How did my ski life start? Well, as many great endeavors begin, it was a woman, well actually an 18-year-old woman. Her name was Cindy Russell and she was beautiful. I was 18 too, and with nearly two seasons of self-taught snowboarding experience, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to get myself into. My snowboard instruction consisted of some pictures in Powder Magazine, and a segment in a Warren Miller Movie. The equipment in 1986 was pretty basic. I had Sorel work boots that I strapped in to the Burton Elite 150 snowboard. This was as techie as snowboarding had become in those early days.
It didn’t matter if I was riding alone or with a few of my skiing friends. What I knew was that sliding on water - frozen or liquid - was the best thing in the world. I started surfing when I was 11 and I thought that was the most bitchin’ thing ever. And then I found the freedom and friction-less glide of a seemingly endless wave. I couldn’t get enough, and I still can’t.
On weekends during the winter and spring, I drove my truck up to the Southern California mountains early every Saturday morning. I would “couch surf” in the nights and snowboard for those two days. Then the opportunity came to ask out the most beautiful girl I knew. I worked up the nerve to ask Cindy if she would go up to Big Bear Lake with me. She said, “Yes”!! And I was thrilled.
We left our town of Dana Point at 5 am and arrived laughing and smiling a couple hours later at 7:15. The weather that day was incredible with cool blue skies and 10 inches of fresh powder. My skills were going to be on display and the conditions were great. Cindy and I flirted and took powder laps one after the other until we skied out to the eastern boundary of the small ski area.
The boundary run ended on a cat track that was pancake flat and exposed to the midday sun. The snow had transformed into 10 inches of glue. I had never experienced this snow condition until right then when I flew into it at about 25 mph. My snowboard slowed immediately to zero as my upper body maintained its speed into a downward arc. When I emerged I was without gloves, goggles, my hat, and one Sorel. Cindy skied up to me, kindly retrieving my clothing and thanking me for the snow test in untracked conditions. This was not at all how I envisioned removing my clothing for the first time around Cindy.
As we pushed out of the seemingly never-ending flat run, I tried several ways to gain momentum, all of which ended in frustration and an increasing amount of sweat drenching my shirt under my jacket. When we finally came to a semi-groomed flat section I was exhausted. In capitulation, I made a request of Cindy that took my 18-year-old ego down several notches. I asked, “Cindy, can you pull me?” UGGGGGH, I couldn’t believe what I was saying as I thought to myself, ‘Jon, you were so cool, UNTIL NOW.’ Cindy extended her ski pole and began to skate with me in tow. This is when I decided that I was going to trade in my snowboard for skis.
In the lodge that afternoon, the trade was made. My transformation from snowboarder to skier was initiated. I was now the owner of 185 cm White Fischer RC4 skis and Raichle RE3 rear-entry boots. For the next three years, I would spend my college weekends becoming a Southern California skier.
This is an excerpt from Jon's forthcoming book Skiing: From the Bottom Up. Send your feedback and follow along here for weekly posts with stories and ski lessons from Jon's nearly three decades of experience.
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About the Authors: Sharon and Jon combine their passion for coaching and teaching with their love of adventure. Jon has been a professional ski instructor for nearly three decades so they spend their winters in the Colorado Rockies and the summers in Bali, coaching driven individuals to go for it when it comes to following their dreams. Change can be fun! Surf, Ski, Yoga, Meditation, and new experiences build confidence and inspiration.
Sharon and Jon live the life of their dreams. Zelement Club is their way of inviting others to join them in this adventure.