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Hitting the Slopes

Flickr/Ozone Ferd

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are two of those extreme sports that can encompass simultaneous feelings of “I must do this” and “I must not do this.”

On the one hand, skiing and snowboarding can be expensive hobbies as the cost of equipment, lift tickets and travel add up. Not to mention that beginners – and even pros – risk their limbs every time the fly down the mountain.

But rushing down a mountain is a thrilling experience. It’s good exercise and offers a chance to go outside and enjoy the perks of living in New England.

And, once you get good at it, you’ll look cool.

For those willing to throw caution to the wind and try out this winter sport, University of Massachusetts Ski and Board Club President Peter Sorgi has some advice.

“If you’re snowboarding, bring an extra pillow because I hear most people spend their first day on their bum,” said Sorgio, who is a skier. “If you’re skiing, remember pizza to slow down.”

Pizza refers to the wedge skiers make with their skis to slow down or stop. When the skis are parallel to each other, it’s called french fries. French fries are how skiers go fast.

All of the equipment a beginner needs can be rented at the mountains.

While some equipment, such as neck warmers or goggles are nice but optional, there are two things – besides the skis or snowboard – a skier or boarder should definitely have: gloves and a helmet.

“It would be silly to ride without a helmet,” Sorgi said.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding resorts make their own snow, so activity seekers can hit the slopes virtually whenever they want to during the season regardless of the weather.

“Last March, I went skiing in a bathing suit,” Sorgi said.

While the manufactured snow makes it possible to ski or board at any time, it does not make for the best conditions, Sorgi said.

“I personally hate skiing on artificial snow,” he said. “It’s like skiing on salt. It slips out under you.”

For ideal conditions, he recommends going right after a storm. Fresh snow creates powder on the slopes, conditions that many mountain goers favor. Another favored condition is groomed trails, which are created by machines making for consistent snow and broken up ice.

In order to ensure the snow is high quality, in addition to waiting for a snowstorm, Sorgio said people should pay attention to the temperature.

“You don’t want it to be too icy, and you don’t want it to be too warm and slushy,” he said.

Sorgi said ideal conditions are 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a sunny day since clouds make it difficult to see the snow.

The club will go on its first trip of the year on Feb. 3 to Vermont’s Mount Snow, which, Sorgi said, is the best trip of the year to learn to ski or snowboard. The club provides a bus ride to the mountain, equipment rentals, lessons and lift tickets for $55. None of the other trips include ski rentals in the price.

While the Mount Snow trip is designed for beginners, Sorgi said it’s possible to learn to ski or snowboard on any of the mountains the club goes to as they all have a bunny slope and a few green circle trails.

“There are good people in the club,” said Sorgi. “We’ll teach you.”

The club will also arrange for day trips to Killington, Vt., on Feb. 10; Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vt., on Feb. 24; Stowe Mountain Resort in Stowe, Vt., on March 3; Sugarbush in Warren, Vt., on March 10; Stratton Mountain in Windham County, Vt., on March 24.

These trips all cost $55 for the bus ride, breakfast and a lift ticket.

Rentals can be arranged for an additional $20, Sorgi said.

For those looking to ski closer to home, Berkshire East, located about an hour away in Charlemont, offers some of the best skiing in Massachusetts. The mountain is considerable smaller than major Vermont mountains, but it does have more than 30 trails. However, conditions vary a lot so skiers and boarders should conditions on the website before they go.

Student lift tickets are available for $48.

The Ski and Board club’s first meeting of the year will be Wednesday, Jan. 23 and they will be hosting their annual Snow Jam competition on Friday, Jan. 25. For more information, visit their website weliketoski.com.

Katie Landeck can be reached at klandeck@student.umass.edu.

 

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