How I Learned to Ski Despite My Terror

How I Learned to Ski Despite My Terror

Prior to this year, I had exactly one experience with skiing. The instructor showed us pizza and french fries and told us to go have fun. Needless to say, we didn’t. This was a bad experience, and everyone who shared it with me told me so, all of them much more experienced skiiers than me.

But that was a small, local ski hill near a place where none of us live anymore, not a nice, cultivated resort. This year, I spent four days with my husband and his parents at Silver Star Resort here in British Columbia and it was a whole other experience. I took one look at that mountain map and nearly had a heart attack.

Luckily, this time, no one expected me to strap skis to my feet and sort it all out. My in-laws purchased me three days of ski lessons as a Christmas gift and told me it would be more than enough time to learn. To say I was skeptical was an understatement. At first, these lessons felt like a prison sentence. What if I hated it after the first day and was forced to go back for two more sessions because I refused to waste the money? There was a girl scheduled to take lessons with me every single day who never showed up. The first day, my instructor told me that she had a morning lesson with him and hadn’t figured out how to stop.

I expected this to be me. I expected to spend three days in tears because I just couldn’t figure it out. Especially since the first thing I did after putting on skis was lose control and controlled fall into a snowbank. Luckily, I know how to controlled fall from my rollerblading days.

In short, I was terrified. I think my first instructor could tell.

Speed Plus Skis Terrified the Crap out of Me

The first thing he did was teach me to stop. Properly stop. Once you learn to stop, you can control yourself on skis, no matter how tenuous it feels. The way this young man taught me to stop was to ski backwards in front of me and push on my ski poles. The idea was that if I couldn’t stop, HE would stop me. He thought this would make me uncomfortable, but I actually trusted him a lot more than I trusted myself. And while this trust exercise went on, he showed me that I was actually contributing to the effort.

At the end of that first lesson I could get myself all the way down the hill and stop whenever I wanted. I felt energized. Maybe I could do this.

The second day of lessons involved turning. My family had already tried to explain this to me, but you never quite understand these physical activities until you do them. Skiing involves a lot of muscle memory that you forget about once you figure it out. Sensations and actions that just come naturally to people who are used to it. But I needed to discover all these sensations for myself, and needed to be able to talk to people who could articulate what I was or wasn’t doing in order to advance.

Turns were frightening at first because while you’re turning, you speed up. And speed plus skis terrified the crap out of me. It took me two more lessons to successfully master turning, but I never would have imagined I could do it in a hundred.

I was Sore in Muscles I didn’t even Know I had

My second ski instructor took me way outside my comfort zone and onto an actual trail. She had a lot more confidence in me than I did. It started out fine, but I was skittish of the edges of the trail, afraid I would drop into oblivion. Once I lost control and fell; that spooked me. I had a hard time getting my feet back under me. But this woman was patient. She let me sit down for a few minutes and catch my breath. She helped me get my skis back on, and we reached the bottom of the hill.

Then she took me on a chair lift. Everyone had warned me I was likely to fall the first time I used a chair lift because it’s weird if you’ve never done it. My ski instructor warned me what would happen on the way up and answered my questions. I actually managed to get off that lift without falling on my first try – I’m still proud of that.

It took me awhile to get down that hill, almost half an hour longer than my lesson, but I managed to get all the way back to the ski village. And aside from being afraid of the edges of some of the trails (turns in the hill really messed with my brain for some reason), it went really well. I think my biggest fear at the end of that day was speed. If I started to go too fast, I knew I could slow down, but it spooked me. I still didn’t really understand how to steer.

On the third day of ski lessons, I woke up achy. I’ve done physical activity that wrecked me before, but this was a whole new level of pain. I was sore in muscles I didn’t even know I had. I worried if I went on the trails, I’d be too tired to get back. I think that fear affected me for the first part of the lesson. Even I was shocked by how skittish I was. But I had another great instructor. He was patient, he talked me through it, he hovered close the first few times down the hill. And by the end of that lesson he said I was acing my turns. My husband had caught my last few tries from afar and even he said I did great.

It’s Far too Easy to Let Experiences Pass Us by

Looking back, there are a lot of experiences I could compare this to, but the one that sticks out to me most was releasing my first book. I spent a lot of time debating that decision. I didn’t know if self-publishing was the right path. I had no idea what I was doing or if I could make it. All I knew was that there would be no turning back once I hit the button. But for all the fear and stress, it has turned out to be a wonderful ride and I’m glad I ended up taking the plunge.

I’m really looking forward to our next visit to Silver Star. I think a few trips down the hill will be enough to refresh my memory and then I’ll actually be able to enjoy some green runs with my family. I’m glad they pushed me to try again. You never know when you’re going to discover something new and exciting in your life, and it’s far too easy to let those experiences pass us by.

And if nothing else, the time you spend on the ski lift is the perfect time for a writer’s mind to plot.

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