I stand at the top of the Saddle, looking at the black diamond on the post by the drop off. I take a deep breath.
“Ok. Let’s do this.” And over the edge I go.
So that makes it sound like I’m a good skier. I used to be. On this trip to Whistler, however, it’s taken me four days before I’ve even attempted a black run. I’m almost sure I will never do a double black again. I’ve been making excuses about new boots and an ankle injury from summer hiking, but that’s what those are— excuses.
When my son was doing freestyle and he and I had season passes on the local hill, I was good. Having to be up there every weekend for his freestyle club, I thought it was more interesting to take lessons than to sit in the lodge reading a book. There was nothing on the mountain that scared me. I could hold my own with a 15 year old.
Now— not so much. Covid kept me off the slopes for a few years, and on a trip to Les Trois Vallées last year, with rental boots and rusty skills, I didn’t expect too much of myself. This year, I thought it would be better.
We did two days of warmup at Mt Washington on Vancouver island, the hill where I’d done most of my skiing. I took a couple of falls and joked that my bones must be in good shape as I didn’t break a hip! I felt like I was doing well.
When we got to Whistler, conditions were poor— foggy and soft, “mashed potatoes” snow. I fell. I lost my confidence. I fell some more. To keep myself from crying from the frustration, I got angry and started blaming: my boots, my ankle, the visibility, Scott for pushing me, or passing me, the groomers for leaving deep, hard moguls on a blue run.
But mostly, I blamed myself. I should have been in better shape. I was too old, too nervous. I got tired and shaky. I was old. I would never ski the way I used to. I was embarrassed that people might think I was exaggerating about my past adventures on skis.
The second day was not much better.
Somewhere on the third day, though, my attitude started to change. So what if I would never ski the way I used to? For a few hours in the morning, I was doing pretty good. It was beautiful on the mountain. The snow on the trees, the sound of the skis as I turned, doing something active with friends… what’s not to love? Instead of being frustrated over what I could no longer do, I started to be proud that in my 60s I was still skiing.
The last three days of my week I was rediscovering the joy. I no longer needed my constant inner mantra of “lean forward, face down the hill, hands in front.” New snow was falling, not me. I could ski fast and turn well.
I’ll never ski again the way I did ten years ago, but I’m ok with that. I pushed through when I wanted to quit and although it took much longer for it to feel natural, I was stubborn enough to keep trying.
As we move through life, we choose between what is difficult and what is easy. If we always choose the easy, especially as we get older, our world gets smaller and smaller.
If I hurt in the morning. I’d rather hurt because I’ve been doing something challenging and fun than simply because I woke up.
On with the brave travels. Let’s do this.
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