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 and I was afraid of skiers who bombed down the mountain, straight toward me.
I also never really enjoyed being cold, and did I mention all that gear one has to wrangle? I just didn't think skiing was for me.
Yet during our winter stay in this 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 safe. Because safety + fun = learning.
In fact, watching their glee made me want to take my very first, official, all-day ski lesson, too.
So I Had to Nab a Ski Instructor
Lucky me, this ski instructor wanted to teach me for free. On his one day off, no less.
However, he was silently dealing with a concern, himself: worrying about how wrong this lesson could go (because others had just warned him that a guy should never teach his gal).
I was oblivious. Well, I was confused as to why my goofy smiles were met with such unexpected seriousness this day.
Can you believe neither of us tuned in to what was really happening, within us, during this time? I think we can safely call those potential om moments.
Then I Had to Not Think About What I Was About to Do
Actually, this started the night before.
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 things for the next day (without thinking about what I would be doing the next day).
In fact, prepping the night before brought me great relief. Laying out each item of clothing I'd need to stay warm, stuffing essentials into jacket pockets, 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. Happy thoughts!
And 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 during my initial childhood attempts at skiing: 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 can you believe ski instructors will try to talk you out of relying on the snowplow, now? So there I was, misbehaving...doing the snowplow (attempting to get my ski instructor to smile!).
And poor guy, he was cringing and saying things like, "Okay, whatever we do, let's try to never do that again, okay?"
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 love, love, 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 turn, and face forward, down the steep hill.
While I understand the side slip is likely just supposed to be a brief maneuver, I felt no shame in choosing it for longer periods of time. (I'm pretty sure I will never like steep hills. I've decided it's genetic.) And that's okay (the student proclaimed).
The Other Sweet Gifts Received While Tackling This Fear?
In addition to sneaking off to view the ski patrol hut...
I was so happy to borrow the outer gear that I wore, as this meant I didn't have to buy it and haul it around in my luggage. This borrowed gear might have been a bit big/bulky on me, but it was warm and easy to wear, with plenty of room to stuff the pockets full of an enormous supply of apples, almonds, and extra gloves.
CON: Wearing boots that others have worn might give one foot/nail fungus. So I showered afterward, laundered all my clothing, and used my favorite tea tree wipes when I felt itching several days later (after which it went away).
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.
I learned that I can turn, without wedging (snowplowing), if I'm not on a super steep hill. There is a rhythm, and once found, it doesn't seem as scary to do this on slightly steeper hills.
I learned to balance my poles in front of me, so I could use my hips/lower body to turn, keeping my upper body facing forward as I skied.
I discovered, much to my astonishment, that there are rules skiers are supposed to follow while skiing. And that guy who bombed down the hill and nearly took me out? His pass would've been pulled, had he been going slow enough for someone to ID/catch him. Those who scare us in this way on the slopes are violating rules and creating danger. Trust your gut. If half-day passes start at noon, mornings might feel safer to ski, as fewer people might be on the slopes. Weekday skiing might feel safer than weekends, as fewer people might be on the slopes.
I now want to ski through racing gates, terrain parks, and enjoy more hockey stops!
And, importantly, I learned that when someone (like, let's say, your ski instructor) appears to be seriously contemplating something—and I'm worried they're not having a good time—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.