My friend is spending the winter in Telluride, trying to improve her skiing, she says. To this end she has prevailed upon all of her friends and even her brother-in-law to ski slowly with her and give her some pointers. But not her husband.
There is a good reason for this. Haven’t we all had one of those great skiing or climbing or mountain biking dates? The ones that end in a huge fight, tears, or break-ups?
I remember one time learning to climb in Jack’s Canyon in Arizona with a boyfriend. At one point I actually smacked my hand against the rock face in frustration, and he yelled too loudly in a snarky voice, “Did you seriously just punch the wall?” I didn’t say anything. It’s not a good idea to yell back at the person belaying you, holding the rope that’s holding you. But he wasn’t my boyfriend for much longer than the quiet drive home.
On a ski slope it’s just as important not to berate the person you are trying to help. Especially if said person is your significant other and they have a ski pole in their hand. Learning to ski or snowboard is a tiring, painful and humiliating experience, not the ideal lovers’ outing, but in Telluride, it is a rite of passage that someday you will either be the teacher or the pupil of someone you are romantically involved with. So if you find yourself in this situation on Valentine’s Day or any day, here are some tips to avoid getting stuck with the business end of the ski pole or dumped for one of those patient guys wearing a ski school uniform.
BE ENCOURAGING. This is not as easy as it sounds. Maybe they have fallen several times and are plastered with snow. They might even be crying. But instead of saying super helpful things such as “You’re not trying,” or “Turn,” you might throw in some generic compliments, even if they are insincere. “You look great, honey. Good job.”
DO NOT POINT OUT OTHER, BETTER SKIERS OR SNOWBOARDERS. Seriously, this is not helpful. You might think you are just showing him/her a good example of someone making a nice turn, but what you are actually doing is giving your partner a self-esteem problem. Imagine you are in a gym, lifting weights, and your girlfriend looks over at the bodybuilder next to you and says, “Look at him, look at how much he can lift!” Get it?
GET THEIR BOARDS TUNED. If you are taking them skiing or boarding it is up to you to make sure their gear is working properly. They will be much less likely to scrape down the side of the hill if they have an actual edge to use to make a turn. Of course, even if their gear is perfect, they might want to blame their skis, their board, even the tune-up for any mishap. Do not argue. Just say, “Yes, it must be the skis.” At least they are not blaming you.
LESS IS MORE. You don’t need to give your partner 20 tips—just give them one or two things to work on. It’s not just confusing and unhelpful to hear twenty things you are doing wrong, it’s also painful and embarrassing to be criticized by your lover twenty times in a row. (See tip #1.)
BREATHE. No, not them. You. Stop sighing as you wait at the bottom of the run, stop telling them how good it probably is on Mak’M or Gold Hill, and stop acting like you are doing them a huge favor. Just breathe. This is an investment in the future of your relationship. Someday you want to have fun on the mountain together, right?
There are probably a hundred other tips for making this a more enjoyable experience for you and your partner, but you get the idea. Just be nice and have fun.
I remember years ago stopping at the top of Cat’s Paw with a guy I was dating at the time who was an incredible skier. “What’s up?” he asked. It was one of those slate-gray days after warm weather, and Cat’s Paw was a steep sheet of ice. My knees felt a little shaky. “I am scared I’m gonna fall in front of you,” I admitted. He just laughed and did a belly flop on the run, sliding the whole way down on purpose, screaming “HELP!” in a goofy voice until he reached the bottom. He made a complete fool of himself just so that I would feel more comfortable.
I married him.