My First Time Skiing Taught Me Nothing About Skiing

February 19, 2017

It wasn't long after finishing my 30 before 30 list before I got to work checking the first goal off: try skiing for the first time!

I feel like whenever someone goes skiing/snowboarding, it is always some kind of magical winter fairy tale experience. At least, that’s what Instagram is telling me. This is NOT what happened the first time I went skiing last month. 

(Ok disclaimer - this post contains a lot of complaints and things that went wrong. I promise there is a good morale of the story. I just happen to be a huge whiner.)

So overall, I have to say that the logistics of skiing are a little overwhelming. Without spending too much time on the details, I will just say:

- I hobbled around feeling like a pack mule with all my rentals trying to find a place to get suited up.
- Where the crap do I put all my stuff? Wishing someone had told me the beauty of basket check from the beginning haha
Ski boots are basically the finger traps of footwear. You have to do some strange foot specific Pilates move to get them on, otherwise your foot will break. I may have gotten my foot stuck in the boot in a ballet pointe toe position and cried until someone helped me get them on completely. I am so mature you guys! 
So many layers of clothing! I often wondered if I actually needed gloves and snow pants because DANG IT WAS SO HOT. 

By the time we get outside, I'm excited for the lesson, but still nervous. I wish I could say the lesson went perfectly and all was well. The universe has a great sense of humor and sent us possibly the worst instructor we could’ve had. Zach’s assessment: “She thought she was God’s gift to skiing.”

Again, without spending too much on the details….She would talk quietly and then yell at us for not listening and following her instructions….when we literally just couldn't hear her in the first place. She had us walk up a slope for most of the lesson (yeah, no lift/tow rope, just side stepping) and our muscles were DYING. Then we stood on that hill trying to hold ourselves up for 30 minutes while she told stories of all her skiing adventures. Zach literally just sat down because his muscles couldn’t hold him up anymore. I’m honestly jealous I didn’t think of it first.

At one point, I couldn’t get my boots to clip into the skis right and she came over and literally yelled in my face “You’re not listening to me! You’re not listening to me!”

(Fun fact: If you are teaching me a new skill that I’m nervous about, I will MOST DEFINITELY be listening to you. Promise.)

Now the whole point of the post: the first person falls down. Any guesses who it was?

Yes, I know everyone falls and someone has to be the first to fall down, but being the first was a HUGE DEAL to me. I’ve never been great at sports and I’m very very very aware of how my body looks and how uncoordinated I can be. I was usually the last person picked to be on a team as a kid, I was always the slowest person running in PE, I broke my arm just from tripping while walking, I shattered my ankle while hiking…you get the idea. I was already SO insecure and worried about how this weird, big body of mine would do skiing, so to be the very first in the class to fall down felt like I was reliving all those moment of life again and it was fulfilling all of my fears.

To make falling worse, I couldn’t get up. Trying to get up off the ground with skis on is some kind of circus trick! So I’m laying on the ground, feeling so embarrassed and stupid, with about 60 people staring at me, and now I can’t stand up.

“I’m done. This just isn’t for me.” I muttered quietly to my husband & instructor. “Help me get these skis off so I can get out of here. I’m so embarrassed.”

“Everyone falls, it’s ok. Just give it a little longer, then you can quit, ok?” Wise husband I’ve got right there.

This was a crucial decision for me. Most of my life, I’ve shied away from “difficult” tasks, because I didn’t want to look less than perfect or fall short. I’ve chosen to be a wallflower and observer, pretending I was disinterested in the task, when really I just didn’t want to look like a fool. 

I put myself out there with skiing, tried something challenging and outside my comfort zone...and then I looked like a fool. I fulfilled every fat girl fear I’d carried with me through life.

So, do I quit out of embarrassment, like I’ve done so many other times in my life?

OR do I put my pride aside, accept their help, and try a little longer? Do I trust that this might be fun? Could I possibly learn a new skill if I can just get over myself for 5 seconds?

Laying on the ground I realized how much my pride, shame, and perfectionism were building walls around me, preventing me from experiencing the world. Little kids fall down all the time and fail, but they just pop right up and keep running and learning. When did I lose that spirit? Why should I be ashamed of being imperfect?

I was truly compelled to be humble in that moment and had to swallow my pride. I realized I could never fully progress in any aspect of life if I kept running away or sitting on the side.

“Ok, I’ll keep trying.”

The teacher never got better, unfortunately, but Zach & I spent the rest of the lesson focusing on what we needed most. We tried a few smaller hills and practiced stopping and turning. Zach didn’t ski after lunch, so it was a major personal challenge for me to get out there alone. I never got on any big lifts, but was able to go down the small hills enough to build a little confidence in my balance and ability. Heck, I actually had fun. By the time I left, I was actually excited to come back to improve my skill and challenge myself!

(Pretending to be relaxed but actually thanking the skiing gods I didn't die on the tiny tiny bunny hill)

I wonder what would've happened if I had given in to my first instinct - to quit and run away and pretend I had never tried. If I had put skiing on the shelf labeled “Things I know I'm not naturally good at and won't ever do” because my pride wouldn't dare let me look foolish or weak for one minute. I never would've broken past my mental perfection barrier or realized that I could learn to ski, given more than just 20 minutes.

Most importantly, if I had given up, I never would've seen that my imperfect physical body is not as much of a barrier as I think it is. Just because I'm overweight and not “conventionally attractive” doesn't mean my body can't do the same things as thinner people. I've spent 29 years letting my body insecurity & perfectionism get in the way of trying new things and exploring the world. I've created some dumb made-up “I Can't” list without any data to prove it, except the “I'm fat” mantra running nonstop in my brain. Healthy body acceptance is a huge 30 before 30 goal as well….I just didn't expect skiing to force me to improve it along the way. 

Overall, my first time skiing was not an ideal experience. I didn't pick it up quickly, it wasn't effortless, I was extremely embarrassed, I got frustrated easily, and I didn't always have the best attitude. Leaving the ski resort, I easily could've felt like this was a huge waste of time and money and swear to never get on skis again.

Instead, I left the ski resort proud of myself. Not for being a whiner or falling down...but because when I whined and fell, I made a specific choice to keep trying a little longer.

I chose to embrace failure as a method of learning, not as an indication of my worth or my body. I'm going to struggle with accepting weakness and failure for the rest of my life, but this experience was an important first step in tearing down that wall.

(PS. If anyone wants to make millions, I think there is a pretty good market for comfortable ski boots. I'd invest.)

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2 thoughts

  1. Excellently said and such a good lesson learned...brave and wise young woman, daughter, sister and wife.
    So proud of you and love you tons!