Women offered chance to learn to ski from different perspective

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— Lindsay Heer likes to remind her students that it is not so much the destination as the ride that counts.

Heer, a private ski instructor with the Steamboat Ski School, leads several one- and three-day classes throughout the ski season for women who want the chance to learn to ski from a woman's perspective.

The Women's Ski Day seminars began in the early 1980s in Steamboat Springs in response to a book written by a woman who explained why and how women learn to ski differently.

Women relate well to mental images and explanations of how something should feel, Heer said.

"Women like to do it right," she said. "They like to do it correctly and to be safe and have fun."

Women came from around the country and overseas to attend some of the first seminars taught by and for women, Heer said. It gave local women a chance to ski with people from other places and the opportunity to share their different experiences.

The women who enrolled in Heer's class last week sought the same kind of camaraderie with other women and instantly found it on the first day.

They learned the latest skiing techniques while developing friendships.

The three-day class ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Heer wasted no time in addressing some of the fears women hold about skiing.

"We worked on getting over them by using mental energy," she said.

She asked them to pinpoint their energy and consider whether their thoughts were focused on things behind or before them.

Thursday provided an opportunity for the women to use what they learned in the first two days of instruction.

On the gondola ride up, Heer asked her students to name any goals they wanted to accomplish on their last day of skiing.

Sharon Gilbert of Pueblo admitted to tightening up when she found herself in difficult terrain. She wanted to relax more and worry less, she said.

"I really like what I'm doing, what you're teaching us with our bodies instead of moving the skis," Gilbert said.

"I want to work on that more."

Robbi Dougan, who moved to Steamboat Springs with her husband from New York this summer, said she planned to focus on making rounder turns on steeper terrain.

Dougan got her chance.

Like the day before, the women found perfectly packed powder and deep powder to hone their skills.

It was an experience that made her son a little envious when she talked to him the night before, Gilbert said.

And exercise that made her notice muscles she was not aware of, said Doris Slater of Pleasanton, Calif.

As they skied, Heer offered suggestions on how to improve their technique.

Women must be light on their feet because they lack a man's muscle strength, she said.

The ski instructor constantly reminded her students to utilize their skis' design rather than muscling their way downhill.

The women concentrated on looking down the hill rather than down at their skis.

Dougan explained that Heer wanted her students to look at the hill, however steep, in a positive way and push aside negative thoughts that might cause them anxiety about their ability to maneuver it.

"When you look at something, you go there," Dougan said.

People tend to hold their breath and avoid looking down the mountain, which puts them back on their heels and causes their thighs to burn and their skis to accelerate, Heer said.

The women began the seminar on blue runs and mastered several black runs and skiing through the trees by the end of the third day.

Women care not so much about speed as speed control, Heer said.

The seminar focuses on giving women the tools to enjoy their trip down the mountain, she added.

"For some people, the be-all and end-all of how well they ski is how fast they get to the bottom and then repeat the process again," Dougan said. "That isn't necessarily what I'm looking for in skiing."

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