HIDDEN VALLEY (KDKA) — Skiing is a big winter sport, and with Hidden Valley and Seven Springs in our area it’s an easy and convenient activity.

But if you’ve never skied before, it can be intimidating.

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All that is changing though with a revolutionary new way of teaching the sport; it’s called “Fun Based Learning.”

In fact, only 17 percent of skiers nationally, who are skiing for the first time will return. But at resorts that have tried the new method, the percent has gone up to a 65 percent return rate.

At Hidden Valley, ski instructor Randy Springer gave Cathy Suchin of West View her first lesson using the new method.

Cathy always wanted to learn how to ski, but was a little nervous after her first attempt as a teenager was a little rough.

The lesson starts on the flat snow with the very basics of skiing – how to put on your boots and getting a feeling for the skis and poles.

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Then, it’s up what’s called the “magic carpet” to the top of the beginner run where things look a lot different than they use to. The halfpipe is a gentle “U” shape to teach beginners without the fear of staring down a big mountain and with the security of sliding right back up the slope to stop.

From the halfpipe, it’s onto the rollers – bigger bumps – to learn balance. Then, it’s the bank turns where the snow is built up to guide your skis.

Cathy picked it up on her first try and was skiing in less than an hour. She is an athlete, competing in triathlons and teaching Yoga and Pilates, but it’s the new teaching method and terrain that make the difference.

“It was exciting; it was fun. A little scary,” Cathy said of her first skiing lesson. “It’s exciting when I’m done and I’m still standing.”

And by the end, the instructors say she’s already a Level 3 skier and ready for the chairlift and full run.

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Kristine Sorensen