Monday #15: Ski Lessons

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Last year, at the age of 44, I began learning to ski. I say “began” because, like everything, skiing is something that you don’t just learn and then do, it is an ongoing process.

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I ski with Jeff and his two, teenaged kids–all of whom have been skiing for many years and are very skilled–as well as my two teens, who began when I did but have the youth and the bravado that allows them to excel at physical sports at a rather fast pace. Yes, I ski with all boys. And, trust me, this is not something for the weak of heart.

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While my team races each other down blues and blacks, I stick mainly to “green” slopes which are the easiest and least slopey slopes, and I constantly fight the urge to slip into “snowplow,” the trademark stance of small children that immediately gives away the fear and hesitancy of a beginner. I am slow and I fall a lot. And, because of all these things, when we go skiing–as we did this Thanksgiving weekend in Killington, VT (one of the few places out here with snow)– I typically spend most of the days by myself, working on my stance, my speed and my confidence.

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Being by myself on a big, beautiful mountain offers a rather meditative place for my own thoughts and, when I am not the coach or the critic in my head, I can’t help but think up other stuff, too. This weekend as I made my way through the first go at my second season of this tricky sport I thought, you know, skiing is kind of an allegory of life! So, here today at 52 Mondays is a list called, “A Dozen Things Skiing Taught Me About Life.”

  1. Tools and gear matter. You can’t attempt the sport if you don’t have the right tools and gear. Outfit yourself. Make sure you’re using stuff that works!
  2. Advice can be helpful or drive you crazy. Listen to the experts and let them tell you how they became proficient. Smile at the others and realize they are only trying to help. Use what works, forget what doesn’t.
  3. What goes up must come down but, guess what, what goes down also goes up! Don’t climb the mountain when you can take the lift.
  4. Don’t be an obstacle to others. You’ll make someone else fall and be liable to be whacked in the head in the process.
  5. If you fall every time you lean backwards, stop doing that and lean forwards instead!
  6. Few people fall just standing still so, hey, falling means you are trying to move forward.
  7. There can be icy patches on your favorite slope but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the run. Learn to navigate those difficult patches and you get to experience the good bits, too.
  8. Remember you’re not the only one there…the mountain is full of many others trying to make their way down, too.
  9. Practice may never make perfect but it is the only way to keep getting better at anything.
  10. When it gets too cold, go inside and warm your toes by a nice fire. Maybe someone will join you. Maybe you will make a new friend.
  11. Life’s best adventures are best taken with people we love.
  12. Always remember to breathe and enjoy the view.

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Did I mention that, no matter how badly I suck, how cold and blizzardy it is, or how much my feet hurt from being squished into the most uncomfortable footgear known to humankind that I love this silly sport? And, while I do spend a lot of time alone, I ski with sweet people who check in on me throughout the day and join me on a few slow runs when they need a rest from all their testosterone driven races and escapades. Sometimes they even say I’m doing better!

Oh, and one more thing… embrace the photobomb. It means you’re in the midst of happy people having fun.

Have a beautiful week out there, my friends!

TRY THIS WEEK: Pray for snow.

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About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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3 Responses to Monday #15: Ski Lessons

  1. Kristy says:

    What helped me progress as a late-starting skier (39): playing follow the leader. I was fortunate to have an instructor who was also a psychologist, so he understood that even adults learn better through play. I was so distracted focusing on staying in the tracks of the person ahead of me that I went down runs in conditions I would never have attempted otherwise!

    One caution, make sure the person you’re following has good skills and good judgment. I once saw a woman stranded in the middle of a mogul run screaming, “I’m going to KILL you!” at her incautious husband/friend who was gazing up at her from the bottom. :)

  2. Kristy! Yes! Follow the leader is really helpful and in my second lesson at Belleayre Mountain, I had a wonderful instructor–and was lucky enough to have a solo lesson–who played this with me. A funny thing he said as he watched me go down afterwards was that I put my arms out and move my hands (pole less at that moment) like a child does, turning my hands in the direction I want my feet to turn! I’ve also had the latter experience you describe and actually attempted a black diamond after about 10 ski weekends last year. What would have took my son less than a minute to get down took me almost 20 minutes. Friends in the lift overhead saw a still, black dot on the hill and said, “hey, is that Dar?!?”

    Alas, it is a humbling sport.
    Pray for snow and ski on, my friend!

  3. Kristy says:

    You are braver and more risk tolerant than I am. I only skied my first black diamond because I made a mistake and turned one run too soon! Humbling, yes.

    Stay safe and have a good season.

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