1. The latest technology will not solve your problems.
Being a gear head is fun. You reap the benefits of a multi-ski quiver, gloves with touch-tech, your phone’s fitness tracker, and goggles with snap out lenses. But none of these things are really going to make you a better skier.
There are fantastic skiers who rode straight skis long after parabolics became the norm. They lose their toenails every winter because their boots don’t have a walk mode. DIY slipboards with the graphics peeling away from the core.
Shiny new gear can help, but it won’t really fix anything.
To be a better rider, you have to put in the time, energy, and focus to build flexibility and strength. Experience is what makes you better. It’s the same in life. Chances are, you don’t really need the newest car, the latest iPhone, the fanciest college degree. These things are nice, but having them doesn’t change who you are or what you’re capable of. You are the most important thing you have. Put in the time. Be awesome.
2. If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.
Fresh and boastful after my first winter at college, I bragged to my dad that I hadn’t taken a single nosedive all season. Can you believe it? A full winter without falling over, crashing, or yard-sale-ing in full view of the lift operators. Dad shook his head and said, “Then you’re not trying hard enough.”
It was true. I was cruising through ski season without challenging myself. I wasn’t hitting anything that scared me, and definitely not pushing myself. I was really just bumbling along, cocky as a crow. The next year? I pushed harder.
Last year, I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked on skis, and you know what? I bit it. A lot. I had some really spectacular falls, but I also had a spectacular amount of fun and learned more than I have in a long time. Absolutely worth it.
Guess what? It looks like life’s the same way. Cruising doesn’t get you anywhere interesting. If nothing else, pushing the envelope makes for an excellent life story.
3. There is a world of difference between a ski buddy and a ski partner.
This comes from an old Warren Miller VHS, the one I watched over and over again growing up. The lesson is remarkably simple: ski buddies are people you can go out and rip with. Ski partners are the people you trust with your life.
With a ski buddy, you go out and rip. You have fun all day tearing up the slopes, then sit in the parking lot and cheers your PBR tall boys. You have a blast.
With a ski partner, you explore new terrain and push the envelope. These are the people who you trust. The ones you rely to help out when the going gets rough, scary, or injured. They talk you through the icy pitch, coach you over the drop, and could probably turn your skis into a makeshift sled to haul your ass out of the woods.
It’s very important to know the difference between the two groups of people. Cruise the slopes with your buddies. Do Tuckerman Ravine with your partner.
When it comes to off-slope life, have fun with your buddies. But trust your partners with your heart and soul.
4. If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.
I was raised on a steady diet of Warren Miller movies, and at the end of every one, Warren’s soothing voice warns: If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.
Thanks, Warren, for imparting a premature, morbid understanding of mortality in a 9 year old.
At first, this saying echoed in my head to chastise me for cowardice. No, I didn’t follow my brother off that jump because I’m 9 years old. Next year, when I’m 10, maybe I’ll do it. Emphasis on the maybe.
Now that I’m in my twenties, I’m starting to see it in a different light. I’m not yet old enough to worry about my physical health, but I do realize how quickly life changes. If I don’t drop this chute this year, I might not have a chance next year. Why? I might have a pass to a different mountain. I might have packed up and moved, or the friend who has been dreaming of this line might move. Without him or her, dropping in won’t feel as special.
At the same time, there are definitely things worth waiting a year for. Last year, I didn’t make it to Tuckerman Ravine due to a recurring knee injury. But you know what? Next spring, when I’m one year older and wiser, I’ll be more prepared. My knee won’t let me down.
I have no idea what the rest of this year will throw at me, let alone next year. Life, love, family, friends, work. Anything can change in an instant, so listen to that voice that says “you’ll regret it if you don’t go.” If you don’t go now, for better or worse, you’ll be one year older when you do.
5. Relax. It’s just skiing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an expert, or a professional freeskier, in the end, it’s just skiing. It’s supposed to be fun.
I remind myself of this often – to step forward with a shrug and a smile.
Go out and enjoy wherever your ride takes you.
What life lessons have you learned from your sport? Tell me about it in the comments!