, you want to be able to get the most for your money. I think that January is the best time to take a ski trip because there are fewer people on the slopes, and as a result, most resorts offer better deals--not to mention the fact that airfare is usually discounted at this time of year as well. In January, you can reduce the cost of trip by as much as 20-30 percent. Which is great, as longg as the snow is there.(EW)
In your opinion, what is the biggest snafu that ski travelers run into?
The most horrible thing that can happen, and does happen to a lot of East Coast travelers, is that their plane gets delayed. If there is a storm going across the Midwest and you need to switch planes at O'Hare, as is often the case, you can really get stuck, sometimes for a day or two, which has the potential to ruin a trip. Particularly, if like most of us, you need to be very time-conscious. Once your trip is planned and purchased, it is advisable to keep a close eye on the weather. The day before, if it looks like there may be a weather problem, reroute your flight through Dallas. It may end up costing you a few extra dollars, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Better that then getting stuck somewhere. Basically, you need to plan carefully in terms of air travel. The more flights you add into the equation, the more likely you are to get stuck.
How do you think that as a skier, you can keep the sport exciting and new if you have been doing it forever?
My best advice to any one is to always venture out and try new places, different areas of the country. There are so many different types of terrain in the United States, not only this, but each area has a completely different feel to it.
For example, if you always take ski trips at Stowe or Killington, try heading instead to Taos or Alta. Nevada also has great areas. Tremblant is another example of a resort that has so much to offer. They have expanded and completely transformed themselves. Or, if you love to ski Wyoming, and you always go to Jackson, try Targhee.
You can always go back to the old standby, and you might just discover that you are missing the most phenomenal experience. It also keeps skiing new in a sense, because you have to learn to ski on different kinds of snow.
Everett's work also appears on the pages of Outside Magazine, Food & Wine, Conde Naste Traveler, Diversion, and in a weekly travel column for The New York Times Syndicated Press. Watch for Everett on CNN and CNBC where he frequently appears to dole out where to ski tips and advice. You can email Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org