I thought I'd share a little story with you today. I spent the holiday with my parents, and brought my friend Antje from Germany along for the trip. She had not seen the American West in all its splendor, and I thought she might like it.
But what do you do if you are spending a week in Utah? We were definitely not going for a tour of Temple Square. We shopped a little, played a couple of gigs, rehearsed a lot. And Antje asked, can we ski?
My plan was to shove her off on my Dad or my sister, who are expert skiers and would be fun to ski with. My plan was to schedule a hair cut and stay in the comfort of the salon while everyone else went and hurled themselves down steep mountains. Yes, that was my plan.
Antje said, "I'm not sure I'm up for it, and I'd really like you to come along."
And I said, "Maybe we can go snow shoeing instead? Something nice and flat, not involving strapping things to my feet and careering at great speeds towards oblivion."
And she said, "please? I don't want to do it by myself."
So I caved. We rented the skis. We went to Alta, because I remembered the runs were long and that I enjoyed it immensely when I skied there with my sister when we were teenagers....30 years ago. We drove up. Took off the comfy shoes and shoved on the ski boots. Shuffled outside and clipped in.
I could tell right away that I would need some time to get used to it again. I wasn't sure how to stop or turn. I didn't want to get going too fast. I didn't want to fall and have troubles getting up again. The rest of the group did a little test run down a slight hill and declared themselves ready to go up. I said I would hang back a bit and work on remembering how to ski. I knew that going down the hill with my Ski Instructor Dad would frustrate me. I wanted to get a passing physical vocabulary before letting others see me ski. So they all headed up to the lift and I made my way to the bunny hill.
The basics came back quickly. I could hear my ski teachers of the past yelling out "snowplow! snowplow!" in my mind. I focused on slowing myself first, then bringing the skis more parallel and using turns to slow myself down. I was shaky, but i could do it. But I was skiing on a hill that was basically flat. There was nothing to learn here.
I pushed myself along, parallel to a rope tow that took people back to the lift. I discovered a second rope tow that took people up a learner's hill. It was steeper than what i was on. It had possibilities: some parts were gentle and I could see in my mind what I needed to do. Others were a bit steeper and would present a challenge. Nothing was overwhelming.
I took the rope tow about halfway up, got myself off the tow at a flat spot, and fell down. Blah! Getting up is a challenge. I had to take the skis off and then put them back on. Then, I skied down, taking big, wide turns. The edge of the hill had fluffy new snow which slowed me down a little more. I got to the bottom without falling again.
I took about 5 or 6 runs on the bunny hill, each time, taking the rope tow up a little higher. The last one, I went all the way to the top.
At the top, the tow dropped me off at a flat point, but when I looked down, it was steeper than any of the other parts I had skied so far. A sense of vertigo crept in . I wasn't terrified, but I was vexed. How am I going to do this? I searched my mental file cabinet for clues. It did not have much to help.
I moved over so other skiers wouldn't be stuck behind me, and I studied the run. I stood there for a while. I contemplated standing there all day.
My inner voice then told me to snap out of it.
There is only one way out. Just ski down the damn hill. Go. Do it.
I took a breath and skied down.
My Dad was at the bottom. I did not know that he had been watching me. He said I did well, and offered to take me down the real slopes. We took the lift up and he showed me the way. I followed him all the way down, trying to match his turns and trajectory. There were places where the visibility got hard. There were places that seemed steep. I kept reminding myself, there's only one way out.
We got to the bottom, and I was guardedly elated...but I was also done. I felt like the physical and mental challenges were a lot to expect of this fledgling. Time to pry off the ski boots and enjoy a hot chocolate.
There are a couple of morals to my story, ideas I'm going to carry into the new year. First of all, this experience is a great reminder that I hesitate when going into the unknown, and I have to get over my fear and complete the task anyway. "Just ski down the damn hill" is my new mantra.
Secondly, my Dad is super awesome. He's a great teacher and wants to share what he knows and enjoys. He made sure I had fun on the slopes. I am so thankful I have a Dad who takes the time to hold my hand when I need it. It turned out to be a really special day.