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The thrills of skiing through the ‘expert only’ gates

Written by Fiona

February 24 2015

Rocket Ski, who are running a #TalesFromTheSlopes campaign, asked me to write about a memorable ski story.

The orange sign at the highest point in Solitude ski resort, Utah, and right next to a narrow opening in the fence warned: “Experts only.” Another sign, just behind, and painted bright yellow, listed the many reasons why skiing off-piste was to be done at your own risk.

Yet as I tipped my skis over the edge of the top of Honeycomb Canyon off-piste area at a height of more than 10,000ft I had a huge grin on my face.

I was still smiling and squealing with delight as I followed Super Greig (our new skiing pal) and the G-Force along fresh tracks made in beautiful fresh powder snow high up on the steep-sided ridge.

I should have been scared. I had only been skiing for a week and I had begun the holiday on smooth and gentle blue-graded groomers.

I expect that if I had stopped to properly consider the tree-filled and rock-strewn slopes plummeting down on either side of our mountain traverse I would have felt horribly sick.

But I simply focused on the way ahead and trusted that Super Greig had a fun plan mapped out.

And he did.

Super Greig leads the way through the experts only gates.

Super Greig leads the way through the experts only gates.

After about five minutes of whooshing and whizzing along the mountainside we came to a stop. “Down there,” said Super Greig, pointing to a fresh blanket of deep snow that dived crazily downwards for some 100 metres.

“I’ll take one side of those trees, if you want to take the other.”

The G-Force had already chosen his descent line a little earlier and at an even more precipitous angle.

This was when I stalled. I gulped. I felt my legs shake and my stomach turn. My heart raced. “You think I can do that?” I asked Super Greig. “It’s so steep. Isn’t there an easier slope? I just think it’s too much for me.”

“You’ll be absolutely fine,” replied Super Greig. “You did harder slopes the other day at Park City. This is an easier gradient. There are trees and rocks but you just need to make quick turns. I know you can do this.”

When faced with the top of a black diamond slope the toughest part for me is getting started. It’s that first section, where I am forced to look down at the full length of the steep slope that makes me feel ill.

I can only think of what will happen if I fall and tumble head over heels down the slope unable to stop.

Yet once I’ve taken those first few faltering turns it all starts to come together – and I convince myself that I am actually a fairly good skier.

But I am still just a newcomer to skiing after more than a decade of snowboarding. I wasn’t sure if I could trust my newly learned skills to a slope so steep and bonkers looking.

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The thing was, however, there was no other way to go. It was ski down – or attempt to retrace the trail back to the “experts only” gate.

So I gave myself a talking to. I reminded myself of the other double black diamond slopes that I had skied before. I boosted my confidence further by listening to Super G’s encouraging words.

I looked down once more. I gulped. I gulped again. And again. I took my fear to task and I pointed my skis downhill and quickly made a turn left. It all went by so fast and yet I was still upright (and not hurtling out of control downhill).

The next turn felt easier and after that I experienced only exhilaration. As I skied at speed downhill I let out numerous whoops of joy.

The snow was deliciously dry and floaty and offered no resistance as I cut through it like butter. The air was clear and the sun shone warmly. I was hooked on the thrills of off-piste black-graded skiing.

I wanted more. And so, we skied on through more powdery fun until we could board the chairlift again to return to the Solitude summit point. This, time as we headed though the expert’s gate, I grinned because I knew I would love the descent. Bring it on!

Win a RocketSki holiday

RocketSki has launched a competition to win a ski holiday. The campaign is being led by Britain’s number one female Alpine skier Chemmy Alcott. Her #TalesFromTheSlopes story is: 

“One of my most memorable #talesfromtheslopes was on a recent photoshoot with Equity, RocketSki’s sister company.

“I got to spend the day skiing with some inspiring school students and managed to capture this great shot with photographer Pete Goding. After the shot, he was completely covered in snow and looked like a snowman – but I love the picture that came out in the end!”

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The ski holiday company is asking other skiers to reveal their #TalesFromTheSlopes as part of a Facebook photo contest. You can check out RocketSki’s Facebook page to find out where to post photos of yourself in your best ski pose (at home or on the slopes themselves), for the chance to win a free ski trip next season. Entrants should leave a comment with their photo entry, sharing their own funniest/scariest/most breath-taking moment on the slopes.

The prize is as follows:

  • Return flights for 2 people aged over 18 (the winner and guest) on charter flight
  • Seven nights’ Club Board accommodation at one of five ClubHotel properties
  • Return overseas transfers for 2 people aged over 18 (the winner and guest)
  • Standard ski hire for 2 people aged over 18 (the winner and guest)
  • One-week lift pass for 2 people aged over 18 (the winner and guest)

The winner will need to buy their own ski packs, insurance, etc and the trip can’t be taken over half-term, New Year or Easter. Holiday is subject to availability.

Why not give it a go at Win a Ski Trip Photo Contest You can also check out their special offers at Rocket Ski Special Offers

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