Stop fighting the mountain

Most people who know me can’t quite believe I’m into skiing. Sometimes I can’t believe it either. It’s what insurers would consider a high-risk sport—when I’m usually a very low-risk person—and involves a large amount of consumption: it’s probably (depending on how you cut it) a thoroughly unsustainable activity. So why do I like it, and how do I justify it?

This year was the first in some eight or nine years of skiing that I’ve not felt exhausted and kneestrained at the end of it, and I think that ties into a key principle of skiing that informs my enjoyment of it. The better you get, the less you struggle against the slope; the less you struggle, the easier and more fun it can be. For the first time I’ve begun to synchronize the shift of weight, stance and trajectory that mean I’m beginning—in my awkward way—to flow with the mountain, and not literally dig my heels in all the time. And regardless of how much or how little you struggle, you still feel so completely stoked at the end of it that there’s no doubt you deserve that fondue.

It’s rare to find anything in my life that actively encourages me not to struggle against it, in order to achieve the desired result. Most of my days are spent explaining to clients who don’t know much better why they can’t have the thing they (think they) want; most of my non-working hours, I argue with big organizations, multinationals, local councils and the like. So to find a sport that actively encourages zen and mindfulness, that can be practised at the top of the world and down into tree-lined avenues of crisp snow: I feel like somehow I’ve ended up onto a good thing with skiing. No wonder it attracts surfers, gapyear students, and basically the kind of people another generation might have called hippies. They’d have called me one too, I bet.

Justifying it is harder, especially when you see how much infrastructure and environmental change is wrought by just the presence of the skiers themselves. We always take the train, which is a big carbon saving, and I try myself to avoid any off-piste, which would lead to excessive damage both to the environment and to my person. But maybe I won’t go next year, because maybe we all need a year off from the things we (think we) love anyway. Maybe every other year, I can justify.

In the mean time, I need to learn from my skiing. More mindfulness. More calm. More zen. More melted cheese.

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4 Responses to Stop fighting the mountain

  1. looby says:

    Yes, it does seem a little surprising when I’m more used to reading about the drama of losing your chain off your bike whilst negotiating a rather trick bend hidden by a hedge outside Wantage.

    I’d love to get into skiing. I know I’d enjoy it — the speed, the danger, the scenery, the uncontrollable element of sliding downhill. We have got to the stage at Kirsty’s house where we follow it during the winter on the TV on the skiing nerd’s red button.

    • smallbeds says:

      It’s a tremendously unwelcoming support for beginners, I have to say. K. came along one year and had a rubbish time, and refuses to ever go again. But, yeah, these days watching really good, smooth, fast skiing makes me wiggle my hips in sympathy.

  2. looby says:

    Yes, newbie skiiers have told me that too. You need to develop a certain level of ability before you set out, otherwise that’s a very expensive week of falling over.

    But then…. that means spending time at Rossendale Dry Ski Slope.

    • smallbeds says:

      It’s actually more an expensive week of “snowploughing” – bracing your legs, then pointing the tips of your skis inwards and digging in – and therefore putting strain on your knee ligaments, which fatigue far more than your actual leg muscles. Even now I’m at a slightly higher level, I do still fall back on snowploughing when I’m starting to get tired.

      I’m never sure about ski slopes in the UK. Obviously it does help, but it’s even less fun than skiing among beautiful fir trees, crystal-clear air and deliciously lemony sunlight. Even Rossendale’s tourist board wouldn’t push their descriptions that far.

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