Being Terrain-Fucked & Other Unromantic Things You Want To Avoid On Your Ski Trip
You’re off on a romantic ski weekend. You’ve never skied, or you’re not very good, but your chivalrous man-toy has promised to teach you. You’ve zipped your butt into a brand new pair of powder-blue skin-tight pants, your eyeliner is perfect and you’ve bought the perfect pair of goggles to wear on your helmet: this is going to be baller.
Ladies: DO NOT LET YOUR BOYFRIEND, HUSBAND, OR TRAVELING PERSONAL MASSEUSE TEACH YOU HOW TO SKI. (Especially if he skis with his goggles on his helmet.)
I spent six years as a ski instructor making a handsome crust off private lessons with women who had mysteriously “lost their confidence” during a one-on-one with their significant other. Inevitably, their S.O. had convinced them they were “ready” for the top of the mountain and then watched as their ski skills disintegrated on the steeper pitch—a phenomenon known as “terrain fucking” someone. (“TF-ing” is heteronormative; I never taught a woman who had been dragged out of her comfort zone by a female life partner.) [I was terrain fucked by my ex and had a broken wrist in a cast for two months as a result. — Amelia]
There are real differences at play between how women and men get their shred on*, beyond men’s ski clothes being way uglier. Here’s what you need to know before you zip off to Vermont.
One new thing at a time. A lot of guys decide to just head to the top of the hill and, through trial and error, figure out how to stay on their feet (“ski”). These are the guys most likely to take you out from behind on a crowded run, most likely to ski in jeans, and most likely to accidentally sit on the armrest of the chairlift during the load.
Women take instruction a little better, in my experience. The golden rule is to introduce one new thing at a time, so if you’re learning to ski parallel for the first time, you’ll do that on a green run. Once you’ve mastered a smooth turn shape and can keep your speed constant (the rounder your turn shape, the less speed you’ll carry from one turn to the next), you can take that trick up to a blue run. But every time you ramp up the pitch of the hill, your skills will regress a little. This is what your Romeo, the dude in the “GNAR” beanie, forgets: to him, a blue run looks practically flat. (Downing two on-mountain schnapps counts as a “new trick,” FYI. Go easy!)
I recommend getting beginner lessons with my whole heart.
Your tolerance for “thrills” will vary. Even if you and your lobster are at the exact same ski level, you will probably find he out-skis you. Likely, you’ll hit your “my skeleton feels at risk of flying apart” speed limit before he does. This isn’t because of the speed lines on his ski jacket, it’s because you have a better sense of self-preservation than he does. Guys might be more comfortable fanging down the hill, but they’re also more likely to crash into a tree. It is actually not okay to ski down the hill in a great tumbling snowball: not only do you risk cracking your brain suitcase, you risk other people’s.
Women seem less prone to this behavior. They like to know exactly how to perfect their technique and master the terrain—more reason that they need qualified instruction to feel confident on the hill.
Kanye might like your hips, but they can make it harder to achieve a good edge.
Women (and Mitt Romney) tend to have slightly broader hips than men, giving them a tighter, knock-kneed stance on skis. Males, with their straight legs, have an easier job maintaining a wider-foot stance (due to their heaving balls?), which in turn provides better balance. This biological difference becomes more of an issue when you get into difficult terrain and need more edge control.
What is the trick to an assertively feminist edge angle? Women need to exaggerate tipping their inside foot all the way onto the little toe side in a turn by tilting their knee toward the hill (here, you can see Lindsey Vonn is flashing a generous amount of base). It’s a more aggressive stance that might feel unfamiliar to a “lady” but will generate more power, control, and sex appeal (maybe). Key: The steeper the hill, the more you’ll be tipping your skis.
Idiots have an advantage on steeper slopes.
See that guy bent forward over his skis, flying down the hill with his jacket unzipped, barely turning? He might know dick-all about skiing, but he has one natural advantage: a lack of fear. Faced with a steep pitch, women will instinctively lean into the hill, putting some distance between themselves and the yawning chasm below. Unfortunately, this moves your center of gravity off your skis, making it more likely you’ll skid off your feet and spend the night weeping into your Stranahan’s over your bruised ass.
You’ve already figured out (above) how to bite the edges of your skis into the hill for better grip, better speed control, and a tighter turn radius. The next step is bending at the waist so your upper body angles out over your feet, and your face and hands look down the hill toward your next turn (YES; NO). This will put all your weight (let’s call it your “power”) over your skis, helping those edges bite, and will make it easier for you to release your edges at the end of the turn. Simply stand up, letting gravity help you to flatten your skis through the fall line and then steer and tip them into the next turn: repeat. Congratulations! You’re a better skier than 90% of dudes on the mountain.
He might be a faster skier, but you’re probably a better skier.
I don’t know where anyone got the idea that straight-lining a hill at Mach 3 makes you a good skier. Lots and lots of turns are the special sauce, especially in powder—take it from TJ Burke:
Ski porn and ever-fatter powder skis (I might as well also blame snowboarders) are responsible for a trend toward bombing the ski hill as though it were a game of Mario Kart. Heavier, wider skis (popular on groomers, where they are entirely unnecessary) will float better in powder and mow down crud more easily than thinner, lighter skis, letting the skier get away with a lazier technique. Look down at your skis: If they are covered in hibiscus decals, you’re skiing on women’s skis, which are a lighter, more flexible variant on the male model. They’ll be easier to control, but you will have to work harder to generate the same power a guy enjoys. Remember that.
I make probably twice the number of turns down a steep chute that my husband does, which means the same terrain takes me a little longer to cover; my skis are thinner underfoot, lighter, and shorter, and I’m a better skier overall (JK we are the exact same amount of excellent). It’s fine to to let your S.O. hotdog his way down the terrain, then tackle it at your own pace. You might find you’d rather ski at your own pace all day, and just meet up in the lodge for some hot bear-skin rug action at night. In fact I recommend this if you’re at different levels (join a women’s clinic! These are your sisters and they’ll be around long after all the men die off in their eighties!).
Know when you need a break, or a jacuzzi.
Real studies conducted by scientists not employed by the Hot Hands sachet people have shown that women’s extremities (hands, feet) are consistently colder than men’s. Accept that your burly man isn’t going to succumb to numb feet or tingly hands as quickly as you might. Skiing after you’ve lost feeling in your lower body is crappy and skiing when you’re fatigued or slipping into a hypothermic state of earthly transcendence is dangerous (everyone hauled off by ski patrol reports that they were on their “last run of the day”). Know when to head in for a warm-up or call it a day—just because you doled out $90 for the lift ticket doesn’t mean you have to suck a full six hours skiing out of it. They start handing out free cookies at 3 p.m. at the base of Beaver Creek… maybe that’s your sign to get out of those godforsaken boots.
Even if he does know how to teach, you probably don’t want him to.
Say you’re dating the 1% of boyfriends who actually know how to ski (he either used to compete at a state level, has been employed by a mountain for more than four full-time seasons, or is Glen Plake). Snaps on finding and mating with the yeti of the ski tourist world!
But even if your man understands the ski progressions a qualified instructor uses, you probably don’t want him to teach you. For him, it’s work. Skiing backwards for three hours or directing someone else’s tibias on an easy slope isn’t “skiing” for a good skier. It’s cold, dull standing-around (while moving). For your part, being constantly corrected by someone you regularly beat at Scrabble can be frustrating, and can turn into an unfortunate test of your communication skills (just try giving him the silent treatment with your skis snapping off every time you fall).
He also might not be aware of your skier aptitude—again, most guys ski like apes (sorry apes). A teacher who doesn’t share your bed should be better able to identify and use your body awareness to improve your technique (BLESS YOU, OH LADIES OF YOGALATES, YOU ARE A DREAM TO TEACH). I’ve spent an hour with a buff Hollywood guy explaining how to use his core to stabilize his body from turn to turn only to be literally run over by his thoughtless muscles, which only knew how to wrestle against themselves. Women, on the other hand, know how to mobilize different parts of their body and achieve a rhythm while skiing, which is why it’s so easy to teach a woman to ski beautifully and powerfully.
*not a thing anyone ever says.