Saturday, March 23, 2013

Be bold--and don't lose your nerve

Last weekend, I found myself careening downhill on skis -- going too fast and out of control. I lost my nerve and fell on my back. Hard.  

It was a flashback to my first skiing experience 34 years earlier as a teenager. I hadn't skiied again since then.

In 1979, my boyfriend at the time, an experienced skier, dropped me off at the bunny hill and left to ski the big hill. I watched the little kids around me and tried to figure out how to ski. I was at least a decade older than all of them. Later, my boyfriend returned and insisted I was ready for the big hill.

I didn't know how to turn. Or stop. Stopping seemed important. After nearly falling off the chair lift, I kind of fell all the way down the mountain. That one ski run was such a scary experience that I never skied downhill again.

Until last weekend.

In the past year, I've tried dragon boating, stand up paddle board, kayaking, snowshoeing, ziplining, contra dancing and swing dancing. Plus online dating, the scariest of all. Downhill skiing seemed like the next progression on my bucket list of adventures.

I was determined to have a fun experience and to not lose my nerve on the slopes as I had more than three decades earlier.

My first step was getting a private lesson with a professional ski instructor who is calm and ever so patient. I chose Kirby Records, who spends his weekends teaching 3-year-olds and adults to control their skis while having fun on the slopes. He's also my boyfriend. But he's very different from my high school boyfriend.

Before I tackled the bunny hill, Kirby taught me to snowplow slowly down the slightest incline, the pre-bunny hill. He skied backward, right in front of me.

"Just ski toward me," he said. "I'll catch you if you start to fall."

I knew he would. I summoned my courage, eased forward and followed him down the hill. I did it! And I didn't fall!

At the bottom of the hill I got in line to ride the magic carpet lift, a sort of conveyor belt that transports beginning skiers to the top of the tiniest hill. Not only was I the only person over four feet tall riding the magic carpet lift, I also was four or five decades older than all of them. Many likely still drank from sippy cups.

The sippy cup gang on the magic carpet lift.

With Kirby's coaching, I gained confidence and control by skiing the itty bitty hill half a dozen times.

"Ready for the bunny hill?" he asked.

"Yes! Let's go!"

Kirby showed me how to grab the handle tow to ride to the top of the bunny hill. So far, so good. Again, he skied backward in front of me, zigging and zagging down the bunny hill. I followed him all the way to the bottom. And I didn't fall!

Soon I was skiing the bunny hill without Kirby skiing in front of me. He left for his next lesson, and said he'd return later to see if I was ready for the chair lift and a bigger hill. But no pressure.

I continued skiing down the bunny hill. Shortly after he left, I fell. It was a soft fall. I wasn't hurt, but I flailed around in the snow trying to stand up. Finally, I removed a ski, stood up, put my ski back on and continued down the hill.

I fell again. And I got up again.

"You can do this," I repeated the mantra I tell myself when I feel myself losing my nerve.

On several more runs down the bunny hill, I tightened my turns and practiced slowing and stopping. I was gaining confidence. But I was getting tired.

So there I was, careening out of control down the bunny hill. Now, for an experienced skier watching me, I'm sure my speed wouldn't qualify as "careening," but to this novice skier, I was careening. I was almost at the bottom and needed to stop, but instead of calmly doing what Kirby had taught me, I freaked out, lost my nerve and fell. Hard. Right on my back.

Until 30 seconds earlier, I'd had an excellent time skiing. I was exhausted and thought I'd quit while I still thought skiing was fun. So I removed my skis, stood up and walked to the lodge to warm up, read my book and wait for Kirby.

Last weekend, I conquered my three-decade fear of skiing downhill--and I had a great time. True, I took one nasty spill, but that was because I lost my nerve and forgot to be bold. I won't make that mistake again.

Kirby and I are planning many adventures together: hiking, backpacking, kayaking. He's teaching me to swing dance too.

This morning, I paddled a dragon boat with the Mighty Women. Tonight, my paddling teammate Wendy has agreed to join me for my next adventure: belly dancing!

After all, I am a Mighty Woman.

1 comment:

  1. Love your blog - and it was cool to read about your experience. Bravo to you!