5 Things I Learned From Skiing With an Olympic Medalist

5 Things I Learned From Skiing With an Olympic Medalist

5 Things I Learned From Skiing With an Olympic Medalist

Shannon Bahrke on the Deer Valley slopes

Courtesy of Shannon Bahrke

The panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and a million little (and big) luxuries alone make the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City pretty special. Then there’s the resort’s new après ski lounge, a collaboration with Veuve Clicquot that invites skiers off the slopes into a lavishly decorated bright-orange yurt to warm up with blankets and champagne and soak in the fact that, yes, somehow this is real life.

Of course the skiing itself is world-class—this is former Olympic ground, after all. But add in that the Montage’s ski ambassador-slash-private-ski-instructor Shannon Bahrke is a two-time Olympic medalist who won her silver right here on the Park City slopes, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place for a weekend ski getaway.

Bahrke isn’t only an experienced skier, she’s also a great teacher—and I learned a thing or two following her pink helmet down the mountains for a few hours.

1. A few easy technique changes can vastly improve your skiing game.

If you’re a beginner (or someone who hasn’t skied in six-plus years, as I was when I took a lesson from Bahrke), it’s surprisingly easy to get up to speed. Focus on making your turns perfect—weight on the lower ski, knees generating the movement. Bahrke advises, “Keep your upper body calm. Your turns come from your lower body.”

2. Skiing is sort of like riding a bike.

And by that I mean it sort of comes back to you. Not to suggest that you should be dusting off that backflip trick if you haven’t touched your skis in a few years, but getting the hang of the basics again—especially when you have an instructor throwing out reminders—is a lot like remembering how to pedal.

While I was alright at skiing, I really shined at après ski in the Montage's new champagne lounge.

While I was alright at skiing, I really shined at après ski in the Montage’s new champagne lounge.

Photo by James Nord, Montage Deer Valley

3. It’s okay to hate the cold but love skiing.

Bahrke—someone who has dedicated her entire life to a winter sport—jokes that she should’ve been a volleyball player. Her gloves have “on” buttons that start up electric heaters. Her most difficult slopes weren’t necessarily the steepest but the coldest (New York’s Whiteface Mountain tops the list). “I would literally have on every warm piece of clothing in my bag and still the chill in the air would seep into my bones,” she remembers, “Sometimes it seemed like we were competing on one big ice cube!” But that cold never stopped her from traveling to some of the coldest places in the world to ski.

4. How a course is maintained means a lot, especially at an event like the Olympics.

“The run where I won my silver medal is named ‘Champion.’ What makes it different from others around the world is really the people. The people who build and maintain that course doing a world-class job. When you stand at the starting gate you can just feel the difference,” explains Bahrke. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “That run is long, steep, firm, and extremely unforgiving, yet so much fun at the same time.”

5. You should ski through the trees.

It’s the best part, according to Bahrke. More concretely: the powder in there is relatively untouched, making it some of the best snow you’ll ski of the day. Beginngers shouldn’t worry too much about being sidelined due to a human-on-tree collision—keep your skis in “pizza” form and you’ll be just fine. Then, make it the motto for the rest of your trip and try other things you might normally walk right by.

Trust me, that glass of champagne will feels much more well deserved after a little off-route adventure.

>>Next: 4 Surprising Ski Destinations

Sarah Purkrabek is a Los Angeles-based travel writer.
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