Skiing with Skins
Very recently, two weeks ago
to be exact, I rejoined the world of downhill skiing after a fifteen year
hiatus. Just prior to the ski season and before the first flakes fell my
husband, an avid skier, dropped his skis off for maintenance at the Suicide Six
Ski Shop. The majority of my visits to Suicide Six had been as a distance
marker for early morning runs, a dance party and as the pre race accommodations
for the incredible Covered Bridge Half Marathon, http://cbhalfmarathon.blogspot.com, in early June. I entered the
lodge, while my husband was making arrangements for his skis, and as I looked
around the warm and inviting lodge, filled with warm and inviting people, I thought
that now might be the time to get back to skiing. Stars aligned, in almost a
magical way, as happens in the beautiful state of Vermont. I decided my
resistance to the idea that I once enjoyed downhill skiing was melting away and
suddenly and quite unexpectedly felt quite at home.
Seemingly, it was the perfect environment to take a lesson, rent skis and sport a helmet. A private lesson it would be! I am not particularly fond of being the center of attention or under the pressure of performing but I couldn’t imagine fumbling around the J Bar, spontaneously skiing backwards down the mountain or uncontrollably skiing off the trail under the watchful eyes of my classmates. No, a private lesson it HAD to be. I just hoped I wasn’t so terrible that my instructor would cry…male or female!
I met my instructor, Lisa, and after a quick introduction, an adjustment of my boots… off we went. Her instruction was clear, her voice was calm and eyes were kind…perfect! Skis on and we were on our way to the JBar. The first instruction was how to navigate the lift and happily all went smoothly and we met at the top of the pre pre pre beginner slope. We both had a good giggle about how loudly I felt I was speaking as I was adjusting to speaking while wearing a helmet. After a few instructed attempts I reminded myself to relax…simply relax and enjoy the moment. Taking many deep breathes I looked around at the snow filled mountains, glorious pine trees, enhanced by snowy branches, the charming South Pomfret Village, and my love of being outdoors. Remembering to stop, reflect and live in the moment. If ever there was a good time to buy into that philosophy it was now. Relaxing into the adventure was all I needed to do…
We navigated our way from the JBar to the big chair making small talk but secretly my anxiety was building. Anticipating the swift movements required to hop on that lift was occupying a lot of brain real estate! Across the mountain we slid and at every key point there was a friendly face kindly refraining from acknowledging my obvious nervousness and rigid steps as I struggled on the smallest of inclines enroute to that inaugural ride up the mountain. With a glide and a swoosh I was sitting on the lift. The new and quite comfortable chair lift affords you the opportunity to observe a gorgeous panoramic view of South Pomfret. The village, snow covered mountains, commanding trees, houses tucked into and on top of a mountain with a noteworthy long view…a most romantic perspective while also imagining what stunning animals are inhabiting those hills.
Instantly and breathtakingly I was reminded of the exquisite quiet and beauty that surrounds you as the lift gently travels to the top. With each ride up the mountain Lisa and I chatted more comfortably discovering we are both artists…she a potter and I a painter. A delicious reminder about how wonderful it is to meet someone and recognize that we all have more in common than not. We can almost always find a commonality when given the opportunity to speak with someone.
Well, the ride down the slope is an extraordinary blend of terror and exhilaration depending on how hard I was fighting gravity…relax. The two hour lesson flew by and I even went down an intermediate slope as the lesson progressed and Lisa’s confidence in my ability grew. Completely hooked, considered the optimum time to buy my new equipment, listening attentively to the weather while planning my next ski day.
On the third skiing excursion, that very same week, I was focused on the lessons I learned and while I was working hard to employ them I noticed a gentleman making his way UP the mountain on skis. Initially, I had passed him about a quarter of the way on his trek up the slope, while I was gliding down nearly finishing my run. I imagined he might be telemarking but it looked like he was wearing traditional downhill skis. With each subsequent run I saw him making his way further up the mountain. Clearly he had control and quite possibly more than I did. I even received a pleasant and relaxed smile as we both, from our very different vantage points, watched young skilled skiers careen through the woods… fearless! How can one smile while exerting so much effort? I am certain my teeth were often clenched on some of those “turns” I was attempting to make during my decent...really stretching the definition of the letter “C!” During a quick break while chatting, with my daughter, about what I had observed she educated me about skiing with skins. The “skins” under skis make it possible to make this ascent by providing some traction. I felt his perspective of the mountain might possibly be more genuine and authentic than mine. Yes, ultimately we both shared the same view, bumps and turns on the way down the mountain but his journey up the mountain was vastly different than mine. He was really experiencing the mountain under his skis, the sounds of nature and the beauty presented by the many villages of trees in his view. He was diligent, persistent, competent and relaxed. By walking up the mountain did he have a better understanding of the real journey? Was his moment in time more thoughtful? Peaceful? Less frantic? Quieter? A swift reward down the mountain to yet climb again? Is the climb the true reward?
We obviously approach downhill skiing differently so does that say something about how we approach life? Do we approach the journey of life differently as well? What does it say about me zipping down the mountain albeit cautiously, briefly admiring the scenery, being taunted by that very large tree right on a corner of the Easy Mile? Am I just dabbling in the significance of the journey? What is it? Am I too impatient? When I make my way down the mountain and periodically stop is it to take in the beauty or rest my legs? Are we driven by the number of runs? Have we gotten our moneys worth? In the process are we missing the work, the journey, the self examination? Maybe, not quite sure but at the end of the day we arrived at the same place. Ultimately, we shared the experience of being and loving the outdoors and paths don’t have to be identical to be significant.
On February 3, 2018 the Third Annual Tubbs Snowshoes "Face Race" will be held at Suicide Six. I am proud to have challenged myself and skiing again but will respect my time honored tradition of being a very good spectator enjoying a beverage from the wonderfully cozy Suicide Six bar while others challenge their snowshoe skills up the face of the mountain…highly recommend!