A Day on the Slopes with Discover Winter

A Day on the Slopes with Discover Winter

Annie Davis

By Annie Davis \ March 21 2024

Back by popular demand (with over 700 applicants this season), Ski Utah’s Discover Winter program is in full swing for its third season. This year, I wanted to shadow some participants to see first-hand what the program was like and its impact on these Utah residents who have only experienced our majestic snow-capped mountains from afar.

I was connected with Eby Eke-Ukoh and her daughter, Chichi Eke-Ukoh. Originally from Nigeria, Eby has been in Utah for 20 years. That's when Chichi was born. Eby is a nurse practitioner, and Chichi studies computer science at Salt Lake Community College. When I asked why it took 20 years for them to learn how to ski (to be honest, I’m not sure how I would survive Utah winters without enjoying snow sports), Chichi chuckled and said, “I always thought skiing is not for me. It’s for other people."  

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Discover Winter program participants get four lessons at participating resorts, outerwear to keep warm and dry (that they get to keep), equipment rentals, and transportation to and from the resort. On the bus ride to Deer Valley Resort, Eby and Chichi shared with me how intimidating it can be for someone – especially someone not from Utah or exposed to snow sports growing up – to navigate breaking into the sport. “I feel like it’s so hard because you don’t know where to start. All the skiing stuff is so expensive. You don’t know what resort to go to and what you’re supposed to do,” Chichi said.

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“It’s surreal, to be honest. It’s fun and scary at the same time.”

The bus ride to the resort felt quick. Participants chatted with each other, napped, or played on their phones. Once we arrived, everyone got their skis and boots (they can leave their gear at the resort if they don’t plan to ski during the week), met up with the same instructors they’ve had from previous weeks, and were off on the snow.

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There are five skiers to every instructor, and on this day, Eby and Chichi’s group continued to get comfortable with their newfound skills on the beginner slope. They focused on speed control and maneuvering their bodies to help guide their skis and turns. Participants are asked to eat before heading to the resort, and I can confirm that it was a solid three hours of skiing.

At 4 p.m., when the resort was closing, the skiers took their gear off and decided whether or not to bring them home (if they planned on skiing during the week). It was back on the bus down to Salt Lake City.

“Already in my head, I have it that I’m skiing next year, too!” 

The chatter on the ride home was minimal. I know I dozed off for a few minutes, so I’m guessing most others got caught up on their phones or “rested their eyes,” as I always say when I'm a passenger. I overheard Eby and Chichi talk about how the lesson, skiing, and improvements were compared to the previous week. Eby said, “It’s surreal, to be honest. It’s fun and scary at the same time.”

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Ski Utah’s goal with the Discover Winter program is to foster a lifelong love of skiing and snowboarding amongst Utah’s ethnically diverse community. I asked the ladies if they plan to keep skiing after their four lessons are done. Chichi exclaimed, “Already in my head, I have it that I’m skiing next year, too!” 

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