Thursday, 28 February 2008

Facing Fear

I was getting a bit concerned that I had become less brave recently. In the past I have ridden motorcycles at high speed and done full-contact Karate but lately I have been scared Skiing.

I started skiing at the age of 30+ and did it in Austria for the first time. It took just a few days to get from raw beginner to OK to go down most of the slopes.

But, most of it was fearful. By this, I mean leaving the Ski school after day 2 and going to the top of the mountain etc.

I remember making a wrong turn and heading for an expert slope on one day. And I fell and couldn't stop tumbling all the way down the slope.

The other day, here in Japan, my son made a similar error by thinking an "E" on a sign meant "Easy" but unfortunately it meant "Expert". But he got down it OK.

Skiing is a very unusual sport I think. There is such a fine line between boredom (slope too easy), fun (the slope is exactly right for your ability level and not too easy) and scary (it is icy or very bumpy or steep).

Well today I went to our local ski area for the first time, this is a strange place since the slopes are either very easy or difficult. So I had to do the difficult slopes.

I watched a DVD about skiing technique before I went and I remembered the phrase that "break-troughs will not happen so often at this level" - the intermediate level where I am at.

In the difficult area there were 2 choices, the steep compacted snow and the steep bumpy, soft snow.

I went for the compacted snow several times and got better and better at it and ventured to the edges to try the powder snow. I am getting used to this soft snow now after some previous trips. It is strange compared to the compacted snow since you sink into it and miraculously are still able to move through it.

Eventually, I got fed up with doing this same slope over and over and decided to go for the steep, soft and bumpy slope.

The first time I turned resulted in some high speed that made me panic and fall over. But what I realized is that you must not give in and fight to stay in balance. The snow was soft so there was no pain to fall.

So, it didn't take long to actually concentrate on balancing after turns and not bail out but rather stay focused on keeping upright and ready to make the next turn.

I had to carefully watch my wife turn to learn what to do. The trick is to turn your downward ski down the slope to start the turn and the other ski follows. Then, once the other ski is turned down the slope, you angle it and push on it for support, and at the same time lift the other ski and place it down horizontal to the slope. Then you are skiing quite fast across the slope and need to focus on balance, controlling speed and resisting falling on your side or skiing back up the slope to fall down.

The conditions seem crazy, but somehow it is possible to ski it. You just have to do what works and have faith in yourself!

The other thing to do is to bend your legs a lot to absorb bumps, but this is very tiring and after a few runs you don't have the stamina to maintain control.

So this was a breakthrough moment for me, actually completing these moves in what seemed at first to be impossible conditions. But great fun in the end.


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