I love the snow. Except for our recent blizzard, it’s been in short supply here on the Cape. Several times, my son and I got our hopes up when a snow day was declared, only to wake up to another rainy 35-degree day. I figured if I wanted to get my fix I’d have to head north. Ironically, that weekend a foot of it was falling here.
We packed up the ski gear and ventured over the bridge and out of state, to Mount Snow in Vermont. The anticipation of seeing the mountains and spending time in a winter wonderland lifted my spirits. To top it off, the weather report called for several inches on Saturday. When you live in New England, you get used to skiing on ice and mud, so fresh powder is a real treat.
There’s something special about spending that much time outdoors in the winter. The terrain, conditions, and even the crowds constantly change. It’s never the same twice. And of course, it’s a great workout.
But skiing can be a little intimidating — for beginners and sometimes for experienced skiers as well. My nerves got to me the first day. Although my previous trip was great, that had been two years ago. Even standing still before my first run, I began to sweat in spite of the 10-below wind chill. I worried about falling, looking foolish, and large health insurance deductibles.
Of course, this is the very essence of anxiety — worrying about what might happen rather than simply being in the present. Unfortunately, this fear hinders athletic performance. Being scared makes it harder to think clearly, and as the body becomes more rigid, balance worsens, and falls become more likely.
So, how can you cultivate calm and enjoy your time on the mountain?
- Get the right gear. When you rent or buy, talk to the staff about your level of experience and the type of terrain that you like.
- Keep your skis in good condition with regular tune-ups.
- Consider taking a lesson. A pro will be able to guide you if you’re a beginner or help you to refine your skills if you’re more of an intermediate. A professional will also be more objective and perhaps patient than your friend or significant other. Those relationships are different; well-intentioned coaching from loved ones can lead to resentment.
- Warm up before you head out. Remember to do some foam rolling or dynamic stretches to get yourself limber.
- Ease into it. If you’re skiing with folks who are more advanced, resist the temptation to compete or try to keep up. Take some beginner trails and enjoy the ride. This will help build confidence. You can always meet up later at the lift or take a lunch break together.
- Finally, breathe. Stress tends to cause rapid shallow breathing or breath-holding, which makes the physical symptoms worse. Take a few slow deep breaths, taking note of the feeling as you inhale and exhale. Keep your focus on the here and now, rather than the what-ifs.
- It’s supposed to be fun! Enjoy your next snow day.