Monday, December 12th, 2016
Being a Beginner at Mt. Baker Ski Area
Todd Elsworth

We all have to start somewhere. Fortunately, beginners are welcomed at the Mt. Baker Ski Area and have plenty of options for an introduction to the joys found on the slopes. Their Best for Beginners program is designed with the Greens in mind. Green=Easiest.

Mt. Baker Ski Area’s Best for Beginners program is for kids ages 7+ and they “make a special effort to keep our class size small with 6-7 participants. This means better personal attention and effective time spent learning. Our Best For Beginners sessions, grouped by age and ability, are for those who are new to the mountain environment or who have been a few times but would like more confidence with the basics.” Mt. Baker Ski Area. For a sample, watch the Mon. Dec. 5th (2016) Forecast and Best for Beginner info Video.

The Daily Lesson Start Times (itā€™s recommended that you sign up 1 hour prior) are 9:00 am, 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. The rates are $49 for the complete package: Lesson, Rental & All Day Beginner Lift Ticket. The duration of the lessons are 1 to 5 hours.

Then there’s the extended program of KOMO KIDS. “For generations, the Komo Kids Program has helped kids and youth at Mt. Baker develop the skills to become life-long skiers and snowboarders. The program is for ages 7-15 and for skill levels ranging from never having been to the mountain to experienced skiers and snowboarders. Trained instructors help ensure new skill development on the mountain in a fun atmosphere. The sessions are active, instructive, and social, focusing on safety, fun, and learning.” Mt. Baker Ski Area.

My 8 year old daughter had been skiing twice and had the benefit of a lesson. We prepared to set out on a Saturday to chase flakes and shuss the day away. Since she is still relatively new to the sport, we planned to take advantage of theĀ Chair #2 All Day lift ticket price of $30!Ā  In case you’re wondering, Kids 6 & under are FREE and the Handle Tow is also FREE. Check out the Mt. Baker Lift Ticket Prices.

But first, you must prepare for the mountain! Your equipment is the key to success. Like your car or bicycle, regular tune-ups are important, add value to the life of your gear and also make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. If you don’t have the skills or tools (yet) – take your stuff to a professional shop. Dig into Basecamp Bellingham/Snowsports for shops in the area that can get you set up right.

We, on the other hand set up a pop up ski shop at home. I just happen to have my aged ski mechanic box filled with the odds and ends it takes to bring a ski to life and polish it to perfection. As a teachable moment, I seized the opportunity to introduce my daughter to the art of ski tuning and waxing. It starts by lighting a stick of plastic on fire! I knew she’d like that.

In order to fill the gauges in the ski base with the Ptex (without a gun) you get to drip the molten plastic onto the base of the ski. The goal is to get it down close to the base, eliminating the yellow flame coming off as to reduce the amount of carbon going into the drip. Then you let it cool and scrape it off. Next up, the edges.

Identifying the side edge, base edge and talking about how using bevels on each may have been a bit much to take in, but I’m confident that it sunk in on some level, because we literally looked at the edge under a magnifying glass to understand the work ahead and how the outcome would be realized on the slopes with each turn. Our goal was to create a sharp, yet more importantly smooth, surface for which to carve turns down the mountain.

The finishing touches came with waxing the now smooth ski bases. Violet took the antique iron and melted the wax right into the base. Check out her Ski Wax Instructional Video. Skis ready, we got to bed to get a early start on the day.

Saturday morning- “Let’s Do Some Skiing!” We got to the upper Heather Meadows Base Area and started with a couple warm ups on the Handle Tow.

The Handle Tow is the evolution of the rope tow. The days of having a ropeĀ  run through your small hands, as you try to use your armpits and all you’ve got to grip on to get up the small hill ahead, are a thing of the past. Some smarty-pants figured out how to put a handle on the darned thing to make it a bit easier to grab. Or, if you still need a bit of help. Just sit in your dad’s lap, like this little fella.

We made a couple of laps making sure we had our legs under us. Then, we confidently headed over to Chair 2. From there it was all downhill!

With the Chair #2 All Day lift ticket, you get the variety of choosing from the runs of Roly Poly, Heather, 7 Hills and Home Run. We even got so bold as to seek out some fresh powder found in between the designated groomers.

Riding the lifts is time to recover and pick which lines you’re going to go after next. We also tried to catch the drifting snowflakes on our tongues for added entertainment.

The snow kept coming down all day, which is why Mt. Baker Ski Area continues to lead the state (and the world) in ski area snowfall and attracts people from around the globe to come experience what this winter wonderland has to offer.

If you’re heading this way, check out the Mt. Baker Ski Area Events page to add even more fun to your trip.

For more fun outdoors adventures near Bellingham, WA, see the full list of Todd’s articles.

 

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About the Author:

As the Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse and co-founder of Kulshan Quest Adventure Race, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at RecreationNorthwest.org.