Skiing in the Shower

Confessions of a Mountain Girl


Earlier this year, I had the great fortune to go ski in British Columbia with Jordan, an awesome young lady who just got into Stanford. Her dad, Peter, was in the final preparation for his own "graduation trip" (a week in Chatter Creek, BC... stay tuned, it's next week and we'll share photos and stories!), and so we celebrated Jordan's acceptance into Stanford, and put the finishing touches on Peter's confidence before we go all-in on his big trip. 

Now, Peter and I have been working together for about four years. We've been focusing on getting away from self-judgement and into an open learning space. We've been working on balance, technique, and willingness. We put him on what my friend Andy calls a "Low F.A.T. diet" (FAT being Frustration, Anger, and Tension.) Peter was primed and ready, emotionally and physically prepared for a day out in deep powder. 

On the other hand, I've only skied with Jordan once. She was in it to win it, first time in powder, right off of an all day Cat. I've taught tons of people to ski in powder, and Jordan is athletic and intelligent and coachable, so I knew that we had a good chance of getting there in the first three runs, but I also knew that it would depend on her willingness to fall over a whole bunch of times in the first two runs. 

It can be really discouraging when folks around you look effortless and you are digging around in the pow for your ski. Jordan and I talked about the fact that we'd be with a group that was appropriate to her level (a cat full of beginning pow skiers), that I'd be there with her, helping her every step of the way, and that the guides were there to help her as well. We talked about the fact that if she could stick with it with this little preparation, she'd make it through, but it might take a couple of runs. Jordan was nervous, but totally game. 

The three of us headed out to Nelson, British Columbia, a very cool little town on the banks of a wide, beautiful river. The whole town was blanketed in snow, and it was light, dry powder. If we could stay warm, the skiing was going to be epic. It was about -18 degrees F out there, and no sign of a thaw in the forecast. It was early season, Dec 15, and the cold snap was on.

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Big Red Cats is an amazing cat skiing operation, they have a huge operating area, and they run 12 cats. This enables them to split groups thoroughly by aggression and skill level, so if you are a first time powder skier, the group is right at your level. You never have to worry about being with a group that will be frustrated with your skill set, and you never have to worry that there will be an "anchor" in the group if you are already ripping. 

We spent the first day skiing in-bounds and getting sliding again at a very cool small town resort called Whitewater on Canada's fabled Powder Highway. It was super cold and incredibly beautiful. The next morning we woke up early, excited to drive out to Big Red Cats at the base of Red Mountain outside of Nelson for our adventure. I was excited to see Peter put together all the stuff we've been working on over time. This was his first time on a CAT as well, but we had set him up for success, training toward this for a while. I knew he'd bobble or fall once or twice and off we'd go. Jordan had a tougher road ahead of her, and she knew it. But, having skied with her once, and having watched her wrangle her nine prize-winning piglets on her ranch in North East Oregon, I knew she had the athleticism and determination to survive the frustrations that were surely in her path, and come out the other side skiing, smiling, and bouncing in the pow. 

I asked Jordan to write a little something about how it felt to be out there on the cat for the first time, here's part of her story:

Going powder skiing for the first time is exciting but also kind of nerve wracking. I went CAT skiing for the first time that I had ever really skied in powder and I was nervous. I was afraid I was going to fall all the time and everyone else on the trip would be like “Who is she? Why is she falling all the time?”


I did fall a lot but it was ok because falling in powder is like falling into a cloud. Skiing in it is a little harder.


The first run I got out of the CAT, looked at the amazing Canadian wilderness, clicked in and almost fell getting down the CAT road to the beginning of the run. At this point I’m thinking "What am I doing here? I’m not good enough for this."


But there was no looking back now I was out of the CAT and the only way back was down. Kearen, the guide, went first and I watched him ski like it was no big deal. For me, however, it was a big deal. I started going, fell over, got up and started off again. This cycle repeated itself for the first two runs... 

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Jordan was amazing. At this point, she was cold and starting to get upset, and I have to say that I remember being in that same place when I was learning how to ski powder. The key is to keep working hard to handle it. She was sitting right in what I call "The Bottleneck of Frustration".


But because I've been through it myself, and watched countless students work their way through it, I knew something that Jordan didn't. I knew that it takes about two or three runs to get the motion down, to make the ski work well in the powder. I knew that you have to be patient for the process. As an instructor, I could see the changes she was making, I knew that at any moment she was going to start linking her turns as her basic mechanics got better and better. She was listening to me and to the guides, she was gamely continuing to try. In the second run, she started linking turns, flow was beginning to happen. 

I knew when we loaded the cat after the second run that she was sitting right on the cusp of her breakthrough. I also knew that there was a strong possibility that she was sitting in her seat thinking "What have I gotten myself into, I'm going to struggle all day long." 

She needed a little break, to get warm, to eat a little cookie and tea, to go easy on herself mentally. She climbed up front in the cabin of the cat and sat a run out to relax and chat with the driver. This is one of my favorite things to do out on a cat, just to get to see the amazing landscape from the driver's seat, to chat and chill and enjoy the experience with no pressure. Jordan got to see her dad skiing down that run in the pow as they drove the cat back down to pick us all up. She got warm again, suited up and joined us, re-invigorated and ready to go on the next run. 

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After that it all started to click. I did still fall but not as much. I started to get why people actually like going powder skiing. I started to hook turns together and it actually got pretty fun.


By the end of the day I got down a run or two without falling and was having a lot of fun. I had a great experience going CAT skiing for the first time. Everyone on the trip was super fun and helped me get up when I fell. I will definitely go again and recommend it to anyone who loves to ski and is ready for a new challenge.


By the end of the day, Jordan and I were flying down the runs together. She still had the occasional digger, but she had learned some powder technique and was bouncing, turning, working her way through the trees, laughing and enjoying herself. It was awesome to watch. She was so willing to try, even when she was frustrated. She trusted her coach and believed that if she kept trying, she would be able to put it together. I will never forget the fifth of ten or so runs we did that day, looking ahead of me and seeing Jordan linking a bunch of effortless turns through a wide open powder field. She had to be patient with herself and with the process, and because she was, she broke through and found freedom on her skis.

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Congratulations, Jordan, I can't wait to go powder hounding with you again soon!!


Want an adventure of your very own? Here's some options: 


Join Weems and I in Switzerland this March for a week of skiing in the shadow of the Eiger. $2900 all inclusive. Learn more here: katehowe.com


Spring Touring in South America

Want to explore the breathtaking landscape in Chile and Argentina? Join a bunch of experienced guides and teachers with me this coming October for an adventure. Learn more here: katehowe.com


New Dates are Open!

Due to a rare cancellation, we can make a last minute powder adventure! Ski with Kate in Aspen, BC, Alaska, Japan or wherever your heart desires this February!


Available Dates: Feb 4-11 and  Feb 16 - 24

email me at katehowe@mac.com and let's chase some pow together. Not sure where you want to go for your skill level? Drop me a line, we'll make the perfect trip just for you. 


Kate Howe
Sincerely,
Kate Howe
katehowe@mac.com

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