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Fall in Love with Winter by Learning to Ski

by on January 07, 2020 5:00 AM

If you love living in a part of the country that experiences all four seasons, then you probably already do your best to embrace the positive aspects of winter, or at the very least, find a way to cope. For those of you who have deserted the colder climates in search of warmth, I think you need to reconsider the advantages of living in a winter wonderland. For those of you feeling a little cooped up, I have a suggestion for you to combat the so-called “winter doldrums” and share with you 10 reasons why learning to ski can help you fall in love with winter once again.

Those who know me were probably expecting me to encourage you to take up ice skating and even to learn how to play hockey.  Well, it is a given that I support all ice sports and, by all means, if you live in State College, get out to Pegula Ice Arena! Otherwise find the nearest rink or frozen pond and get on your blades.

But my purpose here is to touch base on the benefits of learning how to ski and to get outdoors and embrace the winter weather. Living in Happy Valley, we are so fortunate to have Tussey Mountain in our backyards. Our kids were on skis at a very early age and grew up with the confidence to ski and snowboard. They have continued to enjoy life on the slopes here, at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, New York, and in the case of our California kid, Jonathon, at the resorts in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, and Park City, Utah.

Why skiing? Well sit back and let me tell you the reasons. In full disclosure, our family just returned from a three-day trip to Holiday Valley Ski Resort in the great little town of Ellicottville, so it’s fresh on my mind.

  1. It’s Fun! Learning to ski is fun. You get to wear cool outfits and fall down in the snow.  Once you have mastered the basics, you can fly down a steep hill, leisurely ski down a long flat slope, go over jumps, and learn to do tricks. Whatever suits your style!

  2. Overcoming Fear. Skiing is a great way to learn to overcome your fears and become more confident: overcoming fear of heights, icy surfaces, falling, even getting on and off the ski lift. 

  3. Life Sport. Skiing is a life sport. Once you learn how to ski it is something you, your friends and family can enjoy for a very long time.

  4. Fitness. It’s terrific exercise for your whole body. Skiing is great for aerobic and anaerobic exercise and for using and strengthening core muscle groups.

  5. Get Outdoors.  Skiing allows you to fall in love with winter by getting outdoors and away from “cabin fever.” There is something incredibly special about skiing on fresh snow.

  6. The Lodge. Spending time in the lodge sipping a hot chocolate or an adult beverage by the fireplace is heaven on earth. It’s also a time to rest and recover.

  7. Friendships. You get to meet people from all over and develop a camaraderie with your fellow skiers. See below.

  8. Patience. I’m not going to sugar coat this. Learning to ski isn’t easy for everyone and it will require patience as you develop your skills. You will find yourself imitating a Zamboni at an ice rink on more than one occasion as you fall and slide (which is actually part of the fun).

  9. Perseverance. Skiing teaches you persistence and resiliency as even the best fall sometimes. Learning to “RISE from the fall” and getting back up and back at it is a metaphor for life.

  10. Adaptability. Conditions can change suddenly due to the weather and learning to adapt to those conditions is a skill for life.

The list can go on, but I will stop here and expand on a few points.

We chose to go skiing this past weekend at the request of my wife to celebrate her birthday, which is Jan. 3.  As she likes to remind us, this is her birthday “month,” so the party was just beginning. Heidi learned how to ski when she was a young teenager at Peek’n Peak resort in Clymer, New York, about 30 minutes outside of her hometown of Erie. For Heidi and her friends, skiing became a regular activity.

As for me, I skied for the first time when I was 21-years-old at Winter Park Resort in Boulder, Colorado, essentially by accident. I was actually there as a Penn State senior to play in the National Club Hockey Championships and the last thing I ever thought about was going skiing. I fell getting off the chair lift the first time much to the delight of my hockey teammates who told me that skiing was just like skating. (It’s not!) After it took me 30 minutes and multiple falls to get down the Diamond-rated slope ( for experienced skiers), I decided a few runs down the bunny hill was a better strategy.  Once I got the hang of it, though, I was hooked. Until recently you could find me skiing the Double Diamonds, jumping through moguls and darting in and out of the woods on the paths less traveled by.

Skiing became a family adventure once we started having children and we have had a number of memorable adventures that have included friends and family.  While Heidi and I don’t do moguls or Diamond trails these days (the long, flatter trails suit our style just fine), we are still passionate about the activity.

This past weekend gave us the opportunity to check off almost all 10 reasons for learning to ski. We met newlyweds Sean and Katie Bigley from Hudson, Ohio while sampling wine at the Ellicottville Winery and became instant friends. We invited them back to the home of Drs. Andy and Helen Cappuccino, where we were staying, along with Heidi’s sister Karen, for an evening of Trivial Pursuit, cards and a lot of laughs. We met up with the young couple again the next day at the lodge where we sampled beer and then headed out together to the slopes. What is even more amazing is that Katie is an Ohio State grad. We even managed to watch part of the NFL playoff games in the lodge during a break from the slopes.

Skiing on Saturday for eight hours was a great way to start off my New Year’s “Chubb” club weight loss competition with my Café Lemont coffee buddies. We also helped our son Ryan’s friend Jeremy Bullock get reacquainted with skiing by spending time on the beginner slope with him as he regained his confidence. After that, we had Jeremy flying down the intermediate slopes in no time (well, sort of).

Jeremy Bullock and Ryan Battista at the tubing area of Holiday Valley Ski Resort in Ellicottville, N.Y. Photo by Joe Battista

On Sunday morning, I took Ryan and Jeremy to the tubing area. I used the time to recuperate, read a book and do a little work. While there a family from Lockport, New York, sat at my table to take a break and we started chatting. Terry and Kelly Maines introduced me to their 11-year old son, Matthew. I learned that he was bravely battling Chron's disease.  After learning more about their sacrifices and positive attitudes in fighting the good fight, I told them about another Matthew (Seybert) whose story of twice beating cancer I tell in my book. I autographed one of my books for young Matthew and made another set of new friends on the weekend.

If you have never skied, think about giving it a try. If you haven’t skied in a while, schedule a trip, get outside and enjoy the positive aspects of winter!

Terry, Kelly and Matthew Maines. Photo by Joe Battista

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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