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First time..(never ever)

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As I reflect on all the things I’ve learned about life from skiing.. one of the biggest lessons come from.. well, the first lesson. This is the first almost every student has put on skis.. sometimes the first time they’ve seen snow.

Now as a “real” instructor, I walk over to my assigned sign.. the “Never Ever” or first time sign. This is where we meet our students for the lesson. I can see the fear and excitement in their eyes.. they can’t see my anxiety because I try to mask it with laughter and confidence. My head is swirling with all the things i have to tell these new students. The first lesson has more instruction and talking than any other lesson. So I start out with introductions, names and a brief discussion about safety. Then we talk about what we’re going to learn in the next two hours and set some realistic goals to reach by the end with a measurement of that goal. The goal/measurement for this lesson is two-fold, everybody knows how to stop and then ride the lift…. Their eyes light up at this point or a sense of doubt comes in. This is exciting.. a new skill, a new experience that hopefully by the end you see and hear the excitement of the little boy or girl coming out to play again!!

Life lesson notes:

– Realistic, reachable goals

– Everybody has moments of insecure, unsure moments

– All things seem easier and less threatening if you feel safe

So we walk over to a safe spot to practice putting on our skis, sliding on one foot, stepping and the introduction of the “wedge”. The wedge is the move that we use to slow down and stop. It’s not comfortable, but at slow speeds it’s very effective. The best way to describe this movement is to show students how “twist their feet”. It’s a leg movement, not a “pushing” movement. More on this later.. Before the wedge can be done effectively, the concept of balance needs to be discussed.

Balance.. it’s the basic fundamental of skiing. The three elements of balance are edging, rotary and pressureThing of it as one big circle (balance) with three little circles inside it. Just like life.. and yes I teach this.. In life we must find balance too so everything can work together effectively. In life we have to find balance with.. emotional, physical and spiritual.

To find balance on skis.. stand up tall with no bending at the waist, bend your ankles in your boots so your shin pushes against the tongue of your boots.. all the time. feel pressure on your shins and the ball of your foot. You should feel pressure on your heel at all, in fact your heel should feel loose.

Like in life, if you over emphasize  one of the elements of balance: edging, rotary or pressure… you will not find true balance. For example, if you over edge as you make a wedge, your pressure on the front of your boot isn’t there.. but the rotary movement will have to be greater to make up for the lack of balance. If your balance is completely off.. you fall. But we get back up.. safely and do it again. I always tell my students that it’s not “if you fall.. you will fall, just do it safely..”

Life lesson note:

– Balance is paramount to find effective movement

– Too much focus on one element of the circle of balance actually throws you out of balance

– Adjusting your balance happens constantly

– Most importantly, we all fall down… get back up and keep going!

After practicing stopping and introducing turning… and everyone feels/looks good stopping… we move onto to the lift!! (dramatic music: pum pum pum) this is the moment that we leave the security of our safe little practice area to head to the big scary beginner hill.

Again, we review what we have learned and talk about safety again with a new focus on how to get on and off the lift without falling. If all goes well and it usually does.. at the end of that first run, the students no longer have that look of fear and defeat in their eyes.. instead, the look of total excitement and passion to “try it again” is displayed on their faces and body language… the little child came out to play, and doesn’t want to stop playing..


Life lesson take away:

– Let your fear happen..  face it and push through it

– Find your balance

– Reconnect with the child inside.. let it come out and play

– Find new experiences to challenge your stale thinking..



Personal side note..

This week I learned that a very good friend and fellow instructor, Don Gale is dying of cancer. He let us all know that he has been given a couple of weeks to live.. this broke my heart.. again.  I reflected on all the friends I have that are dealing with cancer or some other deadly/life changing experience. I realized that I have 4 or 5 friends fighting cancer right now. To you I say thank you for show me how to live with passion and without boundaries. Mary, Don, Molly, Kevin and Kim.. I love you and am proud to not just call you friends but learn from you about life, skiing and true balance…


Next “Lesson”… Turning/changing direction… D.I.R.T.


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