50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #36 – Downhill Skiing

20160207_102327So, to completely mess up my head and my body I decided to take a downhill skiing lesson the day after I took a cross country ski lesson. Let’s be clear here, I have NEVER downhill skied and I always swore that I wouldn’t. What part of this sounds like fun… down a steep hill? Speed? I even had a hard time getting off the chair lift at Sun Peaks in hiking boots – I thought I was going to throw up! But this year is all about doing things that have traditionally stopped me from joining in the activities of life. Seriously, most of my friends don’t cross country ski. They all want to downhill ski and a few have either consented to try cross country, or they are of the rare breed that can’t wait to get out there with me. I wanted to have the option to say, “Sure” if someone invited me to go downhill skiing instead of automatically saying no all the time.

So, I enlisted Jaydan Dick, who also desperately wanted to go. This will be fun… Jaydan will be skiing circles around me as we hurtle down a mountain. Fun times!

I assumed Harper Mountain would have an easier terrain than Sun Peaks for learning. I also assumed that all of my friends would be at Sun Peaks so the public humiliation risk was pretty low. I picked Jaydan up and we drove up to Harper very early in the morning. Harper has discovery lessons – one time only lessons to introduce you to the sport so you can see if you want to commit to more lessons. We thought this would be perfect and it was. We got there early and got fitted for our equipment. We also heard that our instructor, Cam, had been there since before motorized vehicles existed. He was the most senior of the instructors.

About the equipment – yuck! I had never worn ski boots before and I was not impressed. They are angled forward so you can’t straighten your legs, and they are super heavy. If I was thrown in water in those I would drown instantly… they are like cement boots! And the skis are super heavy too. I was wearing Gregory Griffiths ski jacket, which his mom had graciously lent me, and ski pants so by the time I had my skis and helmet on I looked, and felt, like the abominable snowman in cement boots!

Cam, our instructor, is 69 and an awesome human being and outstanding teacher. He was able to quickly figure out how Jaydan and I each thought and learned and he tailored our instruction to suit our individual styles. It turns out the wicked snow plow I had mastered on cross country skis served me very well… in the beginning. That was the ‘pizza’ stage of our learning – when your skis make the shape of a piece of pizza. Unfortunately, I had a harder time relaxing into stage two – French fries – where your skis are parallel and make you go faster.

I mastered (sort of) the rope tow, the T-bar, and I only fell once and that was coming off the T-bar. Jaydan fell more because he’s all legs and arms and because he grows so fast his centre of gravity is not as well established. I, with a firmly set centre of gravity, had a bit of an easier time of it. Finally! Being built like a bumble bee was an advantage over his 14-year-old spider physique! This is a reversal of fortune from our rock climbing adventure.

I was shocked when Cam was riding the T-bar with me and told me that the terrain for beginners at Harper is much harder than the one at Sun Peaks. Doh! He also told me that I would benefit from going to Sun Peaks and doing the Five Mile run there. He said my biggest problem is I would be just about down at the bottom of our run when I would start to relax. He said I needed miles under me to relax and get a feel for it.

I now have two friends who are desperate to take me to Sun Peaks and do the Five Mile with me. I am cautiously willing… cautiously.

My feet and shins were really sore from being super tense in those horrible boots so I stopped after our lesson and Jaydan continued with some friends from Logan Lake who met us up there.

It was an awesome lesson and experience and I think I will fell brave enough to take more lessons next year.

Perhaps the biggest thing I got from this experience, however, was not just the experience of downhill skiing. One thing Cam told me, and I’m sure it was just a casual comment for him, was that when you keep your head up and look ahead at where you’re going the world doesn’t whiz by so fast, you feel like you’re going slower. When you look down at your skis, at where you are, everything seems to be moving faster. Paying attention to the big picture while glancing down to check where I am occasionally, makes the world a bit more manageable. I’ve tried it cross country skiing since then and he’s right. It’s a hard habit to break – staring down at my feet, but focusing on where I’m going has a calming effect on me and makes the speed of the world, or life, a bit more manageable. Who knew?

Why was this crazy?

I have avoided downhill skiing for my entire life. Speed + Hills + Vesta = bad combination

Would I do it again?

Yes. I felt more in control than I thought I would and I want to take advantage of that before I forget it.


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