Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s

Post originally Published January 12, 2024 || Last Updated January 12, 2024

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Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s

Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Facing the Fear of Falling

For many adults who haven't strapped on skis since childhood, the prospect of returning to the slopes can be daunting. The fear of falling is one of the biggest hurdles. After all, taking a tumble in front of a chairlift full of seasoned skiers is nobody's idea of a fun time. However, falling is an inevitable part of learning, and the key is to embrace it rather than let the fear hold you back.
"When I started skiing again in my late 30s after a 20 year hiatus, I was terrified of falling and looking like a fool," says John S., an avid skier in his 40s. "I started out on the bunny hill and fell what felt like hundreds of times that first day. But eventually it stopped feeling scary and just became part of the process."

It's important to remember that everyone falls, no matter their age or skill level. Focusing on proper form and keeping your weight centered can help minimize spills, but accepting that falls will happen is crucial. Wearing a helmet and padding essential joints can help reduce injuries and build confidence. Don't let nerves tempt you into stiffening up or leaning back, which often leads to losing control. Stay loose and flex your knees and ankles to maintain stability.
"The fear was worse in my mind than the reality," explains Julie F., who rediscovered her love of skiing in her late 30s. "Once I fell that first time and realized it wasn't a big deal, I stopped fixating on it. Relaxing and following my instructor's advice helped me get comfortable quite quickly."

It's also helpful to realize that most seasoned skiers are far too focused on their own technique to notice anyone else falling. Unlike in the movies, hardly anybody is scanning the slopes for wipeouts to point and laugh at. If you do take a tumble, just get up, shake it off and try again. Don't dwell on it or let it ruin your day.

What else is in this post?

  1. Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Facing the Fear of Falling
  2. Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Getting Geared Up: Renting vs Buying
  3. Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Taking Baby Steps on the Bunny Hill
  4. Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Learning to Pizza and French Fry

Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Getting Geared Up: Renting vs Buying

One of the first decisions you'll need to make when getting back on the slopes is whether to rent or buy your own ski equipment. This choice impacts everything from your budget to how comfortable you'll be carving through the powder. Let's break down the key considerations.
If you're just testing the waters after years away from skiing, renting makes the most sense. You can try out different sizes and styles of skis and boots to see what feels best without dropping serious cash. Rental shops often carry high-quality gear that's well maintained, so you won't sacrifice performance. Many resorts even allow you to swap out equipment mid-day if you realize your initial selections aren't optimal.
"When I was learning again in my early 40s, I found renting super helpful since my preferences changed as my skills improved," shares avid skier Chris L. "I went through three different boot sizes and ski lengths during that first season!"

For newbies, avoid the cheapest rental packages, as their gear likely won't perform as well. But the mid-range options offer great value without breaking the bank. If your skills progress rapidly, consider renting demo skis designed for more advanced technique. Don't feel pressured to buy anything until you're sure of what you want.
Once you've re-established your comfort level on the slopes, purchasing your own equipment makes sense. You can dial in the perfect fit for your boots and find skis tailored to your height, weight and ability. This customization promotes proper form and control.

Of course, buying all new gear is pricey. Quality skis, boots, poles and bindings easily run over $1,000. For a more budget-friendly option, check out used gear shops. Many carry lightly worn equipment from recent seasons at a fraction of retail price. Or ask ski-fanatic friends if they're looking to offload any old gear taking up space.

Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Taking Baby Steps on the Bunny Hill

For many first-time or returning skiers, the bunny hill is the ultimate training ground. While it may seem remedial or even embarrassing to stick to the gentlest slope on the mountain, mastering this novice terrain is an essential step in building skiing skills and confidence. Attempting steeper trails or advanced maneuvers too quickly often ends in disaster. That's why baby steps are key.
"I see so many new skiers in a huge rush to get off the bunny hill and move up to the blue squares and black diamonds. But you have to walk before you can run, both figuratively and literally," explains ski instructor Lindsay F. She emphasizes starting slowly and repeating the basics like pizza turns, skating, and stopping until they become second nature.
Don, who returned to skiing in his late 30s after a long hiatus, agrees on the importance of patience. "I probably spent 90% of my first day just riding the moving walkway-like surface of the beginner's area, working on my stance and balance."

While eager to graduate to steeper pitches, he forced himself to keep practicing basic turns and stops even when he felt ready to move on. "When I finally did advance, the extra time spent getting comfortable on the bunny hill made everything click."

Skiing with a companion who also wants to take things slowly can make bunny hill time more enjoyable. "My wife and I pushed each other to keep trying just one more run until our skills stopped feeling shaky," says Michael W., who learned to ski alongside his wife in their 40s. They turned progressing together into a fun bonding experience instead of an embarrassing hurdle.
Penny B., who picked skiing back up after a 25 year break, suggests swallowing your pride and even asking children for help. "One day a little girl no older than 6 came gliding by and kindly gave me some tips on my pizza technique. It was a little humbling but her advice was spot on. I wasn't too proud to take pointers from a pint-sized pro."

Powder Panic: Conquering the Slopes in My 40s - Learning to Pizza and French Fry

Mastering the Pizza and French Fry is a rite of passage for every novice skier. These foundational techniques allow you to control your speed and navigate the slopes in a safe, stable way. While it may sound silly to adults, implementing proper pizza and french fry form is vital for advancing beyond the bunny hill.
When first sliding down a beginner trail, standing up straight seems natural. But this promotes an inefficient "ramrod" stance that is extremely easy to catch an edge and lose balance from. Bending your knees and centering your weight over your feet is crucial. The pizza technique helps ingrain this key positioning.
To pizza, point your ski tips together in a wedge shape with your knees flexed. This slows you down while keeping weight distributed evenly across your skis. Short and long radius turns can be made by angling the pizza wedge across the fall line. Slightly raising your heels when completing a turn promotes fluid rotation. Practice alternating between left and right turns while pizzaing until steering feels natural.

Once you can reliably link pizza turns to navigate across and down the slope, learning to french fry will help pick up speed. This entails pointing your ski tips straight out in front of you with knees still bent. Look over the tips of your skis to keep your eyes on the path ahead. Extend your legs to straighten your knee angle and accelerate.
Initially french frying demands more strength and balance to avoid catching an edge. When you start to lose control, quickly initiate a pizza to slow yourself down. The key is transitioning smoothly between french fry for speed and pizza for stability.

"Linking pizza and french fry gave me the ability move at my own pace," explains Susan W., who recently rediscovered skiing in her 40s. "Pizza let me maintain control on steeper sections when I got nervous. French fry boosted my confidence on flatter spots."

Michael D. echoes this sentiment: "Having that pizza safety net lowered the fear factor so I could enjoy my time on the slopes and improve quicker." He recommends vocalizing "Pizza! French fry! Pizza! French fry!" to ingrain shifting between these techniques.

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