For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid to ski down mountains.
Even though I was tossed onto mountains as a child, I was afraid to ski down them. I was afraid of the steep hills. I was afraid of skiers who bombed down the mountain, straight toward me.
I also never really enjoyed being cold, nor did I like all that gear one has to wrangle. I just didn't think skiing was for me.
Yet during our winter in a mountain ski town, I've been fortunate to witness precious tiny souls head out onto the slopes for their very first ski lesson...with ski instructors guiding them in ways that make these little ones feel so safe. Because safety + fun = learning.
In fact, watching their joy made me decide to take my very first, official, all-day ski lesson, too.
The night before, I didn’t allow myself to think of anything that scared me about skiing.
I knew I couldn't think about the upcoming lesson, or I'd worry about it—the heights, getting on and off the chairlift, the icy slopes, others coming at me, etc.
So, the night before, I focused on anything that was right in front of me, which kept my mind in the moment. I focused on eating, on doing the dishes, and on prepping for the next day (without thinking about the next day).
In fact, preparing the night before brought me great relief, laying out each item of clothing I'd need, stuffing lots of essentials into bulging jacket pockets (gloves, food, tissues, etc.), and making sure I was completely ready before going to bed.
The two times my mind began to wander and worry? I focused on my little organized pile of clothing, instead, to remind myself how relieved I was to be prepared. It was amazing how well this kept me worry-free.
And I was so lucky that this ski instructor wanted to teach me, on his one day off, no less.
However, he was silently dealing with a concern: worrying about how wrong this lesson could go (because others had just warned him that a guy should never teach his gal).
I had no idea he was worried about something.
Before I knew it, I was learning what ski instructors will try to talk you out of.
As soon as I put on the skis, I did the very first thing I remember my dad teaching me as a little girl: the snowplow.
I was so excited I could do it. I was sure I'd get a gold star for showing off this safety move. I mean, look at that steep hill!
But my ski instructor tried to talk me out of relying on the snowplow for everything. He was saying things like, "Okay, now whatever we do, let's try to never do that again, okay?"
So I kept doing it to make him smile.
Then I learned what ski instructors will try to talk you into.
My ski instructor immediately taught me to navigate a steep portion of a hill...with the side slip.
I loved it. Not only does it feel safe to roll the ankles sideways down a steep portion of a hill, but it's a lot of fun.
Especially if you're afraid to face forward down that steep hill.
While I understand the side slip is likely just supposed to be a brief maneuver, I felt no shame in using it to get down the steep hills.
And in addition to sneaking off to the ski patrol hut, my ski instructor taught me…
to turn, without wedging (snowplowing). There is a rhythm, and once found, it doesn't seem as scary to do this on slightly steeper hills
to ski through racing gates, terrain parks, and to do hockey stops (like all the little kids)
to balance my poles in front of me, so I could use my hips/lower body to turn, keeping my upper body facing forward
there are rules skiers are supposed to follow while skiing
that guy who bombed down the hill and nearly took me out would have had his pass pulled, had he been going slow enough for someone to ID/catch him
to trust our gut on this: ski when the slopes are least crowded (for safety and fun)
Some Ski Travel TIPs:
Packing base layers and outer layers for normal four season travel can also provide enough warmth for skiing. However, I was traveling with a ski instructor who has at least three different sets of ski clothing at any given time, so I borrowed his jacket, pants, and gloves (just in case I needed heavy duty wind protection).
It’s pretty cheap to rent skis, boots, and poles. Since I’m not really a skier, I rented (there’s no way I’d haul ski equipment around). Places like Switzerland can have far superior rental gear, too, which can make it wiser to rent (than to fly gear over).
Against protocol, I chose boots that were a tad larger than recommended. And I loved it. My toes could wiggle and stay warm. However, I do understand that this could hamper skiing success, as I'm guessing the looser the boot, the harder it is to precisely control the skis.
Wearing boots that others have worn might give one foot/nail fungus. So after skiing, I showered, laundered my clothing, and used my favorite tea tree wipes when I felt itching several days later (after which it went away).
When someone (like, let's say, your ski instructor) appears to be seriously contemplating something they cannot verbalize, they might just need to proceed for a while, as is, before they're able to reflect and put their concerns into words. And that's okay.