The tale of a ::self-proclaimed:: Free-heel Chick…

Never, have I ever gone downhill skiing. Never in my life.

The thought never even crossed my mind.

Not. Once.

Of course, if I may quote the unknown speaker of a certain phrase…

“Never say never”

The story goes a little something like, well, this:

I moved back to Colorado a mere three months ago. Of course, the time spent in this state after considering the holidays with family and friends in Pennsylvania and work-related travel to North Carolina, Washington DC, etc. is probably more around a total of eight weeks.

But who’s counting?

Getting back to the story…

The Decision.

In grade school, I made a conscious decision: I am a Snowboarder. One board with both feet strapped, secured, and content. For nearly two decades, I drooled over the graphics, pined for the next techy women’s specific model, and researched the flex, the specs, and which women riders to idolize.

I rode every weekend and as many evenings as possible. Once I was of age, I applied at the local mountain.

First, simply a rentals rat. They stuck us in a dank basement to fit out-of-towners in Never Summer and Dynafit boards and skis. I never quite felt as confident setting dins an I did changing up a kid to a goofy stance from a regular. I decided the board shop was for me.

The next few seasons, I split my time between rentals and the gear shop. A dangerous combo for a teenage soon-to-be gear head. Girls, I have to say, sometimes we get it even worse than than the guys. My advise: Embrace it.

Finally, Lifty. I did my time at the start of the line. Cold feet. Frostbit nose. Late season rain-soaked gear. I worked my way up and scored the ultimate: top of the line. For a few years, I sat in my musty, mouse-infested, graffiti-walled box at the top of a lift line and loved every moment of it. A free ticket to ride and as much time as I wanted at the local hill? I’ll take it.

And of course, each winter, I made the annual pilgrimage to New England resorts – you know the names…Killington, Okemo, Stratton, Smuggs…the list goes on. I adorned my best, most comfortable gear and rode those hills like no other – first chair to close of business.

The Influence.

I met my husband on a board. You know, that cute boy on the Flow, rockin’ the blue Bakoda pack in the lift line back in ’04? Ya, him. He may not have known it then, but ten years later, we’re a half dozen moves & two cattle dogs in and buying our first home.

He is happier than you think!

Ya, that’s Sam – my husband.

I love riding with Sam. Back in PA, there weren’t many girls to ride with, so I kept up with the guys. He pushes and challenges me to push myself. I’ll “blame” him for what came next.

The Embrace.

Thanks to an epic winter in PA last year, I thought I would try my hand at this “ski thing”. We met some folks that were totally into cross-country skiing with their dogs and thought this could be a great way to keep Moose (our 50lb border collie mix) from packing on winter weight! I bought myself a pair of XC skis and joined a few friends for some state forest rides. Verdict? 1. Amazing. 2. So much fun. And, dare I say, 3. Not impossible!

From this point, Sam was in. The #1 Gear Junky himself! Books, blogs, articles…this guy researches outdoor activity-related stuff better than any Ph.D. I know. The gorgeous Arbor I got him for Christmas the year before remained hung on the rack like a prized painting and a new era began.

Quickly, thanks to Sam (and a number of long road trips over the last twelve months) I learned about the existence of telemark skiing. “Free the heel, free the mind” he says. It’s his mantra. It didn’t take long for him to decide that two boards might be just as fun (if not more!?) than one.

Enter: Telemark days {Location: Wolf Creek}

I found a flyer at the local shop promoting discount ski days at Wolf Creek. There’s locals days, ladies-only days, and then I saw “Telemark Days” with skills clinics for all levels. I pointed it out to that sweet, comforting, and encouraging husband of mine. The response? Laughter.

Me: “What?!”

Sam: “I’m just imagining you falling as much as I did when I was first learning”

Me: “Ouch, Sam. Ouch.”

The conversation slowly transitioned from laugher to a more productive discussion around the insane amount of ski-able backcountry in southern Colorado. We decided that if a used setup showed up at his office’s ski swap next weekend, we would consider getting it for me and checking out these “teledays” at the resort.

Long story short: Score.

The Transition.

This past Sunday was the first telemark clinic. Kelli – by far, the greatest instructor (of anything) that I have ever had the opportunity to meet – was our lead. Kind. Aware. Experienced. Confidence-booster. I could go on…

Our small group – of which, ladies far outnumbered gentlemen – learned the basics, rode the lift to a green, and tried our luck. Mind you, for never downhill skiing in. my. life., I was confident this new endeavor would be challenging but also rewarding.

Challenge I got. Frustration, yep, that too. But, I was determined. Kelli gave some great pointers and handed me my homework: 1. Look up & look forward and 2. Get some miles under me. She also gave Sam his (though, he was with another instructor): “Don’t over-terrain her!”

I like Kelli.

The New Era.

After that first day, I ended up with a couple of sore shins, an aching body the morning after, and an affinity for this free-heel way of life! You should take dip, you might be surprised by how good it feels.


Lobo ski Ry on Skis Skis Tele-pose

“Free the heel…free the mind”


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