Conquering Your Fears Without Breaking Your Leg

Posted 02.04.2009

This post could also be called, “Lessons I Learned in Ski School.”  I’m writing from Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia.  My internet connection could go out at any moment so I’m going to keep this brief.

Skislopes We’re up here for a school ski trip for my youngest son.  I’ve skied one other time in my life.  That was a few years ago on some bunny slopes on another school trip.  (You’re probably seeing the pattern here that skiing is not something I would come up with on my own.)  My biggest lesson learned from that first attempt was having some sense of control is a good thing when you’re flying down hill on a couple of boards.  Unfortunately, that was one of those lessons I learned through the absence of control rather than the mastery of it.

So, when my son and I went out yesterday morning, I was purposely aiming myself toward small groups of trees as a bailout option for when things got a little too crazy for me.  Even with that brilliant strategy, I spent a lot of time going end over end.  It takes a long time to get down the mountain that way.  After a few of those runs (if you can call them that), it was time for ski school.  My son helpfully suggested that I get in the beginner’s group as he had me completely sized up.  So, I was pretty much the oldest person in my group by a range of 30 to 35 years.  Lesson one, if you want to learn anything get your ego out of the way.

Lesson two from yesterday was to lean forward and look where you want to go.  That helped a lot although I still spent a lot of time during the lesson and afterwards falling on my butt.  Probably my best wipe out was after the lesson when I somehow ended up on my back sliding down the hill head first with my skis tumbling behind me.  I’m sure it looked really cool but it kind of hurt like hell.

I’ll be honest with you, it took a lot of willpower to get back out there again this morning.  Brad (my son) and I started out on our own again after I made him promise to stop every so often to see if I was still alive.  We got to the first big downhill and I promptly wiped out and lost both skis.  Again, to be honest, I would have figured out the quickest way off the mountain and called it a day at that point but Brad is a naturally great coach.  Very encouraging and even in the midst of my flailing identified some things I was doing right.  We made it down together and then made a few more runs.

Then it was time for day two of ski school – all the 5th through 8th graders and me.  We learned today how to keep our skis parallel while turning.  To my amazement, I was getting it.  Making those smooth turns and being clear about where you want to go, picking some short term targets on the slope can really help you stay under control (makes me wonder about the efficacy of picking some short term targets in the rest of life).  I’m happy to report that on my last three runs (which had a bit of challenge to them!), I didn’t fall down once.  Came close a couple of times, but recovered and stayed with it.

So, lesson three – the worst time to quit is when you’re feeling frustrated.  If I had done that this morning after that first run with Brad, my story about myself would have been, “I suck at skiing.  Never doing that again.”  Now the story is, “This is actually kind of fun.”  I don’t think I’m headed for the senior Olympics anytime soon, but that wasn’t my goal in the first place.  Have to wrap up now.  I’m due to meet Brad for some afternoon runs.