When the time finally came for my third ski lesson at Loveland, I had conflicting feelings. After my previous lesson, my instructor suggested I skip “novice” and move to intermediate. As excited as I was to move on to skiing more difficult runs, I knew the more difficult runs were going to be more, well, difficult.
We got there early enough to take a few runs before my lesson started, and I was eager to show off the few skiing skills I had. Unfortunately, it quickly became less of me showing off and more of a horror show. I didn’t make it more than a quarter of the way down the slope before gaining too much momentum and skidding off into a snow bank in a frantic attempt to stop myself.
I talked a friend into going with me with the promise I’d ski with him after my lesson. (Although I think he was more enticed by the prospect of being able to ski whatever crazy runs he wanted to at Loveland while I learned to maybe make it down a blue run.)
My self-confidence plummeted faster than I did as I slid backwards down the slope in an attempt to stand myself upright. I had a mini meltdown as I struggled to get up. What happened? I’d been cruising down this last time!
Embarrassed and mad, I finally made it to the bottom of the slope and was ready to give up and step down to novice. Ever-supportive, my friend suggested I give the run another try. With low expectations, I set off on round two and, much to my surprise, I skied a much smoother second lap.
Tip: There’s no shame in a warm up. Even if it’s on the easiest possible run.
Keeping it Safe
Some confidence restored, I made it just in time to join the intermediate group. The day’s instructor, Kirsten, took us on a few runs in the Valley to gage everyone’s ability level and then we hopped on Loveland’s shuttle to the Basin. As we waited in line, Kirsten prepared me for what we were about to practice. Our first exercise was to work on our center of balance and making sure we weren’t leaning too far forward by doing small hops. The next was to shuffle our skis through our turns to make sure they were parallel.
Because I was clearly the least experienced in the group, Kirsten had modifications for each activity, and reminded me only to practice these when I felt comfortable on the slope. Getting down safely was the priority.
Tip: If an activity during a lesson looks too difficult, there’s no shame in asking for modifications and more explanations.
Speaking of getting down safely… We also learned to “skid” and how to “hockey stop,” two techniques for getting down a slope or parts of a slope that turn out to be too steep.
Progress, Sweet Progress!
We continued to practice, and Kirsten continued to give advice. Stand up straight! Squeeze your glutes! Pull your leg back at the end of your turn! Poles up! It was what I imagined finishing school to be like. By the end, though, my form had improved drastically, and I was making it down slopes that had previously terrified me.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to use either of these techniques. When I skied later with my friend, he reminded me that these were good tools to use to prevent a crash further on down the slope, not just in case of an emergency.
“Falling Isn’t Failing”
Be it taking your time, asking for modifications, knowing your limits, or holding on to the chair, do what makes you feel safest. However, learning is what happens when we step out of our comfort zone and do a little skidding and falling or believe in ourselves enough to take a bigger leap than we might be ready for.
After the lesson, I met up with my friend to squeeze in a few last runs and then make a break for I-70 to beat the traffic. As we rode up the lift, I started to get nervous. If it hadn’t been so cold, my palms would have been sweaty. We came to the run where I had yet to make it down without falling. I stood up straight, squeezed my glutes, took wide turns aannnd… hockey stopped safely! A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
A few years ago, after a ridgeline run when I was trying to overcome my fear of heights, I wrote myself a note:
“Fear and overexposure- Part of perseverance is to suck it up and keep going. To keep doing something you’re scared of until it doesn’t scare you anymore. Today running Land’s End, I trusted my own feet. Hard to do when you’ve been a klutz all your life.”
I know part of the reason I waited so long to take up skiing was the fear of failure.
But even though they’re only one letter apart, falling isn’t failing. What the last lesson taught me was that I have a long way to go and like every other sport, there’s no such thing as being done.
In so many ways, though, the progress is the best part.
Additional Posts in this Series:
Many thanks to Loveland Ski Area, WinterWomen.com and Powder7 Ski Shop for sponsoring this “Learning to Ski as an Adult” series. Please click here for a list of recommended gear from WinterWomen and Powder7.
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