Falling down the mountain

I first saw snow when I was 21, which is not surprising given that I grew up in rural South Australia and hardly needed to venture far from home.

I finally learned to ski three years ago on the Australian ice-fields1 at the decidedly un-bouncy age of 33, starting on imperceptible slopes that were stymied by a gentle headwind. Although there is nothing quite like skiing among Australian eucalypts, we joined the increasing number escaping the belting Australian summer for some ‘off-season’ skiing in Japan.

The vistas like this from the top of the Ichinose Family black run at Shiga Kogen are why we keep going back.

At Shiga Kogen we can ski out of our hotel and across the 600 hectare resort all day, only taking our skis off at lunchtime. But if I want to roam far and wide, I’m going to come across some challenging (for me) slopes.

Initially I would avoid these difficult runs. I’d dismiss them as too hard and take the long, circuitous way around. I also tried the over-confident approach in which I hoped I’d work it out as I went along! This ends with a bruised body and shaken spirit. Back to Plan A(voidance).

Once I was willing to listen, my patient and encouraging skiing partner taught me to break the difficult runs into smaller manageable pieces. To use the skills I have to get just that bit further. To safely stop and reassess the next part, confidence intact. Sometimes my technique is unorthodox but it gets me where I need to go. With this approach I build and refine my skills on gentler runs, and safely stretch myself on more challenging ones. I now ski across most of the mountain, grumbling some of the time, but no longer depriving myself of magical views like this.

A thinly disguised allegory, I know! But, it reminds me what it is like to be a nervous learner, and the exhilaration that comes from achieving what you once thought was impossible. Actually, I haven’t yet made it down this run without falling; last time I slid at least 100 metres on my back, but laughing all the way, with encouraging words being shouted from friends who collected up the ski gear that flew off. Sometimes you just need to enjoy yourself while falling down the mountain.

[1] They say that if you can ski in Australia, you can ski anywhere.

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