Do you have an activity that makes you feel alive and reminds you how to be comfortable in your own skin? That is how I feel about skiing.
After two years away from the snow – it took a global pandemic and its lockdowns to keep me away) – I had nearly forgotten the feeling of powering down the mountainside on my skis, in control of my turns and speed while seeing beautiful scenery fly by. It is invigorating.
It is also incredibly empowering.
Losing My Confidence
Just before COVID-19 locked the world down, I started a new job in a new industry. Whenever I start a new job, there is a short period when I feel awkward or unsure of my abilities. It is difficult to go from being the expert in one role to being a novice with a lot to learn. It can dent your confidence.
Ultimately, this uncomfortable period leads to personal and career growth; eventually, I become an expert in a new field and confident in my abilities, ready to take on new challenges and start the process all over again. But along the way, I experience imposter syndrome and awkwardness.
This time, this period of new-job-insecurity was drawn out longer than normal because my key learning period happened during the pandemic. Three months into the role, I was working from home which made learning from colleagues more difficult and normal timelines for processes were blown out or changed altogether. As a result, I still haven’t experienced key parts of the role, three years in.
Finding My Confidence
However, it was a solo ski down Crested Butte’s famous Headwall that reminded me how capable I am and helped me rediscover my confidence.
A chance to ski the famous and challenging terrain of Crested Butte Mountain Resort was one of the reasons we wanted to visit the Colorado resort. We spent the first few days getting our bearings and skiing with my parents while the weather improved. By day three, we had a good sense of the resort and the right weather to attempt some of CB’s Extremes.
Unfortunately, by this point in the trip, my two ski partners were not willing to ski The Extremes. Hubby’s boots were starting to hurt him, and my father decided that despite skiing other advance runs with me earlier in the week, he didn’t feel up to the runs that I wanted to tackle. That meant that if I wanted to ski some of CB’s iconic terrain, I was going to have to ski it on my own.
It is always advisable to ski with a partner and sight the run before taking on the more challenging terrain.
This allows you to identify any potential problem areas (rocks, cliffs, poor snow quality, etc.) and avoid them if possible.
Even the best skiers run into problems despite taking precautions – it is an inherently risky activity that takes place in an ever-changing natural environment – which is why it is always best to ski with someone else who can assist or call assistance if there are problems.
My father offered to ride up with me and then wait at the bottom of Headwall where he could watch me.
This meant that although I would be skiing on my own, I had the safety net of someone who knew where I was and would be able to see right away if I was in any danger. It was as close to a ski buddy as I could get without actually having one.
As I rode up the High Lift T-Bar on my own, I suddenly realised that I was completely confident. Despite heading toward extreme terrain that I had never skied or even seen, I was convinced of my ability to ski it safely and with skill.
I felt strong and physically capable, and I was sure in the knowledge that I had the skills and experience to ski down the double-black run. I smiled because I knew that I could ski a run that most people would never consider attempting nor have the pleasure of seeing the view from the top of it. And, I smiled because I had left the men behind in pursuit of adventure on the mountain.
A wonderful calm settled over me as I headed up the T-Bar path, surrounded by tall pine trees and enveloped but the quiet that snow brings to a forest. While my confidence made me happy, I also wondered how I could bring similar confidence to other parts of my life. My self-belief in my ability to ski Headwall came from decades of experience, practice and hard work. If only I could bottle this feeling and bring it home.
At the top of the High Lift, I had to read a few interesting backcountry signs to work out which way would get me to Headwall. I side-stepped up a short hill then skirted through the trees and across the top of Big Chute, before spotting the area I wanted to ski. As I slid out of the tree line, I considered dropping into Powder 8 Gully. I stood at the top of the very steep run for a minute, but I wasn’t sure if the large rock a few feet below me was a cliff or not.
I decided to take the smarter, safer route and continue along the top of the bowl towards the open face of Headwall. Getting there required slipping around the back of the mountain peak before coming around to the top of the run. Standing at the top, I spotted the line I wanted to take; then I saw my dad at the bottom. I smiled into the sunlight, excited by what lay below me. I breathed in the fresh pine air, turned my skis downhill and dropped into the steep and exciting run.
A bonus of my dad waiting at the bottom was that he took some video of my run.