“I’m okay!” I reassure Horst Locher, the instructor who has, for $35, taken on the challenge of trying to teach me how to grass ski.
Even before I’d forked over the cash and signed the waiver, the cautions were there. “The sport of Grass Skiing is physically challenging and demanding and it is recommended for participants to have an athletic background before attempting this activity,” reads Bryce’s Web site. “It’s like running two miles uphill,” an employee said when I called to inquire about a reservation.
These warnings only made me more determined, although I’m not foolish enough to deny feeling a little apprehensive.
In addition to grass skiing and mountain boarding, the counterpart to snowboarding, Bryce offers another winter-imitating summer activity: tubing. Arriving at the resort with 30 minutes to spare before my lesson, I head to the tubing hill.
I’m more than twice the age of the tweens soaring down the plastic green strip, which occasionally gets a spritz of water to keep it slick. I grab a tube and take a slow-moving magic carpet to the top of the hill.
An employee gives me some tube advice: “If you get one with a colored bottom, you’ll go faster.”
Sliding down the hill, I pick up an alarming amount of speed. I spin backward. This black-bottomed tube seems fast enough.
I get to the bottom and contemplate what to do next. Have another go, or rest and fortify myself for grass skiing?
As if reading my mind, the boy who rode down after me says, gesturing at his tube, “You can have mine.” It has a colored bottom.
If you go: Bryce Resort, Va.
The squirt put me up to it. I can’t walk away now. Back up I go, tugging the tube behind me.
I confirm that, yes, the colored-bottom tubes are faster.
My courage falters. If a less-than-30-second tube ride has left me this white-knuckled, I can’t imagine what grass skiing will do.
Meeting Horst, a genial German transplant who came to Bryce in 1966 and has been there ever since (the ski school bears his name), puts me at ease.
We chat as he readies my equipment: ski boots, ski poles, elbow pads, knee pads, helmet and the skis themselves, which look like a cross between a rollerblade, a snow ski and a tank wheel.
Grass skiing is popular in Europe. Horst tells me that it’s one way competitive skiers stay in shape over the summer. Bryce, about 40 miles southwest of where Interstate 66 meets Interstate 81 in the Shenandoah Valley, claims to be the only place in North America offering the activity. Horst introduced the sport to Bryce in 1976. More people used to try it before the resort began offering a wider array of less intense activities, such as the zip line, hiking and tubing. Now there’s a mandatory introductory lesson for grass skiing that Horst teaches, he says, to about four to six people per week.