Joel Reichenberger: I learned the hard way not to teach friends to ski |

Joel Reichenberger: I learned the hard way not to teach friends to ski

— For the record, I think you should take ski lessons.

It was after a day of helping a friend — a guy with one day of real ski lessons under his belt — that it occurred to me there are so many ways teaching friends how to ski can go wrong.

Things went splendidly between us, and when the first day of my “lessons” was through, we enjoyed a beer at the base.

On our way down on the final run, however, we saw how bad things can get. A young woman was screaming obscenities down the Vagabond ski run at Steamboat Ski Area. An older man shrugged his shoulders and said, “What do you want me to do? They told me it wasn’t steep.”

That was a lot more reminiscent of most of my experiences teaching friends to ski. In fact, my stories serve as a perfect example of why someone wouldn’t want to teach someone they know.

The worst came before I moved to Steamboat. Still living in Kansas, I convinced my then-girlfriend and two other couples to drive to Breckenridge for a weekend of skiing. Including me, only two of our group had skied before, but we were fresh out of college and lessons seemed like an unnecessary extravagance.

Honestly, I felt that way even after we rode our first lift: I forgot to tell people how to get off, and the six of us ended up in a pile.

After our first run, however, I was changing my mind. It took us more than two hours to go down one gentle green run. People were sliding out of control everywhere, and the two of us that knew what we were doing — knew to some degree, anyway — were stretched far too thin.

By the time we made it to the restaurant at the bottom for lunch, two of my friends decided they’d had enough.

The rest of us set out for what was a much better afternoon. It was better until the end, anyway. We were cruising on a catwalk headed back to the condo when my girlfriend, bringing up the rear of our train, fell. She couldn’t for the life of her get back up, and I was too far down the slope. Let’s just say the fact that I wasn’t on hand to help didn’t go over well.

We survived that fight, but not too many more. For what it’s worth, she’s made several ski trips in the years since.

Teaching a friend or loved one to ski is almost never a good idea. If you really want to help, suggest that they take a lesson from a professional.

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