The terrifying and exhilarating feeling of skiing again after 30 years

I spent six years of my childhood living in a ski resort town. You probably haven’t heard of it. It was a small town in Arizona that most people who aren’t from the area don’t know. If you know a ski resort in Arizona you are probably thinking of the other one.

Kids who are born and raised in a ski resort town learn to ski as soon as they can walk. But I wasn’t born there, and my parents didn’t downhill ski. I lived in a ski resort town, but I didn’t ski. At first.

A few years after we moved there, my class was going to go on a trip to the ski resort. There would be activities in the lodge for kids who didn’t ski, but you knew the “cool kids” would be the ones skiing. My friend Darcy (a fellow transplant) and I took a lesson before the trip to avoid being stuck in the lodge.

After that I skied occasionally, usually tied to a class trip or high school ski club event. I never owned my own skis or had a season pass. I enjoyed skiing, but I didn’t love it. Skiing is an expensive and inconvenient hobby if you aren’t really into it. When we moved away I just stopped going.

My husband grew up skiing. His dad was on ski patrol. His parents live in Colorado and still ski regularly. My husband wanted our kids to learn to ski.

As part of our recent visit to his folks we decided to go skiing. The kids were signed up for lessons, and I told everyone I was going to ski for the first time in almost 30 years. I was excited about it. I bought new snow pants. My husband got us all ski socks (which are things I didn’t even know existed). I was going to ski.

Still, when we arrived in Colorado I considered backing out. I hadn’t skied in 30 years! Spending the day reading and writing in the lodge seemed more my speed. I told my husband and my mother-in-law that I didn’t plan to ski.

But something changed the morning we were getting ready to go to the mountain. I really wanted to ski. I backed out of backing out.

The author on skis
I look like I know what I’m doing as long as I’m not moving

My first run was rough. I started speeding out of control and fell on purpose to avoid falling on accident likely by barreling into a small child, but I got up again (awkwardly and with substantial help from my husband). I fell once more on that run, but when I got to the bottom I went right back up again.

After that second run I was gaining control and confidence. I dismissed my husband to go ski on the harder trails while stayed on the easy ones.

I remembered those things I liked about skiing: nature, solitude, adrenaline.

And I didn’t fall again after that first run. (Which is a good thing because I’m not sure if I’d have been able to stand back up on my own.)

When we retrieved the kids they were both excited about skiing, so we decided to sign them up for another day of lessons later in the week. We went back as a family, but that time I did not ski. Skiing is a luxury sport, but reading and writing in the lodge is a luxury to me, too.

I’m glad I skied that first day. If I hadn’t I would have always wondered if I chose to stay in the lodge because that was truly my preferred activity or because I was afraid. But I hadn’t been afraid. I had done it! I could ski if I wanted to; I just didn’t want to. Choice not fear.

Okay, maybe there was a little fear involved. I twisted my knee a little on that first day. Nothing serious but enough that it was still sore a couple days later. I couldn’t help think, at least a little, that I got lucky. That perhaps if a middle-aged lady wants to start skiing again after 30 years it would be prudent for her to get a lesson from a professional rather than just throwing on some skis and hopping on a lift. Not risking her aging body doing a dangerous sport that she hasn’t done for decades and wasn’t that good at to begin with. Yes, that would be the more prudent thing, and I am generally a prudent person.

But for one day I was reckless. For one beautiful day I was not afraid. It was glorious.

May your year be full of fearlessness (even if it’s only temporary).

A boozy drink and a ski helmet
At the end of my day of skiing I asked the bartender at the lodge what he recommended for someone who need to warm up after her first day skiing in 30 years. He said he’d make me something. Later a woman asked him what I was having. He said, “That’s something special I made just for her.”


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