Ski trip. Booked. accommodation. Booked. Tickets. Booked. Now… all I have to do I guess… is learn how to ski?!
Well, that’s the position I found myself in this January: excited for a trip to Niseko – my first voyage back to the snow since a brief boarding experience 10 years ago – but completely at a loss at what I was going to do on the slopes!
To be honest, my first boarding experience was probably more of a “descending-down-the-slope-with-the-help-of-gravity” situation. I stood, or sat on the board.. and wiggled my way down a very non-perilous, powdery slope.
But this time around I was going with a cool crowd. Friends, all of whom were pretty good at skiing or boarding. So now, besides finding outfits to look cute on the slopes in, I actually had to figure out how to not make a fool of myself in front of my friends?! #missionimpossible
Add that to the fact that I had torn my meniscus in December. (No. Not doing anything athletic of course. My opposable thumbs are the most athletic part of my body because, texting. No. I tore my meniscus most unglamorously while in a trampoline park jumping around like a three-year-old while with a three-year-old.) And that I tend to veer more on the psycho-motor-skill-challenged species of human. #panicattack
Since my doc recommended that I try skiing as it seems to have less impact on the knees long-term (btw, there are so many different points of view to this, because when I bumped into a pal in Hokkaido, she was telling me how she had torn her ACL, and her doc recommended boarding to her instead), and… FUN FACT ‘A person who weighs 155 pounds (approximately 70kg) burns 223 calories in half an hour of downhill skiing, according to Harvard Medical School.’
I was SOLD!
So I started doing my research on ski-lessons available in Niseko. But I was at a loss. I had no real idea where I was staying ( we landed up in Shiki), no idea where the lifts were located, how to get gear.. everything! It was all pretty overwhelming. And it didn’t help that the only reasonably priced lessons (about SGD$80) seemed to be early in the mornings, and geared toward experienced riders.
While doing my research though, I chanced upon two places in Singapore that offered lessons for skiing and snowboarding, and I figured, why not get some lessons BEFORE I hit the slopes, which might help me maximize my time while I’m there. After all, I didn’t want to fly all the way there just to make snow angels and build a snowman right?
Turns out: One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Two places in Singapore offer ski and snowboarding lessons, and after reading some reviews, I concluded that UrbanSki Singapore was the way to go.
Luckily for me, a friend introduced me to Colin and May who run the place, and they hooked me up with a sweet deal. (Thank you guys! Muchos love!) Even better, my first lesson was scheduled for Feb 13th, and they were having a Valentine’s promotion for the whole month of February. So a quick email later, and they graciously extended the deal to V as well – so that turned out to be quite the Valentines-day-date experience for the both of us. Possibly the most memorable one yet!
The best thing about UrbanSki? Location, location, location.
It’s right in the heart of town at Millenia Walk which is convenient. Tons of food around after all the calories you burn during a session. Plus, they not only have all the gear you need, they also sell, and can recommend what you would need to bring along for your next ski or snowboarding trip.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I was definitely surprised. Everything was neat, and practically squeaky clean. I was expecting a little eaudeteenspirit after my experiences in trampoline parks, but the place was almost alpiney fresh. I think they intend to acclimatise students to the slopes because everything from the two giant Astroturf covered treadmill “slopes” to the lights were blindingly white.
The amount of gear, and the type of gear they had available for rental was top-notch. THEY HAVE BURTON BOOTS FCOL*! And did I forget to mention: all of the gear rental and instructor services are included in the price of the lessons. The only thing you need to bring? Yourself and a pair of socks!
*for crying out loud
I was first greeted by Colin (the GM) who introduced us to our instructor, Marjon who has been skiing since she was 7!
Our first part of the lesson: Getting fitted for our ski-boots, our skis, and learning how to put our boots on.
Honestly, when I got to Hokkaido, I have to say I was grateful for this part of the lesson as time-consuming as it was, as it helped me not look like too much of a dork at the ski-rental place in Japan. Not only did I already know what size boots I needed, and roughly what length I needed my skis, I already knew how to buckle them on and click ’em right on to the bindings. (Completely different from snowboarding bindings fyi, and SO MUCH HARDER TO WALK IN. Think, Terminator-walk.)
In fact, we were even taught how to carry our own skis, so I looked pretty pro even before I reached the snow in Niseko.
The only snag – we had to wear “sexay” hair nets under our helmets for hygiene reasons. But hey, safety first!
Going on to the “slopes” was rather intimidating. Each of these huge white-astrotruf covered treadmill-slopes has adjustable inclines and speeds to cater to various skill levels. So far, the youngest student at UrbanSki was four, and the oldest, a senior in his 60s. But lots of professional skiers and snowboarders overseas use these slopes to perfect their technique, especially off-season. An advantage to learning on an infinite slope like this is you maximise your actual ski/board time without having to deal with queues, crowds and ski-lifts!
The “turf” is also frequently sprayed with a special viscous solution to make it more slippery, and take on more properties of a snowy, icy mountain. It actually is a happy medium: more slippery than fresh powder, and less slippery than icy conditions.
For me, the hardest part of the first lesson was just learning how to balance. On a board, you lean backwards – which to me, is intuitive, seeing how my centre of gravity probably lies in my huge ass, which also happens to be a bigger and softer landing zone. However, with skiing, you lean forward, and that was a bit of a challenge for me (and I assume anyone who isn’t Dolly Parton).
“Well, skiing is like walking, because you have to use both your feet, and you know how to walk, right?” asked Marjon.
Yeah. But no one warns you that both feet more often than not, want to go two completely different directions!
Despite my reservations and constant squealing – much to the amusement of two Japanese ladies who had popped in to check out the facilities for their children – Marjon managed to coax me away from the safety bar, and ever so slightly further up the slope in a slowplough by the end of the first lesson!
Kudos to her, because I was probably the most reluctant student around.
V, having skied a decade ago, was a quick study, and pretty much jumped to lesson 2 of the syllabus within 30mins.
Depending on your athletic ability of course, your second lesson would usually see you graduating from the snowplough, to learning how to brake, and moving left to right.
I however, was still having problems controlling my skis. Much to my embarrassment because right beside me on the next slope, was a tiny eight-year-old who was acing it.
(And sweetly yelled out encouragements to me while I was trying hard not to tie myself into pretzels.)
Progress from the start to the end of lesson 2:
Now this was a little scary because we had a long two-week break for CNY before heading to our last and final lesson, two days before we hit the slopes of Niseko.
Seriously. I was honestly just scared I wouldn’t be able to control my braking and pretty much go down a slope by whacking and bouncing off trees like a pinball machine.
You can watch my progress from the start to finish of the third lesson, and yeah, I definitely did not look pretty nor professional, but I started getting a lot more confident on my skis. And at least I sort of, kind of, figured out how to brake!
With that, Marjon packed us off, advising me to still take a couple of ski-lessons once I reached Niseko lest I end up in hospital.
Once getting there, my friend Xing and I recce-ed the various ski lesson options we had available to us.
After much deliberation, and thankfully, a significant Spring Promotion Discount, we decided we would take 3 x half-day private lessons with Niseko Black.
While the lessons were a lot cheaper elsewhere, we eventually landed up being grateful for the little advantages we had going with this company. A concierge service, meant all we had to do each day was gear up with our boots. By the time we got to the hotel door, our skis would already be loaded in a van that would take us to whichever slope we wanted to go.
We fortunately also lucked out with getting Lewis, a veteran ski-instructor from London who spends most of the year teaching skiing in New Zealand.
While he was on the strict side, he always kept us safe, and made sure we nailed down the fundamentals without mollycoddling us.
He probably thought I was a complete waste of time after my first lesson. I was slipping and sliding everywhere. It was quite a big adjustment from the astro-turf slopes with the safety bar safely in sight. And I wasn’t prepared for the slippery, icy conditions with the weather in Japan warming up and no fresh powder in sight.
That said, once I got over that hurdle, gained confidence, and got my “ski-feet”, something just clicked on day two, that even Lewis was astounded by the vast improvement. I even managed to take a decent selfie on the slopes!!
Basically, once I had gotten used to the slippery ice, and with instruction and guidance from Lewis, everything I had learnt on the UrbanSki slopes came flooding back. It was muscle memory at work. And from then on, it was a breeze, and entirely enjoyable!
By Day 3. I was SKIING!!! With confidence!!!
Well, all I can say is I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug folks, and I’m already planning my next trip. Before that I may actually want to pop by UrbanSki and pickup boarding, for reals this time!
P.S. Here are the rates for UrbanSki Singapore. (Public rates are a good deal, but I personally prefer the private lessons, because I hate looking stupid in front of other people. =p)
For peeps who are pros and missing powder, or just want to brush up before you head to the slopes, I’d highly recommend you look into the PowerSki deals so you can get the entire slope to yourself for 30 mins at $120 from 12-4pm during weekdays.
Check out the UrbanSki Singapore Facebook page for other upcoming promotions and packages.
+65 6238 0575
9 Raffles Boulevard