A life balance lesson on the ski slopes.

Learning a Life Balance Lesson through skiing

I’m not an avid skier.

Before last Thursday the last time I skied was about nine years ago. Before that, it was more than ten years before that. I was here, in Utah, to ski for six days. Little did I know that I would learn a life lesson on being in balance in other areas of my life.

Because I learned to ski in and after my high school years (and got up to the skill level of intermediate, it seemed that that’s what I was able to do 10 years ago. This time, though it was different.

This time, I’m outta shape.
This time. I’m 20 pounds heavier.
This time, I’m admitting that I’m older.

At the top of the mountain
At the top of the mountain, looking for a way down.

When I got onto the slopes I felt out of control on the green runs. For the non-skiers, a green run is an easy hill. A run is when I go from the top to the bottom of the mountain. Green is the “easy” hills for beginners, Blue (runs) are for the intermediate skill levels and Black Diamond and double black diamond runs are for skilled and excellent skiers. I am not at that level.

As I mentioned, I felt out of control on the green run on my first day back. Then I tried the blue runs and still felt out of control. I did something I haven’t ever done. I asked for help, I took a lesson. We were at a place called Deer Valley, Utah. While I’d never really heard of it, apparently it’s a bit of an upscale ski facility. I thought, at this “chi chi” place, they probably have pretty good instructors. They do.

This is where I give a shout out to a man named Kerry who my instructor in a group class. While I’ve got a pic of Kerry and myself back at the lodge after the lesson, I forgot to ask his permission to use it, and won’t upload it without his permission. I might send the ski facility a note asking to ask Kerry, but I may get back to my own life and forget. But I won’t forget Kerry’s message about skiing.

Kerry’s message from the get-go was about balance. Ski while you’re in balance. After the first run, he stopped us at the top of the mountain and educated us on our boots, and how important it is to have good fitting boots, as they are what connects us to the skis. Boots, it turns out, is the first part of finding balance on the skis.

He didn’t just talk about it. There at the top of the first lift, he adjusted my boots and the boots of the other student right then and there. This was experiential learning, right from the ground up, on a ski slope.

And here’s where I broaden the learning. Our feet is where we touch the ground. It’s our source point to the Earth.

Ever run your feet through wet grass in the summer? Splosh through mud with the mud going between your toes? That’s the ground. We connect there. The ski boots connect to the skis at that’s how we connect to the snow to glide down safely.

Kerry started from the ground, up. From there it was about balance, balance, balance. We went from one side of the slope taking wide turns on the other side of the slope. At points, he would demonstrate lifting up the back of his one ski and then turning the opposite direction while lifting up the back of the other ski.

It was my personal micro-experience of “Wax On, Wax Off” from The Karate Kid movie (if you don’t know the movie, here’s a link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087538/ ) as we followed what he was doing on the easier slopes. If he lifted up the back of his ski, we did, too. When we were on the lift heading back up I told him how I was making turns by leaning way back towards the mountain while slamming my outside foot (ski) almost straight out against the mountain so I don’t fall. He automatically (kindly and automatically) said: “oh, that’s a defensive move.”

I didn’t tell him at the time how much that statement blew my mind! I was being defensive in my posture! I immediately looked at how I am defensive in other areas of my life, as where I’m being defensive in one area, I just might be being defensive in other areas.

Me. Trying not to be cold.

Kerry explained that that type of turn that I was talking about told him that I was out of balance. Then he described to us how being out of balance on a turn causes a feeling out of control. That makes my shoving my outer foot/ski foot down, with the body leaning towards the mountain a form of defense (of falling down from being out of control, which comes from being out of balance).

  • How many times have I done something harsh or quickly because I was out of balance? 
  • How many times have I made a bad decision because I was out of balance?
  • How many times have I done something defensive because I was thinking or felt that I was out of control? (and maybe didn’t even know it)?

Here was Kerry showing me live and in person methods for getting back into balance. People talk about mediation, yoga, mindfulness, and here I am on ski slopes learning to live it.

The last piece that he shared and that I’m going to share here, was his clarity on not to make a turn without being in balance.

We were at the end of the lessons and on our last run. I had gone back to my original, out of control, turns. Kerry watched. He encouraged to lean into it more to get back into balance. I did. I got more in balance. I may not make the change of old habits into new good ones immediately, but I’ll have Kerry’s voice in my head.

At the bottom, he had me look up at Big Stick run (a double blue run, an advanced intermediate run) that we went down twice. He reminded me that I did ski that run and I did it twice. He reminded me that I was able to do that because I was in balance.

Think about that. If we look at making a turn in terms of decisions we make, think about how many times you’ve made a major decision that was made when out of balance. That’s my action step moving forward for me, to be more in balance. It’s my encouragement for you, before making decisions, especially big life decisions, make sure you’re in balance.

Hot chocolate
Hot Chocolate after skiing

Update. I went on another ski run today at another location in Utah, and I’ll go on my last hurrah tomorrow at the first ski facility we started at last Thursday. After that, I’ll be going back to my normal world. Today’s run was called Pioneer at another ski resort and it was a blue run. Kerry’s voice was in my head. “Find the balance.” Pioneer wasn’t the hardest run I’ve ever taken, but it was the most conscious I’ve been while taking a run.

Disclosures. I have zero affiliation in any way, shape or form with Deer Valley ski facility. This was the first time I’ve ever been there. I do recommend the place. I only got to ski a fraction of the ski slopes there and hope to go back. My experience of the staff, from the ticketing to the restaurant staff (particularly at Silver Lake Lodge up on the mountain) were all friendly and inviting.

Resources. Here’s the link to the Deer Valley Ski School http://www.deervalley.com/WhatToDo/SkiSchool