Sunday, April 5, 2015

Being fearless: My first solo ski run

This ski season, I conquered my fear of the chair lift,
made my first solo ski runs and started parallel skiing.
My heart beating wildly, I skied toward the chair lift for my first solo ride to the top of the mountain. I was determined to conquer my fear of falling to my death from the chair lift. For more than three decades, this irrational fear had kept me from skiing again.

"Can you do this?" my 55-year-old experienced brain asked my timid, 19-year-old self. That unsure  teenager was the one who had nearly fallen off the lift all those years ago.

I'd been standing to the side for several minutes, gathering my courage and watching skiers and boarders approach the lift, sit down and ride calmly to the top. Plenty of athletic young adults did it, but so did middle-aged folks and even grandmas and grandpas.

Yet, I was still gripped with fear from my first time skiing--in 1979--when I'd been dragged up the chair lift by my boyfriend, who didn't seem to care that I didn't know how to turn, control my speed or stop. I nearly fell off the chairlift, and then tumbled all the way down the mountain, hollering. My sister, Judy, who was working at the ski resort, recognized my screams of terror.

After that horrifying experience, the fear of falling off the lift was ingrained in my brain. It was the timid, teenage me who still held onto that fear.

I was brought back to the present when a group of elementary school kids zoomed down the hill in front of me, laughing, and got on the lift. None of them faltered, let alone plummeted to their death.

"Can you do this?" I asked myself again.

But this time, it was not the timid, 19-year-old me I asked. It was the adventurous 55-year-old me. Now I'm the dragon boat paddling, zip lining, kayaking, belly dancing, bow-shooting, backpacking woman with the dragon tattoo.

And thanks to the encouraging teaching of Kirby, my certified ski instructor boyfriend, I had been learning to ski. Although I had ridden the chair lift successfully just that morning, Kirby had ridden with me, coaching me and calming my fear with his soothing voice.

But now Kirby was teaching a skiing lesson and would be busy for the next hour. If I wanted to go skiing, I'd have to get back on that horse--er--chair lift--alone. It was time to conquer this irrational fear.

"Do you want to do this?" I asked myself.

My 19-year-old self was still tentative. But at that moment, I decided I would no longer let that timid girl or her fears control me.

"Yes! Be fearless!" my 55-year-old self said, with enthusiasm. "You're the girl with the dragon tattoo! Let's go!"

I skied forward, held my poles in my left hand and turned to grab the chair with my right hand. Then I sat down.

Miracle of miracles, I didn't fall.The timid teenage me might have closed my eyes for a nanosecond, but then I opened my eyes and looked at the beauty around me. As I approached the top, I could see the Wallowa Mountains blanketed in snow in the distance.

My heart began pounding again as I approached the top and prepared to exit the lift. I'd never exited the lift without Kirby. What if I fell when I stood up?

But then I remembered what Kirby had told me: "Stand up and ski to the right!"

I gulped--but did exactly as he'd instructed me. And I didn't fall!

My solo trip down the mountain was the opposite of my first ski experience all those decades ago. I was in control of my skis. I could slow down, turn and stop. I was having fun.

At one point, I stopped to admire the view. Then I looked down at my skis and realized I wasn't afraid anymore. I'm pretty sure I saw my 19-year-old self giving me a thumbs-up.

Smiling, I pushed off with my poles and glided down the mountain.