Persistence Pays Off!

This post is a glimpse into the ongoing process of the Tranquil Trekker learning a new skill…

After several years of trying, I am finally on the path to mastering a new skill.  This past weekend, I finally learned to use my knees while cross-country skiing! (This technique may seem like a no brainer, but it was a huge game changer for me, so bear with me.) 😉 

We’ve been skiing for several years, though we, usually, only get out about three to four times per winter.  This could explain why I’ve struggled so much to grasp the techniques of the sport.  I heard, recently, that you have to ski 10,000 kilometers–it was a Canadian talking, for those of us living south of the border, that’s over 6000 miles–to become skilled at it.  We’ve probably skied less than 50 miles, so we’ve got a little ways to go. 😝

We’ve, pretty much, done all the stuff you’re supposed to do to learn to ski.  (Though, to be fair, we haven’t taken an actual class, I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  I don’t need five-year-olds skiing circles around me to humble my skiing ego.  The bruises and sore muscles I acquire every time we go out take care of that just fine, thank you. 😝)  We’ve watched various videos on Youtube, we’ve talked to the “experts” at several sports shops and equipment rental places…  

This brings me to a frustrating aspect of this sport.  Will someone please tell me how I’m supposed to employ the “snowplow” method to stop, with six inches of snow on top of my ski?  Or at the very least, with a six-inch lip of packed, icy snow surrounding the lane, my skis are in?!  They don’t tell you that in the videos!  The videos also like to say things like, “if you fall, just get your skis under you and roll back up!”  Uh huh, again, how do I do that when I can’t even see my skis under all that snow?  And when I can’t get any leverage, because every time I try to push myself up my arm sinks into the powder up to my shoulder?   (I’m just saying, my lack of skill may not be ENTIRELY my fault, 90% my fault, tops. 😉)

This sport is, supposedly, easy to master. People don’t usually even wear helmets when engaging in it (unless you’re doing it competitively).  They aren’t needed, you aren’t going that fast.  Some people say, “if you can walk, you can ski.”  This may be true for some people, but, on a normal day, my feet don’t–usually–slide out from under me due to their waxed or fish-scaled bottoms. 😝  I do believe that saying is true regarding snowshoeing, I just think skiing takes a bit more finesse.  

Let’s just be honest, I pretty much suck at skiing.  Yes, that flailing spider monkey you see SLOWLY making their way down the hill, the one you pray doesn’t hit you, or the one you just want to avoid entirely…yeah, that’d be me. 😇  I’m the one who, when on skis, falls over…WHILE STANDING STILL…on flat ground!…because I had the audacity to turn my head to look in another direction. 🙄

Regardless of this frequent humiliation, when I am able to remain vertical, I really enjoy skiing.  I like the exercise.  I like the way I can glide along, almost soundlessly, through the beauty of the snow-shrouded forest, with just the *wisp-wisp* of the skis gliding through the powdery snow as an accompaniment.   I LOVE seeing the adorable, little rodent paths crisscrossing the snow as they make their way from snowbank…to fallen log…to tree…

I do feel bad, though, for the rodent, who’s path suddenly ends in the middle of a large area of swept snow, where it’s obvious that something both much bigger than himself and with talons, scooped him from his daily business. 😳 At least it was a good day for the bird, I guess. 🤭  

I enjoy watching the deer spring effortlessly through the snowpack at our approach.  I always find it fascinating, “reading” the stories the forest “tells”.  In our area, this often includes the large, padded tracks left in the snow by a giant feline’s paws.  You can picture it stalking the unsuspecting deer herd in the meadow below, from its vantage point on a ledge high above.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Eagle Cliff area where we usually ski, it has some groomed trails.  (They haven’t been as regular with the grooming this year.  The area is run by volunteers so I’m not sure if this is due to damaged equipment, due to no one being available to keep the maintenance up, or due to the more regular snowfall we’ve been experiencing as of late.**)  But to be clear, it isn’t unusual for us to have to break trail when we go skiing.  Or, if we don’t have to actually cut a trail, there’s, often, just a two-track ski path available to follow, that was recently cut by someone else.  If it was only recently created, it may not be packed much yet.  Due to this, we may not have the struggle of breaking through six inches (or more) of fresh powder, but we can still sink with every glide we make as the process of packing the trail is still occurring (it almost feels like walking in sand).  I only stress this to make people aware, we often aren’t dealing with perfectly groomed ski trails.

**I should note, a few weeks ago, I mentioned the lack of snow in the northern Hills, this year…that condition is no longer the case.  Apparently, the snow gods heard my complaint and have blessed the area with several more feet of snow!  I made the mistake of stepping off the packed, ski trail last weekend, and promptly sank in up to my thigh. 😝  

Regarding the progress I finally find myself making with this sport, this weekend was the first time we’ve gone skiing where I felt like my skill level actually improved–a little.  I’ve always known a bent-knee stance should help with control, flexibility, and looseness.  Apparently, I’ve just never bent them enough. 😝  As we had the entire forest to ourselves, the Trekkers decided to take a training day this weekend.  I wondered what would happen if I bent my knees a bit more?  BINGO!  All of a sudden I felt like I hit this sweet spot.  I actually had a little control (“little” being the crucial word).  I could finally use the angle of my knees and the weight of my body to turn–a little!  I could finally attempt the “snowplow” maneuver used for stopping–slightly!  But, for the first time, I actually felt like I had a little control.  I also found, the lower I kept my center of gravity, the easier it was to keel over into a fall if I felt like I was losing that control.  I FINALLY conquered my fear of plastering myself into the nearest tree!  Now, if I feel like I’m heading towards a tree and can’t seem to turn the skis from their stubborn track, I can lean to my side and slide to a safe stop–with legs that flail a bit less.  Getting rid of the fear changes everything!  (Remember my anxiety?)  When you’re fearful or worried, you’re tense; you’re tight; your body can’t flow with the normal rises and falls of the surface you are gliding over.  And if you do fall or hit a bump badly, you’re more likely to injure yourself due to your, already tight, muscles.  So, this newfound ease of mine is a game changer!   

I also need to learn that I’m not really moving all that quickly.  It just “feels” like I’m careening down the hill at unimaginable speeds.  In the real world, I’m actually just coasting along. 😝

This has been one of the most frustrating activities we have attempted, for me, but I FINALLY feel like I’m starting to make some progress!  I think there’s a take-home lesson in this.  That is, never give up.  If there’s something you enjoy doing, something you have your heart set on, something you want to accomplish, keep working at it, keep persevering.  Each time you try, you may learn a new technique that you can implement on your next attempt.  Each time you fail, you get a little better, a little stronger, a little faster.  I read, recently, that the word “F.A.I.L.” can be a positive acronym for “First Action In Learning”.  I like that, it’s empowering.  It helps us to recognize that sometimes failing to do something the first few times–or first few hundred times–we try it doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  It pushes us beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.  We can use it to make ourselves better.  Often times, I find, failing at something, and thereby having to work hard and be resourceful to achieve it, actually benefits me more than if I had just, easily, succeeded on the first try.  Those difficult experiences are how we learn!

 Regarding skiing, I just have A LOT of learning to do!  😉  



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