Let’s dig into overcoming personal obstacles.
Do you ever find that there’s something you want to do, but for some reason you don’t pursue it?
You may not be able to put your finger on why not. It could be a fear of getting hurt, a worry that you won’t be able to figure it out, a money issue, or any number of reasons to hold back.
Skiing has been that thing for me. I’ve skied before, but a combination of not having been on the slopes in over ten years and worries of re-injuring a bad knee have kept me away.
But on my most recent trip to Colorado, I knew I had try. I had the perfect opportunity to join two friends from high school whom I had skied with before, who were knowledgeable and could help me master the slopes once again.
I was introduced to skiing as a teenager on school-organized trips. We lived in Minnesota so we didn’t have mountains, but the hills could still be challenging. I attempted black diamonds on my first trip out of pure fearlessness.
What I never learned was technique. I would watch my friends cut from side to side to control their speed, while I angled my ski tips toward each other to “snowplow” down the slopes. That technique is ok as a beginner, but it won’t fly on longer or more technical runs.
I discovered that the hard way. The Minnesota equivalent of a black diamond is essentially a tall, steep hill with a sheet of ice on top of the snow. It looked like a sheer vertical drop from the top.
My friend and I decided to race down as fast as we could to experience our top speed. We had cautiously tried one or two black diamonds prior to this, and we felt emboldened after our initial successes.
As I descended at full speed, I realized I wouldn’t be able to control myself enough to stop at the bottom. She couldn’t either.
The main chalet building was just off the run, so we had very little room to slow down before we’d hit a giant log wall.
We instinctively hit the decks and sent ourselves skis-first into a large ski holder in front of the chalet, toppling all of the skis and snowboards. The unexpected boom from our simultaneous crash made everyone at the main chairlift look over at what the commotion was, causing us a good deal of embarrassment in front of many of our classmates.
Surprisingly, neither of us was hurt. I wasn’t even deterred from skiing – I just knew that I’d have to learn some technique or I’d continue to put myself in dangerous situations.
Giving it a go in Breckenridge
One of my close friends from high school moved to Denver for college and has encouraged me to come skiing with her every year. I’ve always thought it would be fun to join her, but I’ve been nervous about giving skiing a go in the mountains with little experience and no technique.
When I was booking my most recent visit, she made the offer again. She was already going to be there with some family, and I could join for the last day. No requirement to spend the whole weekend, just one trial run at skiing again. I was sold.
I looped in another friend of ours in Denver, and we rode up to the mountains together.
On the mountain
The first moments back on my skis were rough. I felt completely out of control, trying to move with my knees and ankles instead of my thighs and glutes. The skis and boots add extra weight to your legs, so I quickly learned it’s essential to control your movements with your upper legs unless you want to have very sore knees the next day (which I did anyway).
Then, my latent fear came to the forefront: how the heck am I supposed to stop?! I leaned heavily on my poles to try to control my movements as we inched toward the chairlift. My friend Whitney even had to hold onto me as we jumped off the chairlift at the top so I wouldn’t fall or slide away out of control.
I kept reminding myself that I had to do this, and I knew I could do it. It’s so easy to let fear set in and keep you from seeing things through. I’d be lying if I didn’t think that I should get right back on that chairlift and ride it down the mountain at that point. Looking at the steep slopes, I had no idea how I would make it down without hurting myself.
My friends were extremely patient with me. They talked me through the different steps of cutting on in and out to control speed and direction. It was difficult at first to trust my body and skis enough to lean to one side and take most of my weight off of the inside foot, but once I did it a couple of times I could see the promise.
We kept practicing near the chairlift, slowly making our way toward one of the blue runs.
At one point I made a cut to the right, with my weight on my left foot. My ski tips began to cross, so I tried to lift my right foot more to straighten the skis. When I made that move, I felt my upper leg muscles pull on my knee to the point that it felt like my knee might come out of the socket.
I stopped in my tracks.
Whitney and Eric continued to coach me on proper form, but I was scared of re-injuring my knee. It would be just my luck, I thought, to hurt myself before I even made the first run.
I think it’s very important to listen to your body, but I knew that if I could get the form down I would be less prone to injury. I willed myself to try again.
I cut left, which was easier and more comfortable for me, and then swung around to the right. I concentrated on sitting back and lifting my leg from my heel, quad and glute to take pressure off of my knee. I glided around to the right with no issue.
We all cheered. I felt ready to conquer the mountain.
I skied gingerly down the blue run, my friends stopping to direct me where to go and making sure I made it down.
By the time we got on the chairlift again, I felt confident in the skis. We did another blue, and then a green, where I (naturally) felt the most comfortable given the lower grade.
Before long I was able to make a full run without stopping. I loved the speed, the views of mountain peaks forever in the distance, the control I felt cutting from side to side. My muscles burned but I relished in it.
Eventually my legs grew fatigued and I could feel the strain in my knee from hours of activity. We did a couple more runs in the afternoon before calling it a day.
I felt more accomplished after one day of skiing than I had in a long time. In many ways I’m still basking in it. I overcame something, a fear, albeit small, that I couldn’t do it.
Though the physical risks were real, my mentality was what kept holding my back. My body could handle it.
There’s nothing greater than the feeling of doing something you thought you couldn’t do. Now, I can’t wait to get back on the slopes again.
What are you holding yourself back from? What will it take for you to push through? Tell me about it in the comments!