I love the winter. In addition to the Christmas holiday, I also love winter activities. I’m more likely to go out of my way for a winter activity than I am for a summer activity like biking.
Downhill skiing especially holds a special place in my heart. Dad was an avid skier before he had kids, so he made sure his children knew how to ski so he’d have some company on his ski trips. I’ve learned several lessons on the ski hill: keep your knees bent, stay on the trail, and go slow when you get scared.
The most important lessons are ones I’ve applied to my life when I pack up my skis at the end of the season. As much as I’d like to say it’s because of my love for downhill skiing, the truth is these lessons tend to stick after a “yard sale” wipe out.
When You Fall, Get Up and Keep Going
I learned to ski at Nordic Mountain (Wild Rose, Wisconsin). Nordic boasts a handful of runs, and the black diamond runs, which normally require advanced ski skills, don’t actually require a lot of experience at Nordic.
Naturally, I took my first black diamond run the same evening I learned to make a pie with my skis. I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do: legs straight, arms up, and screaming in terror most of the way down.
Did I know what I was getting into? Not really. Did I jump into something a little over my head? Most likely.
I eventually hit a bump and wiped out. Dad came to my aid, having seen the whole debacle. I lost both my skis (I was too young to use poles), but that’s when I learned what a “yard sale” was. Dad told me how to position your skis to get them back on your feet, and reiterated the importance of bending your knees and making a pie. Then he sent me off again.
The most important lesson from that day has stuck with me ever since: When you fall down, get back up and keep going.
Leave Your Pride at the Chalet
When I was a teenager, going skiing a couple weekends during the winter was par for the course. My Dad, my brothers, and I would pile into the car at 5 a.m. so we would make it to northern Wisconsin by the time the hills opened.
During the day, it was natural for the four of us to split. Big brother and I took the “fun runs,” or the ones that didn’t require a lot of skill and weren’t that steep. Little brother and Dad liked doing the more advanced runs, like moguls.
Big brother and I were on a ski lift when we saw Dad fall into an orange fence on a mogul run. He was going pretty slow, there wasn’t any danger of injury on Dad’s part. We started making fun of him, clapping and whooping like he landed an awesome trick. A nearby Ski Patrol helped Dad out.
“You got some people making fun of your from the ski lift,” the Ski Patrol said.
“Yeah,” Dad said, “my own two kids.”
We laugh at this story today. It’s a reminder that your pride has no place on the ski hill, so leave it at the chalet.
Keep your knees bent. Follow the trail. When in doubt, make a plow. What’s the most important lesson you learned when learning to ski?