I have learned that I am afraid of heights. This is not some fear that I can talk myself down from. Nope. This is a shiver to my core at the realization that I am higher up than my conscious brain is comfortable with. Which is strange, because I’m not afraid of flying. I feel quite the opposite with flying. Although I despise being smushed into a tin can like a sardine, I can tolerate it because I want to get from Point A to Point B. But when Point A is on the top of a mountain, and Point B is at the bottom of the mountain, it is a whole ‘nother story.
How did I learn this fearful fact about myself? I learned how to ski this winter and by most accounts, to ski you need to go up. It’s not just the chairlift that scares me. (Each jerk and wobble sends a shiver down my spine.) It’s not just the height of the chairlift above the ground that scares me (uh no, I cannot jump and land that one.) It is the moment when we arrive at the top of the mountain and I glance down at what I’m about to ski (or controlled fall) past. It is a split second of that moment where my adrenaline starts pumping and my brain starts shaking and my gut says, “Are you freakin’ NUTS?!?! We could hit a tree or a person or fall or, or, or….” And the required response to the inner me is, “Yes. I am freaking nuts so let’s go.”
To satiate my inner scaredy-cat, I reserve the ‘right’ to go as slow as I want on my first run. I know my ski buddy, Raul, will get impatient with me and push me to go faster and faster, so I get one run to go slow and learn my way down. This usually means some hilariously sad combination of pizza-ing my way down and french-frying my way across the snowy faces. I get half way down, stop and puff that “I can’t make it. I can’t possibly do this!” Raul in his infinite patience stops and calls me out, reaffirming that I CAN do this, and have done it and will do it again. Finishing the run with a smidgen of confidence, I get back in line for the next lift up the hillside.
With each successive run, I go a bit faster. My ski’s move a bit surer. I get better at the good old-fashioned “Hi-Ya” driving my ski pole into the snow to trigger my feet to shift weight. I think in my head, “left, right, left, right” with the weight applied to each foot, sinking my ski into the snow scape and forcing my inertia left and right. I learn to feel my edges grip into the snow, and recall all the past information the snow has given back to me: how cold it is that day, if someone skied it already, how long it’s been since the last dusting or dumping, how fast I’m gliding past.
With each successive run, the hammer-nammer of life quiets. My focus steels. Movements are made out of love, with a smile. Then we hit the spot, it’s always a few stories above a plateau. Raul signals that it’s time to go 100% french fry and aim our ski’s straight down. I crouch down, letting my poles dangle behind me, acting like training wheels and keeping me grounded, and then just go. I ask for my angels to lift me on their wings and carry me safely down. Sometimes I can’t help but scream at the top of my lungs an “AYYYEEEEEEEEEE” as I zoom down the hillside faster than the speed limit in most towns. Digging my feet in and slowing down I marvel at the adrenaline and feat I just accomplished. Suddenly feeling more conservative, I slow down as we come back to the lift’s line.
Then it’s our turn to get swept off our feet, turbulently floated up the mountain to do it all again. Seriously, all of it. Even the literal shaking in my boots part. Yet I keep going down and getting back on the lift to do it again. I am afraid of heights, and yet this force inside me compels me to follow Raul and learn the ways of the ski bunny. For me, the best way to describe this pull towards scaring myself silly is my RAWR. My RAWR longs for those AYYYYEEEE runs. Longs to turn off the nattering brain and go fast. So, in spite of my fearful side, I ski to RAWR.
For a ski noob interested in finding their inner Ski RAWR here are some lessons I’ve learned:
-Don’t leave for the mountain during a snowstorm. It will be great skiing on the slopes, but cars won’t fare as well on the roads.
-Decent gear matters. Did you know you can rent skis, boots and poles for the whole season, and take them with you to any mountain? Then you’re committed for the season with no long term commitment! The more you go, the cheaper your investment becomes. We got ours here.
-Now that I know I like skiing, next year I may buy boots, and rent the rest. Ski’s come and go but what’s on your tootsie matters most. If you rent, get insoles specific to your feet to ensure a full day of skiing comfort. When I buy boots, they will be something like these. (the faux fur is so soft and yummy!)
-Ski Goggles are a must. You want them fairly free of scratches and smudges so your line of sight to safety is clear. These are on my wish-list for next year. I love the low profile edges, key to a noob staying out of other’s paths.
-Night skiing is a deal! We are lucky to live within an hour of our nearest ski slopes, so when winter is pouring down on Seattle, we book it up to Snoqualmie for some after-work slopes time. After playing hard in the snow, we come home exhausted and ready to work hard the next day.
-Find a tradition you can do after each trip. We like to drink hot chocolate after a good day of skiing and talk about the day’s highlights. If you need some mood music for the drive, check out the Head and the Heart. #7, Lost in My Mind is one of our favorites.
-and lastly… don’t be afraid to go high or fast. It can be fun, just trust yourself.