Learning To Ski; the Power of Trying New Things

Growing up in California, I’ve had the privilege of being within proximity of the ocean and the mountains. When winter came, we would head to the snow. Lake Tahoe was a favorite destination. Sometimes we would rent a huge cabin, stay near Sacramento, or in Yuba City with family and then go for a day trip.

I remember learning to ski when I was around 7 or 8. My older cousin and I were put into lessons for the day so the grown-ups could go race down the slopes and have a good time. 

For some reason, I was not given ski poles. I believe it was because I was too young to have them and was so close to the ground that I didn’t have far to fall. I slid everywhere in directions I didn’t want to go. I was chastised for holding onto my cousin’s poles to steady myself while the instructor was giving us instructions. I thought to myself, how else am I supposed to keep myself from sliding sideways? I had a very frustrating day, to say the least.

When our parents came to get us, I was in a pretty angry state and didn’t feel like I’d gotten the ski thing down at all. I’d felt cheated without those poles and decided I hated skiing.

A few years later my dad took the time to teach me. He spent most of the day helping me up and encouraging me. Watching me fall and not making a big deal when a ski flew off and went down the mountain. I fell on my face and butt. My toes were sore and frozen in my boots. I didn’t understand how anyone could enjoy this tedious activity. When the ski lift would close and the only way down the hill was a steep hillside, I took off my skis and slid down on my rear till I reached the bottom.

For the following years, I continued to resist and couldn’t wait till the end of the day when I could take my soggy feet out of those stiff boots and have a hot chocolate.

At some point, I got the hang of it. I took small jumps and got some air. I would move through the trees on those little trails where the snow had been worn down by others who had feared off the main pathways down the hill. When I stopped using the method of crossing my skis to stop or slow down and instead came to an abrupt stop with the outside of my back ski, tossing up a spray of snow for emphasis, I knew I was officially a skier!

I went on to take the black diamond slopes down and skipped school to drive up with friends for the day just to get some fresh powder. Eventually, I tried snowboarding. I got the hang of it and I still preferred skiing.

Later I took my kids. They were hesitant as I was and my dad taught them as well with tons of patience and being right at their side as they struggled to reattach skis and adjust boot clipping along the way. I had to bribe them with hot chocolate to keep them at it. “Just one more time then we will go to the lodge and be done for the day!”

We took them a few years in a row and my daughter took the lead in trying out a few of the smaller jumps. She was just getting confident when she blasted off a big one and barely kept her balance. It scared her enough that she gave up, throwing off her skis and heading toward the lodge without looking back. No amount of bribery could stop her. My son followed her lead and that was the last time they were on skis.

My husband and I took my step-sons to the snow. The first year we spent sledding. They couldn’t find a high enough hillside to satisfy their need for speed and adrenaline. When my dad suggested we take them skiing and offered to teach them, my husband couldn’t say no. 

When we finally did take them skiing, they took to it like fish to water. Before they learned how to slow down skillfully they would let the skis take them speeding downward, throwing themselves into the snow to stop once they felt they were going “too fast”. Once they were comfortable the joy on their faces was evident. “What do you think?” I asked. 

“It’s like being on a roller coaster but without a track!” They were hooked.

They spent the rest of the day experimenting with their new skill and trying out a few jumps. Fear continued to come up and they would each set their limits clearly as to what they were willing to try and not, however, they were disappointed when the day was over. They couldn’t wait to go again.

That same day my husband got onto skis as well. The last time he’d gone was 20 years previous so it took him a few falls to allow his muscle memory to kick in. We had a great time and came off the slopes tired and bruised from an adventurous day.

The day we took the twins skiing, my daughter decided to try snowboarding. She had some friends who were into it and spent the day teaching herself how to navigate a snowboard on the smaller hillsides beside us. I’m trying to convince her to take a mother-daughter snowboard trip with me with the condition that it’s on a fresh powder day so when I fall I don’t break my wrists or my butt.

My brother snowboards so the year before his youngest was born, I took him for his birthday as a gift. With me on skis and him on his board, we were competitive. We went so fast and had some good falls with laughter and playfulness. It was such a precious weekend having that time together with him.

Life gets busy. I will always want to remember to take time to play and try out new things as a way to remember who I am. Regardless of the medium I always bring myself.

A special thanks to my dad for always encouraging me and always bringing patience for me to succeed in my own time.

Do what works for you whether it’s snow skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, trail hiking, boogie boarding, base jumping, roller skating, bowling, tennis, pickle ball, or skee ball, get yourself off your butt and don’t bruise it too badly as you stretch your comfort zones.

Enjoy the season, Bernadine

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