I’ve never made any claim about being a super skier. Au contraire. I’m simply someone who loves to ski. A lot.
So here I am at Solitude Mountain Resort. And some of the people I’m with encouraged me to do something I’ve never done before: ski a double black. In Utah.
Usually I don’t let myself get pressured into doing things I’m not confident about. But like an idiot, I went along.
I should’ve had a clue when the sign at the trail head said, “Danger. Cliffs Ahead.” That messed with my mind a little, but I forged ahead, anyway.
How was the trail? Steep. As in s-t-e-e-e-e-e-p. And narrow. With rocks. And trees. And a view across the canyon that literally gave me vertigo. My world started to spin. And I absolutely froze. Couldn’t move at all.
I’ve heard about this happening to other people. The thing is, it’d never happened to me. The longer I stood there, the worse it got. A truly humbling experience.
Then I remembered an interview I’d done — for this blog, in fact — with Mermer Blakeslee, the ski industry expert on fear. She said if you can just get moving, you’ll be okay. If you change your focus, you’ll be okay. If you break it down into smaller increments, you’ll be okay.
I knew I either had to do something or change my mailing address. So I started to move. I focused on keeping my hands in front of my body. And I concentrated on the next few turns.
In the end, I made it down. It wasn’t pretty, but I was intact..
My point here is twofold:
1) Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing anything you don’t feel confident about. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
2) Fear just happens. This is the first time it ever hit me like this. Now I know what the fuss is about. And if you do freeze, do what Mermer suggests. Move. Focus. Break it into smaller bits.
I am truly humbled by this. I mean, I’m a pretty good skier. But as I said, this can happen to anyone.
Afterwards, I went and skied things I felt more confident on. Hey, you gotta get back on that horse! And I think it made me feel better.
All in all, the whole thing was a learning experience. So I guess it was actually a good thing. It gave me a better understanding of what new skiers must feel.
I think it was Churchill who said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” Know what? I think he may be right.