I decided on the second day not to get a ski lesson. I just wanted to use my time to get more used to being on the snow- log in some hours, like it’s a medical degree or something. I tend to over-intellectualize almost everything, and I remembered my 1-on-1 class last year like it was yesterday.
Problem was that I was taking about 2 hours to do a quick 1/2 hour loop. See, I’d be trucking along and then face a descent, and instantly my legs would seize up, starting from the quadriceps to the tush, making me ramrod straight. My poles would shoot forward and splay like a colt. I’d mentally force my legs to relax, poles in back, head forward, trying to let my knee be shock absorbers. Sometimes I’d win the battle, sometimes I’d lose and walk down the hill.
I knew what I was supposed to do, it was making my body conform. The irony is that to get your body to not respond to fear & anxiety, you have to get your mind in the right place. I started thinking little phrases I’d use to fly- something I did every week for years- “you are out of control”, “you are a sack of potatoes” (that’s from acting class), “yes, you’re going to fall (but who cares)” (new to skiing). I’d get over the first bit of the hill, focus on my form, and coast onto the bottom. Usually if I hit one big hill in the beginning, I wouldn’t have to use the mantras until I hit another bigger hill.
As I got more tired and bored, I managed to get a lot better in my form and by the last day I was truly gliding- pushing one foot forward, gliding, and slightly pushing the other foot forward, so you are really coasting and efficiently using your energy.
Talking to a friend the other night, she mentioned that what she didn’t like about cross-country, compared to downhill, was the “out of control feeling on downhills.” I mentioned there’s scales on the skis, and about 3 ways you can manage a downhill, but admitted that it was the toughest for me too. Some folks on the trail were more upset with ascents, but somehow I managed those fine. You can clomp (put all weight directly on skis, in short steps) or herring-bone.
I was with two ski-skaters, and that was strangely not that intimidating, since it was a new sport to them and they were struggling with similar issues- managing control, managing their fatigue.
As we drove back to the Bay Area we were talking about how fatigue made you a better skier in a way, and how losing control actually gave you a lot more control. When I pushed forward and hovered more over my skis, my grip was better and I felt the snow and other nuances a lot more. Seems contradictory- losing control gives you control, but I can see that working in a lot of other arenas.