The bunny slope is no joke.
That’s what I concluded after I was forced into attending ski school on my first winter trip to Keystone, Colorado.
I know what you’re thinking. Before experiencing it, I was thinking it, too. The bunny slope is for kids. You’re in shape. You run and lift weights. You’re decently athletic. You’re no couch potato. You’re a weekend warrior.
Those Nike commercials showing regular people doing awesomely hard athletic things like crossfit or sprints or pickup basketball or power lifting? That’s you. You don’t need ski school. You’re an athlete.
Except that you do. Oh you totally do, and while I probably wouldn’t be a model in one of those commercials, I know right before I went to ski in Keystone, I was in the best shape of my adult life.
I had just spent months training to fight a world champion professional boxer. All the stuff you see Rocky do in the movies? I did it every day for three months. I busted my butt to get ready for that experience, and I was fit, fast and strong. I held my own in there, and while I got beat-up, I landed my fair share of punches, too, even in the last round when my arms were so tired I could hardly keep my arms up.
So I was certain I could just rent my skis, hit the slopes and wing it.
Luckily for me, I went to the mountains with a seasoned ski person. He was adamant I needed to take lessons, and while I am a pretty hardheaded individual, it ultimately came down to this one bit of wisdom conveyed to me.
You’re not going to ski school for yourself. You’re going for all the other people trying to ski around you. Unless you know what you’re doing, they won’t be safe.
I knew he was right, so off I went.
I didn’t go by myself either. Xavier, someone who visits the area often for snowbound fun, headed there with me. This guy can ski. He’s done it for years, and he loves it. He’s visited Keystone for years on vacation and before that he went to similar places with his family every year.
“I just like to get a refresher every now and then,” said Xavier. “I haven’t skied in a couple of years.”
We get to our school, and split up into the different groups. I’m not with the toddlers, but I might as well be. I’m with the people who don’t know how to put on their skis. I’m with the people who can only turn one direction once they get going downhill. I’m with the people who fall down to stop.
I was right where I belonged.
Whatever you think about it, here’s the truth. You can’t wing it. I mean, theoretically you could, but you’d be more like a baby trying out those first steps than you would be a competent adult making an informed decision to stand. You won’t be graceful or fast or a savant. You’ll be just like everybody else: a baby deer with twigs for legs.
And it’s fun. Believe me! It’s a blast. Oh sure, your feet feel like they’re broken (or worse) after a few hours stuffed in those ski boots you rented. Here’s a quick bit of advice: Don’t cheap out on equipment. The reason they have more expensive boots and skis and such to rent is because they’re better. Instead of limping around the next day like you were trapped in Stephen King’s Misery novel, you’ll walk upright like a normal human being.
Maybe it’s the name that dissuades you. Don’t think of a cute and fluffy cartoon bunny. Think of a rabbit: a gangly, real life rabbit with more muscle in his legs than you probably have on your whole body. Have you ever tried to pick up a wild rabbit? One that doesn’t want to feel the foreign grip of human hands? That’s the bunny slope.
Yes, skiing is awesome. It’s fun. It’s what you came to Keystone to do. But it’s challenging and it has to be respected.
Don’t believe me?
Let me leave you with this. I came to Keystone with visions of Bode Miller or Picabu Street in my head. I’d hit the slopes like a boss, and leave all who didn’t believe in my athletic prowess in my wake.
But after an entire day at ski school, I was done. I had learned so much, but I knew with only a few days at Keystone and part of it work related, I either needed to spend the rest of my days honing my new craft at ski school, or I needed to just relax and enjoy the other fun stuff to do in the area and let my feet recover from the onslaught for which they were not prepared.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not deterred from doing it again. I can’t wait to go back! I know how to put on my skis now. I know how to turn left when I’m going downhill. I know how to stop, at least theoretically, without falling down.
But I also know I need to respect the pursuit. The bunny slope isn’t just for kids. It’s for everybody. It’s for me, and it’s for you, too.