Growing up in Florida, I was always outside. Any weekend, you'd find me swimming at the beach or pool, playing sports, water skiing, or riding bikes—you name it, I did it. So aside from premature sunspots, my active, outdoorsy childhood gave me a deep appreciation for Mother Nature: the original, $0-a-month gym.
Skiing was one sport I never learned, although I loved the idea of it. It always seemed so peaceful, gliding down snowy slopes, using the natural environment. And of course, the après-ski scene didn't hurt its allure.
So when I recently got an invitation to join some work colleagues on a ski trip in Deer Valley, Utah, I jumped at the chance. I imagined myself gracefully making my way down the mountain, ending my runs with champagne in a hot tub. And I figured it wouldn't be that hard to learn. After all, I'm fairly fit, and hey, I used to water ski—that has to count for something, right?
Turns out, not so much. On our first morning, I was set up with my rental boots, skis, pants, jacket, and helmet. (More on that later.) I told our group instructor I was "beginner level," and I was grouped with other women who'd skied only a handful of times before.
Then, we started "skating" toward the chairlift, toward what I hoped was a bunny slope. Immediately, I was left in the dust, awkwardly scooting my skis inch-by-inch toward the lift as everyone else cruised ahead. Obviously, skiing a "handful of times" before does not equal "never."
When we reached the top (yes, the actual top of the mountain, not the bunny slope, as I hoped), I started down an easy, gentle green run with the other "beginners" in our group.
OK, this isn't so bad! I'm doing it! I thought at the start of the run, which was basically cross-country style.
Then we hit a steeper section. I'm not sure what experienced skiers think at the top of run, but I only had one thought running through my mind: I'm going to die.
My pride didn't let me stop, so I took off—I mean, really took off. I started careening out of control, picking up speed, barreling toward a ditch on the side of the run, and ended with a nose dive into the snow, skis popping off behind me.
Please keep in mind that Deer Valley is one of the most beginner-friendly ski resorts in the nation. Throwing me to the wolves this was not. In fact, my fellow skiers were initially impressed, they later told me, thinking that I had a natural knack for skiing. Then they realized the speed wasn't intentional.
I picked myself up, managed to put my skis on again, and eventually stopped shaking. I was lucky enough to be paired with a patient instructor who continued down the run with me. As we made our way down, he explained the basics of skiing: how to move in a back-and-forth "s"-shaped pattern; move your legs in sync; and stand correctly—leaning slightly forward, even though it feels counterintuitive.
Even though I was still a little shook up by my epic crash, I (eventually) reached the end of run No. 1. Somehow, I gathered the strength—both physical and mental—to do more runs over the two-day trip, and I'm so glad I did. To be fair, I never reached Lindsey Vonn level, but I did gain a little more confidence, and speed, after each run.
By the end of the weekend, it hit me that a lot of what I learned on the slopes were lessons I could apply elsewhere in my life:
1. Always be prepared.
The right gear makes all the difference. Thankfully, I had people to guide me through how to put on my boots, adjust my helmet (no gap!), and actually get in the skis. And always dress for the weather! I was so glad someone told me that my regular puffy coat wouldn't cut it.
2. Lean into it.
Like all things in life, you've gotta give it your all. Leaning back because you're nervous throws your entire balance off on the slopes. If you strike a confident stance and lean slightly forward, you'll be much better off (on the mountain and in the boardroom).
3. It's OK to go slow sometimes.
I'm not super competitive, but I do like to get places fast. I had to check my ego in the snow after my crash and be okay with the fact that I was going to get passed by 5-year-olds all the way down a green run.
4. Trust yourself, but don't be afraid to ask for help.
On the last day, I made it down a ~blue~ run. Which may sound easy to experienced skiers, but again, I definitely thought I might die. I also didn't have an instructor with me anymore. Thankfully, another person on the trip (who was a really good skier) helped me all the way down, waiting patiently when I literally just sat on my butt a few times out of fear. "You got this!" he'd say. "You can do it, trust me." "No, Locke, you're not going to die." I was so grateful for his practical advice and his general encouragement. Although I did make it down on my own, I couldn't have done it without him.
5. Build on your strengths.
I can do plenty of things well; skiing is just not one of them. And I am OK with that. There's life outside skiing, and even at the ski resort, I talked to other people who were out in Utah to simply enjoy the surroundings, the food, and the spa, which made me feel way less like an outsider.
Even though I enjoyed learning how to (sort of) ski, the whole experience also reminded me of fitness feats I've accomplished in the past and how good it felt to master something. I think that trying out skiing was partly what encouraged me to pick up my tennis racket again and sign up for two month's worth of tennis lessons at my local park. While I'm sure I'll give skiing another chance in life, moving around with my two feet on a non-snowy surface is more my speed for now.