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By Stefka Gerova

Winter has come and it's time for skiing! That's right, it's time to get yourself immersed in the well-known white fairy-tale and let the slopes be your guide for a day or two. Along with the pleasure of skiing, however, come a few things to keep in mind in order not to make fun unnecessarily dangerous, especially since for many of you it will be the first time to go skiing in a foreign country.


The first peril and, perhaps, disappointment that awaits you at the snowy slopes is the ice. Most skiing resorts in the United States use quite a bit of artificial snow, which melts during the day and freezes at night much more than regular snow. For many passionate skiers who come from countries where either snow is abundant or artificial snow is too expensive, the amount of ice will be incomprehensible. But face it and simply use a little caution with high speed on the slopes.


Each ski resort in the U.S. will provide reasonably good maps for you at the usual visitor centers. If you are not a great skier, a map is a must for you in a new place. It makes all the difference in the world when your friends go out of sight and you're suddenly alone! If you are very confident in your skiing abilities, at least glance over the standing maps at the base point or near the lifts as these will give you a good idea of how the slopes are positioned and where you can seek medical assistance in case of an emergency. You could also take a look at maps online at www.skimaps.com.

Slope Ratings

Your best guide in the mountain is the level of difficulty assigned to each slope, ranging from green (a nearly flat slope; beginner's level) to blue (a moderately steep slope; intermediate level) to black (an extremely steep slope; advanced level). This is an international system of rating slopes and, chances are, you are already familiar with it. If not, however, keep it in mind as it is used everywhere in the United States. Moreover, while some countries are not very particular about this information, U.S. ski resorts will have every slope clearly rated and marked on maps. It will be only to your advantage to know the rating of each slope in the proximity and to plan your skiing adventure accordingly. Should you go skiing with friends who are considerably better than yourself, don't just follow them on that luring black slope - split for an hour, go for a less difficult terrain and catch up with them later on. (I made the mistake of sticking to my group of friends on a black slope years ago and ended up going down mostly on my stomach, not on my skis. Trust me, it's not pleasant!)


Areas prone to falling avalanches are typically clearly indicated, both on maps and on the ground. Do take avalanche warnings extremely seriously - it's no joke to be buried under tons of snow! Good skiers are often tempted by avalanche-prone areas because the snow is thicker and more "fluffy," but the eventual price for such audacity is too big to risk it. So stick to the safe slopes, even if they are awfully crowded and even if you've been dreaming about skiing on this particular slope since last summer!

A Note on Alcohol

It's cold as hell, the frost bites hard, and your fifth cup of tea is not making you any warmer! Naturally, you're tempted to get a little rum along with the tea - wasn't that some skiing classic, after all? Well, no. Skiing and drinking make the worst possible combination. The alcohol does warm up the body for a short period of time, but as it is absorbed by the organism, it causes hypothermia (low body temperature). So you'll only get colder and colder - no fun, in other words.

How to Find the Best Deals

Renting skiing equipment cost about $50-60 per day, and a lift ticket has approximately the same price. However, you can get cheaper deals by getting season passes that give you a specified number of days for the whole season. It usually comes down to $20 per day. The downside of this arrangement is that you have to pay for twenty or thirty days in advance, often not knowing what kind of winter is expected or will turn out to be. Through the American Skiing company, you can purchase passes and tickets online(www.peaks.com). Another great resource is www.onthesnow.com/packages, searchable by area and state.

Have a lot of fun with the snow and the slopes and don't forget to share your adventures with us!

Stefka Gerova is a Pomona College student from Bulgaria, majoring in International Relations. (She spends most of her spare time at International Place of the Claremont Colleges and enjoys escaping in the mountains whenever possible.) She is currently on a semester abroad program in Berlin, Germany.

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