Here are some of the horror stories I’ve experienced on the mountain and to avoid them. They’re real life experiences that happened to me or my friends, and they’re totally avoidable. Learn from my experience, and don’t fall into a tree well like we did.
I was working towards ski instructor certification one day in March and my test was scheduled for April 2017. It required me to do a specific drill called railroad track turns in which the ski edges have to change direction at the same time. Skis leave a track on the snow like a railroad. When the movement comes from tipping the skis; then the tracks are perfectly aligned and well-defined. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. At the time, my outside ski tip would lead and my inside ski would follow instead of tipping at the same time. The ability to focus on a single task has brought me success on many levels in my career, but it caused disaster on that occasion. I started my day at 9 am in the first chair. Snow was soft, I was warm, I was skiing by myself. I was practicing the level 2 ski instructor requirements repeating them verbatim with each turn. I practiced this way for the entire day.
The ski instructors at Deer Valley work until 3:45 pm which is when I ran into my favorite ski instructor, Rob, who was on his way to Stein Eriksen Lodge. He had been my mentor and one of my first friends at the Deer Valley Ski School. I wanted to show him my progress and invited him to ski a run with me.
I process instructions cognitively and then visualize the way to execute them before doing them. If I can’t see what I’ve done, I don’t have any feedback to know if I’ve done it right, so videoing and watching myself is a key component in my learning. That’s why in our ski retreats, we do video analysis at least every other day. We record you for a run or two and watch and analyse your movement and give you custom feedback. On that afternoon, I was seeking Rob’s approval of the railroad track turns that I practised all day.
We rode the Homestake lift to the Solid Muldoon trail which is my favorite run to return to the main Snow Park Lodge. It was going to be the last run of the day. TIP: Never say it’s your last run of the day. It’s bad juju. The first steep wall on Solid Muldoon is just off the chairlift. Then it’s wide and mellow.
I did a few cowboy turns keeping my skis wide apart while changing the edges at the same time making “railroad tracks” in the snow and accelerating in each turn. Do you know the feeling of wanting to engage your muscles but you can’t? It’s similar to the numb feeling I get after doing 20 jump squats…ecstatic but not able to do one more mump. That day I was too “high” from playing on the mountain all day and dismissed my body’s screams for a break. The skis took over from my muscles, I lost the control, went “into the back seat,” and found myself deep inside a ditch with an excruciating pain on my right knee. I even lost a ski. That was my first major ski injury and, unfortunately, not the last. The bigger breakdown would come a month later. (See my next post.)
Here’s a tip: It’s OK to slow down and ski mindfully like an ideal life is lived mindfully. Check-in with yourself. Ask: How are my toes? How are my shins? Calves? How are my legs? How is my back? Neck? Am I hydrated? Am I tired? Am I exhausted? Can I still turn effortlessly?
Give yourself permission to quit when you can no longer answer yes to all of those questions. You can always stop skiing at noon, after lunch or anytime you feel that you should. You may be on a ski vacation for only a few days, but it’s still OK to call it a day and retire to the bar. Give yourself permission to quit when you need to.
Come and join me in one of our retreats and practise mind, body, soul connection while learning to ski with like-minded people.