I am now testing my ability with skiing, recently backcountry skiing.
When I say backcountry, I mean Alaskan backcountry. I am strapping my skis, on a late spring day, to my backpack and climbing lichen splattered rock in ski boots. I am navigating ridge lines that resemble Lord of the Rings Mordor while making sure I don’t kill myself with a ski pole. I become a cat stuck in a tree as my legs climb powder like an animal while safely on skins, but my mind forgets that I must come down. The comfort I have in the mountains has led me here, but adding the skiing element has taken my knowledge and squashed it; it made me believe that I had a fear of heights, or somehow I had no experience of scrambling. Attaching all this ‘stuff’ to my climb had now made me uncomfortable in a place I find the most comfort.
But here I am, the girl who would proudly remark, “I don’t ski,” straddling a rock with ski straps pinching her side while trying not to fall off a mountain. I am the down hill queen if we are talking running but on skis, a new nightmare has uncontrollably stumped me. The down is what most skiers look forward to, and then people like me try to ski.
Even with some of these setbacks, I find myself going back out. My soul needs the excitement of an adventure, I need to be a little uncomfortable to make sure I am never settling, and I own a pair of backcountry skis.
I am also a person with a robust addictive personality.
There are times when tears are a building up in my eyes, somehow I can’t work my legs, and I am telling myself how stupid it is to be up here, but then the world goes entirely still. The only thing I can feel is my heartbeat from the maxed out climb. With all this ‘stuff’, my stance is off-balanced as I soak in the view. The hardship it took to get to the view diminishes in the wind as things start to feel familiar. My knees and arms shake from exhaustion, yet my mind is calm and stable. The mountains, they have this effect on me. For being in the mountains is home, and though it was a nightmare to get where I was going, I find that I am smiling.
The stillness of reaching the top of where you were going, the view you are rewarded with, the untouched mountains are my addiction. It’s worth the burn to view The Land of the Midnight Sun.
Skiing has come into my life and tested everything. This type of fun has had an experiment on my limits. Skiing puts my emotions on trial, and my friends don’t always understand why I go back for more. The addiction to the idea that one day I will smile the whole time I ski, just like I do when I run, has me anticipating the next time I get to try again. It is about learning to be okay with fear, training yourself to overcome what you think you can’t accomplish. These adventures need no audience, there is no start and finish line. This isn’t to discover a trophy, it’s a journey to discover yourself.
Here are some of my discoveries:
Patience– Try balancing on your ski while ripping off the skin from the other ski, stay parallel to the slope of the mountain, and don’t rip with such force that you fall backward. Laugh when you get your ski caught on something.
Fear– Wear chunky boots, weigh yourself down with a backpack that has skis strapped to it, put poles in both hands, and scramble up a rock face.
Anger– I’ve cursed like a sailor, thrown a pole, and pointed to the sky while shouting to the gods, “You must be having a grand time watching me suffer!”. You will yell, you will blame people in your group, you will blame yourself, and you will get angry.
Please don’t get mad, it’s hard to be the best version of ourself when we are uncomfortable, but that’s okay. Everything is going to be okay. Work on your breathing and count to ten.
Trust– If it were up to me, I’d stay on the bunny slope for the rest of my life. I’d ski down a mountain with my skins on. Hell, I’ve put my poles and skis in both hands, and had a grand time butt sliding down.
But at some point, you have to trust that you can test yourself. It’s not about making yourself have a death wish, and it’s not about doing something way over your experience level. Just make little deposits to push yourself forward. Before you know it, you’re wiping away the tears, and you’re on top of the mountain.
Surprise– Soon, you’ll stop crying so much. You’ll be able to reach within yourself and find out how you handle being uncomfortable. You’re not as bad as you think.
The sound of a precise skin rip and the feeling of the perfect turn, ahh your laugh will echo in the valley when you do something right for the first time.
Anticipation– All types of skiing will change the way you think about winter; go as far as to say excited for winter. Be careful because it will improve your life.