Fear & Loathing in Las Montañas
I’ve returned from the mountains a little sore but in one piece! Hurrah! My first-ever skiing experience did not turn out to be a total flop, despite falling and landing on my backside multiple times (this is supposedly normal and expected for novices).
But I have to admit that I was anything but composed and graceful during the group ski lesson. For some reason, I appeared to be having much more difficulties getting around on my skis than the others in my group. Admittedly, they may not all have been skiing for the very first time, like myself, but I still felt pressured. Somehow I had an absurd notion that I had to “compete” with the rest of them – that I had to keep up appearances and save face from wiping out completely.
That is when I confronted an ugly thing about myself: that I hate to lose, and that I am a bit prideful. After all, who wants to be the weakest link? We all want to look like we have it all together. Unfortunately, I initially let those thoughts get the better of me and spoke words of negativity to myself when I really should have just been focusing on learning, practicing and trying to have a good time, regardless of my skill level.
I count myself a fairly dexterous person with a good sense of balance, having taken dance and gymnastics classes growing up. However, when strapped into these long, cumbersome poles, I felt out of my element. Like a robot or machine of sorts. When I found myself not fully in control of my body – but latched into these super-tight, stiff boots that cut off my circulation and later gave me quarter-sized bruises – something rebelled against me. It wasn’t comfortable, it didn’t feel good, and it wasn’t any fun.
After twenty minutes or so of venting loudly in anger and frustration (yeah, I’m not proud of this), I determined to make the best of the situation and just keep pushing ahead. I would practice simple moves, such as stopping (which actually isn’t that easy, depending on the iciness and angle of the slopes), and making small turns to the left or the right.
I mounted the carpet lift successfully but at some point fell while skiing down. I discovered that when I panicked, I was more likely to lose control of my limbs and skis and wipe out. Whereas, if I focused on what was right in front of me – rather than try to over-compensate, thinking I’d hit the people 30 feet away from me, I found I did better and did not end up crashing into anyone. Part of the skill of skiing has to do with listening to your gut instincts and your body. You want to keep your knees slightly bent and relaxed, angling inward. When you let your brain take over instead, you start to overanalyze your moves. You’re not in the present. And you fall.
Thankfully, my sweet husband was by my side (decked out in his snowboarding gear!), encouraging me every step of the way. He knows that I can be a creature of habit at times. I guess a part of me wanted to prove to myself (and to him) that I could do this. That even if I was a summer sports person at heart (water and I get along just swimmingly), I could overcome my indifference toward winter sports and give skiing a fair chance. At the very least, I could say I tried.
We took a break for lunch. I happily feasted on a ginormous turkey and cheese sandwich on focaccia bread, with a much-needed cup of coffee. Then, one of my friends and I headed for the shuttle to go snow tubing while others continued skiing or snowboarding. When the snow turned into heavy rain and slush, we slipped indoors and sipped on hot chocolate, chatting away. It was lovely.
Reflecting on the day, yes, it had its highs and lows, but I realized that what I disliked wasn’t necessarily skiing: It was my need to prove something to people. My fear of looking like an idiot. The thing is, you can’t skate through life without failures and missteps. There are times when you are going to suck at something. It’ll happen; be prepared for it.
However, what matters even more than that is your resilience and attitude. Are you going to sulk and wallow in your own inadequacies, or will you hone your craft and get better? I say, approach new situations with an open mind. Work hard and practice like there’s no tomorrow. And even if you don’t improve, you’re still surrounded by good people that will accept you for who you are. It’s not the end of the world. We can’t all be good at everything.
So, did I hate skiing? No, not really. While I didn’t love it the first time, who knows what will happen once I get a better-fitting pair of boots (you know, ones I can actually breathe in) and practice more? Let’s put it this way: I won’t say ‘never again’ to skiing. 🙂