I’ve been skiing for a few years now, but I never say no to a ski lesson — I seriously suggest taking at least one refresher lesson each season — because I feel like in this sport there is so much more to learn. So when I went to Breckenridge Ski Resort, recently, I was excited to take a lesson with one of their instructors, Patrick Guilbert.
And a few minutes into our lesson, I learned something that piqued my attention as a journalist: Patrick, it turned out, had a pretty crazy skiing back story. Hailing from the Boston area, on the lift up, Patrick told me about how he learned to ski as a kid in Ipswich, Massachusetts. “My four brothers and I woke up one Christmas morning when I was seven and found skis around the Christmas Tree,” Patrick recollected. “Growing up in New England, our parents thought it would be healthy for us to learn how to ski, so they brought us department store skis without thinking about size or length and left us to divvy up who got what.
“Our first skiing season was spent climbing the hills around our home, avoiding the trees and one another, with our department store-bought skis with the cable bindings, no ski boots. We used our yellow construction steel-toed boots, frozen toes all winter long, and jerry-rigged the cable binding so that when we went downhill, we wouldn’t come out of the skis. But even with that experience, I knew then, I believe then, at that age, that I knew that someday, I wanted to be doing this. And now I am.”
It’s an inspiring story, and after hearing it, I’m more excited than ever to ski.
Getting off the lift, Patrick tells me for the first run, a green, he is just going to observe my skills so we can come up with a plan for how I can get the most out of the lesson. After watching me weave down the mountain, we hop back on the lift and spend the ride up the mountain putting together a lesson plan that includes blending terrain between what I’m comfortable with and some slopes that will test my comfort level, along with some technical instruction time and coaching elements based on what he’d observed on mountain, and what I told him were my goals before we started.
We began with the coaching, playing around on the lower part of the mountain on super easy runs, where Patrick could just school me in style and technicalities. From here we rode higher up the mountain and tackled a few blue runs before easing back into a couple greens when my muscles began to get sore. I loved this mix of terrain as it allowed me to relax between difficult runs and feel more confident about my skiing in general. I believe in testing myself, but I don’t want to get hurt and riding too hard for too long can do just that.
After lunch, we tackled my first bowl. I’d be lying if I said my adrenaline wasn’t pumping heading up the lift and then dropping off the ledge, but with Patrick at my side, and all the easier confidence building trails we’d done before we reached it, allowed me to feel comfortable tackling the challenging terrain on Intuition Bowl on Peak 6.
Peak 6 is one of five peaks on Breckenridge Mountain, which is massive with more than 2,000 skiable acres on 187 runs. The longest run on the five peaks is Four O’Clock on Peak 9, a green, that is some 3.5 miles from top to bottom. Breckenridge also operates the highest chairlift in North America. And with an excellent mix of beginner to expert terrain, along with multiple terrain parks, Breck offers something for all skiers and suffice it to say you could ski here for a week straight and not hit all the terrain. It’s that big. But Peak 6 is known for its expert terrain and bowls, like Intuition Bowl, which I’ve just ridden, somewhat shakily, but successfully.
After navigating to the bottom, Patrick and I paused to regroup and discuss my performance. He said that I was struggling most with the initiation part of the turn, which he then drew a map on the snow to illustrate for me. It was great to be able to discuss what I had done right and what I needed to improve upon right after completing a run, while it is still fresh in my mind, and the second time we rode down this bowl I worked on tipping my skis into the pitch, flattening them and allowing them to seek the apex of the next turn with both feet and legs at the same time just list we discussed. When we got to the bottom, Patrick commented on my improvement and this mentally allowed me to know which run was technically better, even if it was initially harder to ride due to the focus.
When the day came to a close one lift before the last chair I felt a sense of accomplishment. When we had begun, Patrick had suggested when we finish I should feel like I’d had an awesome ski with a friend. But not in a way that felt like I’d been working all day, and when we concluded, that’s exactly the way I felt.
Check out the video here: Why Breckenridge Ski Resort is the Perfect Winter Destination for Skiers of All Levels