I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I was lying on my back and all I could see in front of me was the tip of one ski. The other ski was about 10 feet up the mountain, along with my hat and a bit of my pride. The trail of destruction revealed me as a complete skiing novice, and as I lay there wondering if there was a graceful way to pluck myself from the snow, I was also secretly thinking I had made a big mistake.
On paper, I should have been an excellent skier, despite my lack of experience. I have great balance and I am generally good at sports. I have fairly mastered all kinds of skating, and tend to learn pretty quickly. But, I had one thing against me. Fear. I knew the fear was keeping me from focusing on my learning and that if I couldn’t find a way to conquer the fear, I would be flat on my back in the snow again in no time.
So, as I shook the snow out of my underpants and awkwardly readjusted my skis, I began plotting a way to conquer my first time skiing fears.
~Warm and Toasty~
Fear #1: Fear of the Cold
Where I come from (that’s Texas, ya’ll), I could tell you stories about heat and humidity that would curl your hair. Cold weather? Not so much. Before we hit Colorado, my primary fear was that I would be too cold to concentrate on learning anything new.
Conquering the Fear of the Cold
Before we left home, I did a ton of research about what kind of gear to use to be sure to stay warm on the slopes. However, there was no real way to test it until we got to the mountains. To be sure I could stay toasty warm, I planned our itinerary so that there were a couple of days before our ski lessons to try out the gear in the cold. The weather worked out in our favor and we had very warm days on the mountain, but if I had needed to upgrade my gear, I would have known before I ever put on a pair of skis.
~That's me-staring at my feet, trying to force them to do what my brain commanded~
Fear #2: Fear of Doing it Wrong
I’ve watched people ski, and heard people talk about skiing technique. I even prepped my kids and myself by watching a beginning video series on You Tube. But, I had no idea if I would be able to transfer that head knowledge to my body once the skis were on my feet.
Conquering the Fear of Doing it Wrong
Two Words: Private Lessons. Yes, they are pricey, but with all the effort to get to the mountain and get geared up, it is worth the price to walk away with some success as a skier. As a brand new skier, I really needed someone there to give me immediate feedback and show me how to do better. As I suspected, my brain and my body were not in sync at the beginning of my lesson. I was trying to do it right, but my body was rebelling at every turn. Having someone who could constantly correct my mistakes helped my body to finally get the feel of what to do. Our private instructors at Winter Park were every level of excellent, and will heretofore go down in my book as heroes of the ski slopes. Despite my fears, I could definitely see myself skiing again, and I have Kevin and Chris to thank for giving me a great start.
~Strapping on skis for the very first time~
Fear #3: Fear of the Gear
Any activity with tons of gear makes me nervous. The more things you have to strap to your body to do it, the more you have to manage and think about to stay safe and have fun. One of the first things you learn as a scuba diver is how to manage and maintain your gear. There is a certain amount of comfort in knowing that you have personally checked your lifelines. Having no knowledge of ski gear, I was putting my trust in someone else’s hands. That always makes me nervous.
Conquering the Fear of the Gear
Again, the private lessons paid off when it came to my fear of the gear. Our instructors checked our gear to be sure that everything fit correctly and was in good condition. I also have to give huge props to the gear shop. They were highly knowledgeable about the gear and took plenty of time to assess my skiing skills. To the unknown gear guy who answered all my questions and didn’t treat me like an idiot (even though I’m sure I sounded like one), thank you. Choosing the right shop to rent gear and having great instructors to double check made this fear disappear immediately.
~The dreaded lift~
Fear #4: Fear of the Chair Lift
So far, all of my fears have been fears of the unknown. But this fear was a known and confirmed fear. I had a white knuckle experience riding a chair lift when we visited Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Illinois to ride the Alpine Slide. To be fair, it wasn’t the fault of the chair lift. It was choosing to ride the chair lift with a squirmy two year old who thought it would be more fun to ride upside down while his prematurely aging mother held on to his ankle. That experience pretty much turned me off of all chair lifts. (Sorry, chair lift. It’s not you. It’s me.)
Conquering the Fear of the Chair Lift
At the risk of beating a dead horse, our private instructors were instrumental in helping me to quickly overcome my fear of the chair lift. Before we began our lesson, they asked us to please let them know if anything scared us. I wanted to tell them that I was afraid of absolutely everything, but I thought I would ease them in gently with the chair lift bit, so I raised my hand and admitted that I had a hate/hate relationship with the lift. When it came time to take my first ride, the instructor walked me through the process, and once I had a feel for the timing, the fear melted away. Just don’t expect me to be riding a chair lift with a two year old again. EVER.
Fear # 5: Fear of Falling and Getting Hurt
At first, I thought falling was my biggest fear about skiing. Thinking about it more, I realized that falling wasn’t that scary, but getting hurt WAS. As the mom, I am the glue that is holding this whole operation together. Some days we may be just holding on by a thread, but a major injury for mom would definitely put a strain on the entire family. Knowing that fall resulting in an injury could mean that I couldn’t take care of the people who depend on me daily was almost enough to keep me off skis entirely.
Conquering the Fear of Falling and Getting Hurt
“If you’re not falling, you’re not skiing,” was the wisdom from my instructor Kevin. Once I realized that there was no way I could keep from falling other than to take off my skis and walk home with my tail between my legs, I felt a lot better about it. Of course, I didn’t relish falling, but realizing that it was going to happen, and it was really no big deal, made the fall much easier. Knowing that I was afraid to fall (I fessed up to that fear sometime in the middle of my lesson), Kevin and Chris helped me to gain skills that would help me never get out of control on my skis. That gave me confidence and kept me on my feet.
As for the fear of getting hurt, I still have that, and I don’t expect to lose that fear anytime soon. Fear is often a gift that reminds us that we are taking a risk and that we need to be prepared and prudent before we go forward. A little bit of fear is a good thing. I am happy to report, though, that all of my other fears about skiing were easily resolved and I am on my way to being a confident skier. I will likely never be the next Lindsey Vonn. I just don’t have that need for speed. But, when my kids-who were skiing moguls in the trees by the end of their first lesson-ask their mom to join them on the slopes, I’ll be ready to go along for the ride
~Winter Park paid for our private lessons during our visit. They did not require that I express a particular viewpoint, and I would have happily paid for those lessons out of my own pocket. In fact, the next time I am in Winter Park, I am going to find those two guys again and make them teach me more. Consider yourself warned.~