How I Found the Courage to Speak Up and Ski Better: A Guest Essay from a BSM

cora helms

Today’s author, Cora Helm, shares how finding the courage to speak up paid off for her at Big Sky, Montana.

brave ski mom logoIn April, I received an email from a reader named Cora Helm in response to my post on burn out. 

In her email Cora mentioned that as a relatively new skier, she often finds herself alone, unwilling to hold other, better skiers back.

Reflecting on her last ski day of this past season, she wrote this essay and shared it with me. With her permission, I am sharing it with you.

I think she has something important to say about our emotions, our insecurities and how we find fulfillment. She also shares that finding the courage to tag along with better skiers pays off…big time. 

Skiing Alone

It was closing weekend at Montana’s Big Sky Resort. A busy weekend full of celebration, with a pond skim, music, crazy outfits, lots of debauchery and sunshine.

live music at big sky montana

Photographer: Lonnie Ball. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

Several of our ski team members were on the mountain to take advantage of the free ski days, and four of our race club girls were enjoying Keely Kelleher’s Big Mountain Ski Camp.

With everyone so busy, I had two days of skiing at the “Biggest Skiing in America,” but no one to ski with, since my hubby does not ski and my daughter is a racing teen.

Photographer: Glennis Indreland. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

Photographer: Glennis Indreland. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

Being a relative newcomer to sport, I’m not yet ready for the real steep terrain, and my long-standing fear of heights hampers me in high exposed places.

This left me in a bind, as I asked myself, “Who wants to ski with someone like me?”

Certainly no other parent with kids on our race team.

Speaking Up

But since I don’t improve without people to ski with who are better than me, I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

big sky resort montana

Photographer: Michel Tallichet. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

So after skiing all Saturday morning on blue runs, I finally nerved up and asked to tag along with a group after lunch. I had a blast!

There was nothing too steep, but I did find myself challenged with heights and the wide open expanse of Montana’s very big sky.

I was exhilarated.

Alone, Again

The next day, I expected to ski with a friend, a Big Sky local. We planned to meet at about 10:00 a.m. It was icy, so I thought nothing of waiting for her to show. When she had not contacted me by 10:15, I hopped on a lift to ski  same blue runs I’d enjoyed the day before.

More time and runs passed, but no word came from her.

Lunch time came and went, and I was downright discouraged, unwilling to push myself to unfamiliar terrain, or to risk injury skiing alone.

big sky montana

Photographer: Lonnie Ball. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

So what did I do? I started to pout and feel sorry for myself.

Depressed, I thought “This is the last time I come to Big Sky without a dedicated ski buddy,” as I flooded with negative emotions.

Finally, at 1:30 p.m. my friend showed up in the lodge with a posse of her buddies. She had been skiing all day.

biggest skiing in america

Photographer: Michel Tallichet. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

Trying to maintain the composure befitting a mature mother and professional scientist, I patiently waited while her group ate lunch. Soon the conversation turned to whether a few more runs were in order, or if they should return to the condo to pack up and clean.

Surprising myself, I calmly shared my opinion.  “Well, I know I will not ski any more runs if I have to go alone.” Suddenly, instead of returning to the condo, my friend and her friends decided to take me up to the bowl.

So that’s what we did, and I was pushed into my fear zone.

ski big sky bowl montana

Photographer: Glennis Indreland. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

Skiing Better

I learned a few tricks about skiing steep stuff, and I learned there is a right way and a wrong way to ski the little cat track contouring around the mountain cirque. It was one intense hour of skiing for me, and after that, I was DONE . . . not just for the day, but for the season.

I was ready to hang up the gear, slap a coat of wax on skis, and get into the garden.

big sky skiing montana

Photographer: Lonnie Ball. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

So what were all those emotions about that I experienced earlier?

Maybe it was the opposite of burnout or being satisfied with a good ski season. Maybe it was the feeling that I hadn’t quite done enough, and the disappointment that I might not get the opportunity to push myself on the last ski day of the year.

Thank goodness I spoke up and forced myself onto a group of more advanced skiers.

Next year I mustn’t be so timid.

aerial view of big sky montana

Photographer: Michel Tallichet. Photo courtesy Big Sky Resort.

The Brave Ski Mom Adds…

great divide ski club helena montana

The door of the Great Divide Ski Club in Helena. Cora put that sticker there! Thanks Cora!

Thank you Cora! You don’t seem at all timid to me, but really honest. And I can totally relate to the emotions you were feeling. Kudos for speaking up and even more for skiing the bowl and challenging yourself!

Next season, I bet you won’t be timid at all.

Enjoy your garden!

Cora Helm is a geologist, Brave Ski Mom and Dead Head. She works in state government in Helena, Montana, studying and mitigating traffic noise and composting road kill.

Finally, A Bit More About America’s “Biggest Skiing” at Big Sky

© 2014, braveskimom. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.


  1. Diane Sweeney says

    Cora, I loved the honesty of your piece. As a lifelong skier, I never really think much about how skiing can be intimidating to some. Good thing to be aware of. If you are ever down our way in Colorado, I’ll take you on a few runs!

    • says

      Oh Cora! That’s an offer you shouldn’t refuse! I’ve skied with Diane at Winter Park and she and her friends are a lot of fun! Thanks Diane for commenting!