I signed up for a series of group ski lessons, wanting to increase my confidence and hone my skills. There were five of us at the first lesson—four men and me. The instructor chatted and joked with the men, leaving me to wonder whether I should quit the class and ask for my money back. I decided to stay and followed the men who followed the instructor, which in itself was sort of a victory as they were more skilled and their pace was faster than mine.
It snowed the next Monday with a fierce wind making driving conditions hazardous on the road to the ski basin. There was a blurb on the skisantafe website: Winter road conditions. 4-wheel, all-wheel, snow tires highly recommended. I could not force myself to drive up to my ski lesson. Missing one class out of five didn’t seem terrible.
The next Monday, there was an even more formidable snowstorm. I told myself I should stay home. I told myself I should not miss another lesson. I told myself I should face my fears about driving up the ski basin road in bad weather. To stop the voices in my head I got ready and headed up the winding snowy road, driving as carefully as I could, praying I wouldn’t have to face a car blocking the road.
By the time I parked I was a sweaty mess, grateful I’d arrived in one piece. After coffee and time to calm down, I skied over to where my instructor was waiting. He did not look pleased to see me. No other students showed up. “No point in having a class for one,” he said.
I was furious. For this I risked my life to drive up to the ski basin in horrible weather? “I’m here,” I told him. “What difference does it make if you teach one or five? You still have to teach.” He suggested we wait a bit to see if anyone else showed up. After a few minutes, shaking with cold, I said, “I don’t think anyone else is coming, could we please start?”
Sighing, clearly annoyed, he nodded and we skied to the lift. No line. Hardly anyone was skiing. Normally people chat on the way up. I had nothing to say. He had nothing to say. I could feel my tension rising—not a good way to ski.
By now there was about six or seven inches of powder on the slope and visibility was close to zero. “Have you skied in powder?” he asked.
“I tried a few times but I kept falling. I guess I don’t know how,” I admitted.
He sighed again. “Okay, follow me. I’m going to make sweeping turns. Stay in my tracks.” He took off, faster than I would have wished, but I was afraid to lose him in the whiteout conditions, so I followed as best I could. He stopped, looked at me, and yelled, “Breathe!” I laughed. How did he know? He took off again and this time I hummed a song that mirrored the rhythm of the turns. Breathing made a difference. I began to enjoy myself. I got so close to him he stopped. “I feel like you’re stealing my soul,” he said, somewhat good humoredly.
“I have enough trouble dealing with my soul, I don’t need to deal with yours as well.” He laughed and started down. His laughter eased my tension. I followed him, now enjoying the sense of freedom and ease as we made our way down to the lift.
“Let’s do a few more runs and call it a day,” he said. “This snow isn’t going to let up any time soon and I know you’re nervous about driving back down.” True.
The rest of the lesson was a joy. We joked and chatted on the lift. I followed him, filled with pleasure and a sense of accomplishment as he carved turns in the falling snow. When the lesson was over, I thanked him. “Well, you were right,” he said. Teaching one is just as good as teaching the full class.
Driving down the mountain was a nightmare. I skidded more than once, but each time I managed to keep the car facing the right direction on the right side of the road. When I was safe at home, I felt proud I had faced my fears, more than pleased I asked for what I wanted, and managed to have the best ski lesson ever.
What makes you stand up for yourself?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.