Steamboat Springs Linda Fisher-Faiola is the prototypical grandmother in many regards. She likes to play and bake cookies with her grandkids and even spoil them when she gets a chance.
Come March, however, Fisher-Faiola's grandkids will receive quite the surprise when they hit the slopes with Grandma and she whips out a snowboard.
"I want to impress my grandkids when they come to visit," Fisher-Faiola said.
Fisher-Faiola was one of a handful of people that took advantage of the Locals Ski, Ride and Tele Clinics offered Jan. 6-10 by the Steamboat Ski Area.
For five straight days -- at a discounted rate of $95 -- instructors provided two-hour lessons for local residents interested in improving their ability in any of the three disciplines.
In the case of Fisher-Faiola and the three others enrolled in the beginning snowboard class, it turned out to be a wise investment.
"For the money you can't get a better deal," Fisher-Faiola said.
That's because the members of instructor Paul Tschabold's class, like Fisher-Faiola's grandkids, were a little spoiled.
For one, the small number enrolled in the class made it feasible for Tschabold to give one-on-one instruction, creating a comfort level between the teacher and student often desired when learning something new.
Second, Tschabold is one of Steamboat's top snowboard instructors and didn't hold his nightmarish experience in his first Locals clinic against those learning to ride this time around.
It had been several years since Tschabold taught a group of aspiring local snowboarders, he said. In reality, perhaps it was longer, considering many of his first students switched to other classes because the rookie didn't quite have a feel for instruction.
Things have changed.
With a better understanding of snowboarding, the mountain and how to deal with raw riders, Tschabold taught four women who had skied their whole lives how to surf on snow.
The first day began with the basics of how to put on the board, how to walk with one on and essentially how to stop with feet in and one foot out.
The second day involved navigating lifts and refining the heel-side on Preview.
The third day, Tschabold taught the class toe-side and stressed the importance of being in control and allowing the board to do most of the work.
The fourth day, the women continued to work on heel-side and toe-side, found some control at the bottom of Preview and successfully dodged the others learning to ski and ride in the same area.
Friday, the final day, Tschabold led three -- Meg Cocks, Heidi Meshurel-Jolly, and myself -- from Preview to the gondola and up the mountain to navigate our way down through powder on blue runs.
"I'd been here for four years, and I'd never really given it a shot," Cocks said. "I figured five days in a row would be a good way to do it. On the first day I was comfortable but wasn't sure if I would actually be able to do it. Now, we're sitting here in Four Points Hut with only a snowboard to get us down the hill. Out of control."
Tschabold said the learning curve for beginning snowboarders obviously varies.
His most recent class was a perfect example. Several of the women picked up heel-side and toe-side by the end of the third day, others did not.
Fisher-Faiola, who was apprehensive about learning anyway, moved slower than the rest of the class, but Tschabold asked her to come earlier than the 12:30 p.m. start time to work with just him on his own time.
By the end of the class, she had learned the basics and just needed to continue practicing.
The other three women, however, learned quicker than most, Tschabold said.
"The typical learning curve for adults is like three or four all-day lessons, which translates into 12 to 16 hours before coming down blue runs," he said. "It's kind of unheard of to be coming down blue runs in what has basically been eight hours for us before (Friday). We're way ahead because we have a smaller group, no one is too timid and everyone wants to do it."
Tschabold admits there are several ways to snowboard, but he prefers to teach beginning snowboarders the most efficient way to ride. In other words, he teaches movements where the board does most of the work, allowing the rider to conserve as much energy as possible.
Realistically, he said, anyone could go up the gondola on the first day, strap themselves into their bindings and figure out how to turn, but taking lessons or learning through a clinic, provides a skier, rider or telemarker with a competent instructor and an environment conducive to learning.
All four women in Tschabold's class were originally skiers. After the class, Meshurel-Jolly said she would probably do both, but Cocks is ready to switch.
"I love it," she said. "Now I want to be on the mountain on all my days off."
Two more locals clinics remain on the ski area's calendar in skiing, riding and telemarking --Feb. 3-7 and March 3-7.
The lessons run for five days from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Cost is $95 and all levels are welcome to sign up. Anyone interested in registering or with questions is encouraged to call the ski area at 871-5375.