Revelation on the bunny hill

Image: Reinhard Rosar

I’m 37. And I’m learning how to ski.

Yes, I’ve observed this is what stupid people do before they end up with broken limbs or worse.

But I live in such an amazing place to partake in this activity (25 minutes from Lake Tahoe) that I feel I’m spitting in nature’s eye by not enjoying it. Not only that, my wife is an incredible snowboarder, so it’s something we could be enjoying as a family.

So, this year, we bought season passes. I watched YouTube videos on how to ski until my eyes bled.

Wow, I thought, I toooootally get it.

The next day, I proceeded to go up to the mountain and ‘teach myself’. And so my adventures in gravity, friction, and momentum began…

The magic carpet was easy. I could go, slow down, turn, and stop. Check, check, check, and check.

I needed a challenge. I looked over and noticed I was right next to a green run. The easiest of ‘big people’ runs. So I decided to head over with my wife and — of course — beat her down the mountain. I was obviously a pro, so…

As we made our way up the lift, the run looked super easy. People were smiling and high-fiving and gracefully drifting down the mountain. A John Denver song played in the background of my mind. I had this…

This notion came to an abrupt halt when we made it to the top and I pointed my skis downhill… As soon as I started moving, a whole new world of synapses started firing in my brain. Ones that made me fear for my life, followed by utter shame and embarrassment.

“Has anyone ever been care-flighted/killed on a green run before? In front of their wife?”

It seemed like a possibility as I barreled down the hill with zero ability to turn or slow down, let alone stop.

I was in full-on survival mode. The more terrified I grew, the faster I moved and the more my bodily control dwindled. I think I saw Alex for about 0.075 seconds before she was out of sight (we both agreed before hand that she was not to be my instructor — this tends to end badly in relationships).

The only thing I could do to make it down alive was to intentionally wipe-out and do the ass-slide as soon as my speed increased too much (like, any speed at all).

It was horrible. I was disappointed. Embarrassed. Emasculated.

I went home and watched more YouTube videos. The mountain hadn’t seen the last of me. Oh no…

The next weekend, we went back. Again, I crushed the bunny hill. Absolutely crushed it. But as soon as I ventured down an actual run, I botched it, big time.

That was it. I needed to pony up the bucks and take a lesson.

The following Sunday, there I was at 10am sharp on the magic carpet hill. My class and I started with the basic stance. Then we moved to the snow plow. And finally turns.

All of this, I learned on YouTube. So I kinda got it. But the instructor said something that made it all click…

“Your survival brain is wrong when it comes to a complex movement like skiing. Everything it tells you to do is wrong and it will only get you into more trouble.”

He had my attention, right there…

“Your survival brain will tell you to lean back to slow down. This will only make you go faster.”

Yep… He was right…

“Your survival brain will tell you to lean left to turn left. This will just make you go right.”

Yep. He was right there too…

Shortly thereafter, he took us up the green run chair. Sure enough, everything the survival brain (I call it the lizard brain) told me, I consciously did the opposite of. I leaned forward (terrifying) instead of backward. I pushed off my right foot to turn left (weird, but it worked). I looked down the mountain instead of directly in front of my skis (seemed unsafe, but worked way better).

As much as my survival brain was freaking the eff out, it ended up being one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Which is why, in true blogger fashion, I’m writing to you about it today…

This is sooooo applicable to life. Sure, we can just listen to our ego/lizard brain/survival brain. We can do whatever knee-jerk thing it takes to keep us ‘safe’. We can wipe out and self-destruct when life starts moving too fast. We can grit our teeth and bring our vision into a tunnel and do anything for self-preservation.

This is survival. Survival isn’t very complex. However…

Living — true living — is a complex art, much like skiing. In order to do this well is to notice the survival brain and ignore it.

Sure, we might catch an edge and get hurt. But we didn’t sign up for this to not move downhill. No…

Life is a gravity sport. We came here to fly and test our edges. We came here to explore and feel the wind in our faces and spray snow on our friends. This is what God constantly calls us to.

Can you feel the stoke as much as I can right now? I sure hope so. Now, excuse me while I go enjoy some of this epic Tahoe snow.


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