Fear, Pride, and Downhill Skiing
A few days ago I went downhill skiing for the first time in my life. Although I live in a part of the world that’s frozen over at least five months out of the year, there aren’t mountains around here, so the opportunities for downhill skiing are limited.
When I was growing up, there was a ski hill in my hometown. It was called “Detroit Mountain,” which is embarrassing, because not only is it not a mountain, it’s hardly a hill. It’s more of a big bump. It closed down around twenty years ago, but a group has formed to resurrect it, and next year it’ll be back in business! But I digress.
For our skiing adventure, we went to a ski area near Alexandria, Minnesota, about two hours away. Kendra and the kids have some experience, but I always managed to avoid going. Downhill skiing is one of those things that’s always kind of scared me.
Downhill skiing has brought two of my uglier qualities to light: fear and pride. First of all, fear that I’ll run into a tree and die (I couldn’t stop thinking of Sonny Bono each time I ventured down the hill) and fear that I’ll look like a fool. That of course reveals my pride. I don’t want to look dumb or like I don’t have it all together. But there are few things that reveal how un-together one is than skidding down a sharp incline on two slabs of plastic (or whatever the skis are made of).
The fear part was made worse by an experience earlier this winter involving cross-country skis. In my younger days, I’d plod around our property on a pair of wooden skis made by my brother. They had bindings into which any boots could fit. They were functional, but nothing to bring to a race. So earlier this winter, we went cross-country skiing, and the conditions were icy, which is not good. At one point I struck off by myself, with no little kids to tie me down. I imagined flying through an Olympic course, ahead of some random Norwegian, on pace for a gold medal and world record. I was feeling pretty bold, so when I came to a big hill, I went for it. It didn’t take long for me to lose control and skid halfway down on my bottom. No harm done, and I obviously didn’t learn anything from that, because I soon came upon another drop-off. This one was shorter and not as steep as the other, so I went for it. Oh yeah, there was also a big curve at the bottom, but I felt brave, so away I went! After going about ten feet (no exaggeration), I realized I was losing control. I panicked, which involved locking my knees and becoming rigid. I soon plummeted straight off the trail and into the deep snow, my skis catching the snow and my body plunging in face first. I really don’t remember where my arms were. I felt a “snap!” where my right leg attaches to my body, and cried out in agony in spite of myself.
Thankfully, I recovered surprisingly quickly from that injury, but the memory of it kept creeping into my mind as I looked down that foreboding mountain (okay, bump) and contemplated skiing down it’s deadly face. But as scary as that was, it came in third on my scariness scale.
The scariest parts were the ski lift (“don’t look down!”) and watching some of the many elementary-age school kids who were there come rocketing down the hill, and trying not to get hit. They were supposed to go side-to-side, but instead they just flew straight down the hill with little or no control. My only falling incident was a reaction to one of those human missiles bearing down on me.
As far as pride goes, one thing that helped me cover up my insecurity was the fact that my eight-year-old daughter was scared, so I stuck with her, encouraging and “protecting” her. “It’s okay, Katja, I’ll stick with you!” Never mind that I didn’t want to go any faster than she did. As the day progressed, I became more confident, so I started to think I probably looked fairly cool while snowplowing down the easiest runs.
The Bible tells us that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall, and just as I was getting a little puffed up, Katja decided she had enough of the big hill. So I courageously volunteered to accompany her on the bunny hill. It was here that I almost fell—twice. That was a great help in keeping my pride in check.
Oh, and that one time I did fall? As I was struggling back to my feet (again a wonderfully humbling endeavor), my 10-year-old whizzed by, casually calling out, “Hi, Dad!” Embarrassing.
So, my downhill skiing experience was full of lessons (I also learned that it’s really hard to use the restroom when wearing ski boots—at least if you need to sit down) and opportunities to overcome fear and pride.
In all, it was okay, but I don’t think I’ve found a new life-long passion.
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