Wintergreen ski area near Charlotteville, Va., not only has good stones for both beginners and experts, it has Pam Buckland, a ski magazine cover girl and ski ballet teacher.
Buckland had worked at Vail for the last five years and came back to her Virginia homeland to get in touch with real people. Vail had paled for her - it was too full of people trying to prove something, she said. She wanted to return to a place where sking was not the end-all of existence.
Wintergreen created a job for her - assistant director of promotion. Essentially she makes speeches, visits ski clubs, looks good and teaches ballet free-style sking at $12 hour.
She started ballet skiing three years ago when she decided to teach it to herself. "I haven't been able to stop since," she said. "It is a challenge trying to figure out new tricks, new ideas."
She has done her free-style ballet in competition, on television commercials, on the cover of Ski Magazine last September, and in assorted promotional films. In 1972 she was named National Ski Queen by Ski Industries of America and toured with the National Ski Show circuit.
The tamer slopes of Virginia fit her metier.
"You need a gradual terrain for ballet skiing," she said. "The tricks make something out of hill, even one that isn't challenging. It is another whole realm of skiing."
Buckland only accents students who can do a credible parallel turn and he pretty sure of themselves on skis.
Ballet skiing is based on three basic maneuvers: the Roval Christie, in which a skier does a christie on the uphill edge of his uphill ski with his downhill ski lifted behind him; the 360, in which a skier makes a complete circle turn while skiing down a slope; and the outrigger, in which a skier squats down on the ski and extends the other leg straight out to the side.
"Ballet actually helps your skiing? Buckland said. "It takes a lot of balance and a lot of understanding to ski the uphill edge, but in learning ballet in most tricks you have to ski the uphill edge. It is like ice skating."
Buckland's last fling before leaving Vail was to get coaching from Vall's ice skating coach, who taught her not only how to hold her upper body, but how to make best use of her ski edges.
She uses 150 cm skis, curved at both the tip and the tail, and with no groove, along the concave bottom. These skis are strictly of ballet, they track terribly, Buckland said. She likes to do her ballet skiing to music, and sometimes her students hurn to keep their rhythm. Her students have ranged in age from 8 tp 48.
"One man did a trick that I had never seen, and I am trying to figure it out," she said. Ballet skiing is so new many of the moves have not yet been named.
Ken Grover, Wintergreen's manager, said most people who go through the basic ski school there and progress as far as paralled can handle Buckland's course.
Ski classes at Wintergreen cost $6 for one-and-a-half hours. The program is not American teaching method, but the Cliff Taylor graduated length method, in which foot, knee and leg turns are stressed on skis of assorted lengths.
Wintergreen is usually filled to capacity on weekends, and the 800 pairs of rental skis are snapped up tast (rental of skis, boots and polls is $8 on weekends), so the area has instituted a reservations system - call (804) 2634831.
The place has six slopes - three beginner/intermediate runs and three advanced/expert runs. The longest run is 2,755 feet. There are three chair lefts.
Lodging at Wintergreen can be expensive, but worth it for the convenience - the nearest motels are half an hour away.
In the condominium apartments, the savings on cooking your own meals can offset much of the cost of the room. There are also rooms in Rhoades Farm, a Wintergreen-owned inn at the bottom of the mountain. (Wintergreen is an upside down mountain, with skiing access at the top only.) Food at Wintergreen is typical mediocre ski area fare, and enlivened only by the chef's fresh vegetable soup. Dinners are not worth the high cost.
There is snow making on the entire mountain, and the cover is plentiful.