It’s been 19 years in the making.
Ever since I met my husband Dave, I’ve said I would learn how to ski…someday. See, he’s a skier…an EPIC skier as skiers might say. And I, even growing up in the Northeast, had never put skis on my feet.
Every year I said I would learn. I even stated my intentions to learn when I started this blog. But every year, there was a reason I couldn’t (or wouldn’t). I was pregnant, I was nursing, we had babies, we had snowless winters, my father was in the hospital, work was too busy, Dave lost his job.
And on, and on, and on.
Dave even bought me skis one Christmas, much to my brothers’ amusement (because they knew buying me skis wasn’t going to get me on them). And those skis sat in our house, untouched, until five years later Dave sold them on Craig’s List.
I didn’t even notice they were gone.
Three years ago, our kids started skiing. And everyone said, “well now you HAVE to learn, because do you really want to have all those lonely days in the lodge or lonely weekends at home?”
Lonely, no. Time to myself? Why yes, thank you.
But then my kids started asking me why I don’t ski, and I found myself stumbling over my words. Because, the thing is, I was scared out of my mind. And telling your kids that you’re scared out of your mind to do something, and the way to handle it is to ignore it and never try is a really crappy message.
So this year, I silently committed to myself that I would face my fear and learn to ski.
The universe must have heard me because right as the holidays rolled around, my father-in-law suggested that we go to Breckenridge, CO as a family for February vacation. Dave and I almost never take vacations, so usually when school breaks come around, I take a week off of work and the boys and I muddle through five days off. (I wish I was one of those moms who revels in five days off with her two boys, but usually by the end of day one, at least one of us is crying.)
But we said yes. I said yes. I said, “I’m almost 40. Let’s get this show on the road. If I fall 37 times, or break my leg, or cry the whole day, at least I’ll have tried and I can tell my kids that I don’t ski because it’s not for me.”
We booked our plane tickets, our condo, our ski lessons (for the boys and for me), and we waited. My best friend sent me ski gear so I wouldn’t have to buy stuff I was never going to use again. And as we got to Monday of last week, I found myself incredibly tense. I chalked the tension up to trying to wrap things up at work before I left, but I think it was because I had one week until I had to put two skinny boards on my feet and fly down a mountain at an uncontrollable speed until I finally landed on my tear-stained face.
We got to Breckenridge this past Sunday. I took Monday off to grocery shop and chillax in the condo, while the rest of the group rushed to the mountain. That afternoon, our youngest came home with a bout of altitude sickness and I secretly hoped that I would need to stay home with him the next day and miss my lesson. By the evening he was happy as a clam, and I was 12 hours away from getting on the mountain.
The next morning I geared up. Long underwear, wool socks, wool ski sweater, fleece jacket, ski shell, fleece-lined snow pants, neckwarmer (x2), helmet, goggles, toe-numbing boots. Into the car, down to the gondola, ride up the mountain, check in at the ski lesson hut, then wait. WHAT a production. It was my first day and I had experienced nothing that made me understand the appeal of this sport.
And then my lesson started.
There were about eleven of us “never-evers,” so we were broken up into two groups. Mike from Arizona was our instructor, an incredibly gentle guy in his 50s whose main concern was our safety. He asked each of us what we were most scared of, and the group offered up everything from “speed” to “being out of control” to “hurting myself” to “the chairlift.”
I had found my tribe.
Almost instantly, I was at ease. Arizona Mike’s main concern was for our safety and he started out the lesson asking us what we feared most? I suddenly felt like I was going to make it through the day.
After learning how to walk in boots, put on skis, fall down, get up, form our skis in a wedge, and side step, we graduated to the magic carpet and the first pass down a mountain. OK, yes, it was the bunny hill, but it might as well have been Mt. Washington to me.
We got to the top of the magic carpet and stared down the pitch. It was time.
I got my skis in a wedge, relaxed the top half of my body, stood tall (but not street tall), leaned forward and pushed off. And it was…exhilarating.
I stopped myself perfectly at the bottom of the slope and practically welled up I was so excited. I hadn’t skied down a slope much steeper than my lawn, but I had done it, and I wanted to do it again.
By the end of the day, with the help of Arizona Mike, I had progressed from a knee-shaking newbie who was terrified of two pieces of wood (or composite…whatever) to an actual skier. I was making parallel linked turns down green trails in 30 mph wind gusts and loving.every.minute.
I finally got it. The gear, the production, the rush to the mountain. I finally got it.
When I was on the mountain, I forgot everything. Any sadness in life, the to-do list at work, worries about our children. I forgot it. All of it. All I could do was get myself down the trail safely and enjoy the ride.
And boy, did I enjoy the ride.
Happy Friday, everyone. And thanks for listening.