First Time Ever On Skis Contest


The Ski Journal, is holding a writing contest, with Warren Miller as the judge. Entries must be original and relay the writer’s first time ever on skis. I love the idea for this contest. And not just because Warren will read the entries. Remembering my first day on skis has been a mini-ritual, forcing me to recall just exactly what made me want to make this sport my own in the first place.

It snowed hard that day, and I wore my new blue Powder Pigs hat with my name stitched in red yarn on the forehead. The hat alone should have been enough. Or the embroidered patch on my shoulder. Either one. But that wasn’t quite it either. What made me choose skiing–not only as a sport, but as a life–was catching snowflakes on my tongue. As I rode the chairlift, its appalling speed forcing the snow into my face with Star Wars-like graphics, I experienced the pure joy of tilting my head back and letting come what may.  There is a freedom in that. 

At first glance, skiing seems like an impossible endeavor.  The skis are wide and long, the angles are steep and the weather is darn cold.  And that’s not to mention the sheer unlikeliness of even being able to turn in deep snow.  I’m not afraid to admit that there’s a magic to it.  I could explain the physics of skis–how when turned on their edge a ski carves naturally, how the width under foot allows a ski to float through powder–but I’m not going to.  Because to explain the magic in terms of physics just ruins it. 

Instead, I think of Warren Miller’s description of a ski turn as a “taste of total freedom”.  There’s really no other way to describe it.  And Warren’s rhythmic cadence and witty voice capture it best.  My husband’s father, Everett Kircher, knew Warren way back in the day at Boyne Mountain, and still Warren feels a bit like a part of the family.  But I’m sure that’s true for many skiers.  Even the ones that have never met him in person. 

So I’m honored to cast my entry into the First Time Ever on Skis Contest:  If nothing else, it reminds me, with ski season just around the corner, why I wait, watching the sky for snowflakes, hoping to catch a little taste of freedom on my tongue.

6 responses »

  1. Hi Kim,

    Is the Boyne Mountain you mentioned in Michigan? I’m from Michigan, and it so happens that my first time on skis, at the age of about 7, was at Boyne Mountain, MI. My aunt Annette Burton Washburn worked there in the mid-1970’s, I believe as a cook, at the lodge for several years. A couple generations of the Burton family lived in Boyne. We went to visit my aunt there once and I remember it took us more time to get outfitted with rental skis than I actually spent on the kiddy hill. I only got to go down the hill once because I never conquered the yellow rope tow back up the hill. The red wrist burn from the tow kept me from trying more than a couple of times. It was all over too quickly. I remember we stayed in A-frame chalets with open lofts, more fun than skiing to me, my sister, and our four cousins who all slept up above. Ever since, I’ve loved that cottage style. Not enough memories to enter a contest, but unforgettable nonetheless. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    • Lorraine,
      I love that story. My husband was born at Boyne Mountain (well, at the hospital in Petoskey). It had snowed a few feet the night before, and his dad actually had to drive his mother most of the way to the hospital in a snow-cat. His dad started Boyne Mountain, which the family still owns along with the ten other resorts in North America. I know the chalets you are talking about. Boyne has come a long way since then. Now there’s a beautiful hotel, water park and spa. But it still holds onto the woodsy feel of Northern Michigan.


  2. My first time on skis wasn’t quite so magical… I was with a youth group and the boy I had a crush on promised to teach me. We went up the bunny slope and in my excitement (and desire to show off a little), I sped down the hill like an arrow—with no ability to stop or control anything.

    He was a bit (okay, maybe a lot) horrified and probably annoyed that I hadn’t listened to him and so left me alone the rest of the day. Ah… the lessons we learn as young teens.

    The next day was better (I listened gratefully and he was a lot more patient) and we enjoyed the rest of the weekend and ended up dating for awhile {swoon}.

    I didn’t feel the magic on the slopes until I moved to Colorado and experienced snowboarding. Came home with a concussion, bruised tailbone, bad sunburn and a grin a mile wide. Went back the next week. 🙂 It was in the soft powder of the Rockies that I felt that freedom and magic. What a great introduction to the rugged outdoor world. I haven’t looked back since!

    Thanks for sharing your story… it reminds me that we all have a sport or two within us that if we can experience it, we’re captivated and in love for life.

    Hope you’re well,

    • Amy,
      Glad to know that the first-time-lesson-taught-by-boyfriend sometimes works out. I see it so often on the slopes, and I want to whisper into the woman’s ear “Honey, do yourself and your relationship a favor. Get a lesson.”

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