Powder Days



Written Ariella, Winter Intern

It’s was a snowy Christmas in Aspen this year. Between December 20 and December 26 the Four Mountains were graced with over two feet of fresh snow. Fresh snow means one thing: powder skiing!

Powder skiing feels different—and often more difficult—than skiing or riding on groomed snow. It requires better speed and terrain management, and is also more physically demanding. During this snowy week I watched several Challenge Aspen participants rise to the…well…challenge of these unfamiliar and uncomfortable conditions, emerging with more strength and confidence, both on and off the hill.

Two weeks ago the senior class from the Tennessee School for the Blind came for five days of ski lessons, ice skating, and hot springs soaking. On day two, a student named Aaron took a tumble into the powdery snowdrifts on the side of the beginner slope. “I hate the powder!” he exclaimed as he struggled to dig his skis from the bank. Unwilling to let Aaron go home with negative memories and determined to spread her own love of powder, AP Janie Heil took him to a section where the snow was not as deep, coaching him to carry his speed so as not to get mired in the deep snow. After a few successful runs off the corduroy, Aaron had been converted to a total powder hound. “I love powder skiing!” was his new mantra. By the end of the day he was telling every body about his powder skiing adventure and by the end of the trip he was fantasizing about the deeper, steeper journeys he would have when he came back for ski trip number two. “Next are the cliffs!” he promised.

This past week, snowboarder Skylar Stark found joy in making her own track through the snow. On the first day that I skied with Skylar, she got mired in a patch of un-groomed snow. “You lied to me! I thought this was a groomed trail!” she chided her instructor as she flopped in the powder. “Point your board downhill,” he reminded her. “You wont get stuck.” He reminded her of this many times over the next several days. Gradually her speed control improved.

Two days later, on the last day of her trip, she pulled away from Mark’s lead and into a stretch of untracked powder next to the trees. Her turns were smooth and consistent and she rode confidently for more than 25 yards, when the powder spit her back onto the groomed trail. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I made my own track! Can you see it?” Soon she was bragging to her parents about her ability to ride powder, clearly stoked on her own bravery and new skills.

Through my AP training and my experiences assisting lessons and buddying with participants, I have learned that challenging experiences are often the ones that leave us feeling empowered, confident and psyched. I can’t wait for the next powder day!

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