Starting to Ski in your 40s

By The Road To: Body&Soul Comments

Life can be seen as an endless list of experiences, each one another step in our search for happiness or glorious moments as we try to live life to the full. And this is why I have chosen to share with you my take on my latest experience: learning how to ski.

Is there a cutoff date for our capacity to acquire new skills, start a new career or make our dreams come true? I often ponder this, and it was no different when considering skiing.

I couldn’t get enough of my friends’ excitement about how exhilarating a sport skiing is. When I reached the stage in life when I could finally afford to go on this relatively expensive vacation, I was held back by small kids. It is not easy to enjoy the slopes with very young kids in tow; your mind is constantly distracted by concerns for their wellbeing and entertainment.

Beginning wasn’t easy. Developing the skills and techniques is definitely a challenge. Many skiing positions and moves are counterintuitive and therefore difficult to implement. It is much easier for kids who are smaller, closer to the ground, and fearless and flexible both in mind and body.  Yet, I found being able to overcome the setbacks a worthwhile goal for the following reasons:

First, like any other new skill you undertake, skiing is about the willingness to learn. Taking lessons in order to learn the basic skills is a prerequisite. Without expert tuition you can pick up some very bad habits which will frustrate the techniques you need for mastering steeper and harder slopes. After learning from the experts, you can then try to improve by reading, watching instruction clips, and personal experience. Once, you pass through these stages, you get to feel the enormous sense of satisfaction gained from undertaking a challenge, learning a new skill and excelling at it.

Second, concentration on a specific goal allows you to clear your mind of unnecessary, postponable cares. Like it or not, your only concern on the slope is "survival": getting to the bottom with the minimum number of falls or injuries. Although skiing is in many ways the opposite of meditation, once you get the hang of it and start gliding, I found it a very effective cleansing activity. The white expanses around you only enhance this feeling.

Third, try, try, and try again is probably the only way to make progress. You definitely get to practice your determination and decisiveness, and before you know it, you are able to negotiate the easy blue runs. The first stages are not easy, and since it takes time to match your body position to your skis, you end every day with quite a lot of muscle pain, but I was surprised by how many of the techniques I retained from one practice to the next.  

Fourth, overcoming your fears of speed, heights, injury and the unknown is without doubt part of the whole experience. The good news is that just as with other unknowns, also here, mastering your moves makes the whole experience more familiar and less frightening. The gathering of speed as you sail down the slopes can be a major obstacle for beginners. To be honest, it still holds me back. Getting used to the feeling of such a high speed – a totally subjective feeling – is not so simple. Shooting down a hill on a silky surface of ice has nothing in common with driving a car or even riding a bicycle downhill. Controlling the panic with long, deep breaths works wonders. Even when, at the end of the day, it looks like you have made no progress, somehow the next time you confront this hard slope, you find it has become a little less daunting. I found it quite amazing how gradually, bit by bit, I became more familiar with the moves, the stance and the hurdles.

Fifth, like no other sport, with skiing you get to see some fantastic scenery. As a beginner you can be a little too concentrated on the moves to really appreciate the spectacular views around you. Looking down at the short-range view is a typical beginner’s mistake, but even so, you cannot miss your surroundings while going up the mountains in chairlifts or cable cars and taking breaks to catch your breath and give your legs a rest. As said earlier, there is something very uplifting about conquering new skills, but skiing gives you the added value of vigorous exercise in an amazing environment.

Sixth, a ski vacation is a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. The mutual goal of acquiring skills makes for wonderful bonding. Sharing your experiences and challenges is equally as rewarding as giving that extra encouragement to those who are tired, frustrated, and ready to give up. It was great seeing the whole family reach their goals and move up a level.

I could say how sorry I am that I didn’t start earlier; the process would have been easier, I would be better by now, and I could have been enjoying it for much longer. But regrets won't help at this point. It is always easy to review our accomplishments and our misses in retrospect. It is forward planning that can make the difference by allowing for minimum future regrets.  If we just put more energy into the self-promoting rather than time-wasting habits, we will surely have less to regret in the future. So, if skiing is something you have thought about trying, it is not too late— I suggest you give it a go, even if you end up enjoying it only once in a while.


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