My relationship with the slopes over the past few years has been volatile, at best.
In 2010, I tried snowboarding for the first time. The person who taught me assured me I didn’t need a helmet, and was confident — after I’d done two bunny runs and had a beer — that I was ready for an icy, steep blue run. A concussion ensued.
Then I married into a wonderful family, all of whom happen to be competent, experienced skiers. Thankfully, my mother- and father-in-law bought me a helmet that year for Christmas, so my noggin was protected from any possible future bouts with the ice. Though I love my in-laws, the first time I had skis on my feet wound up being less than fun for me.
Conditions were brutal on our second day out. Wind speeds the night before had reached 80 mph at the peak of the mountain (Winter Park), and I’m fairly certain we were still in blizzard-speed winds when we ventured out onto the slopes at lunchtime. It was a holiday weekend, and the slopes had been well-trafficed. We’d had no fresh snow — and no shortage of fierce winds. The result: hard-packed, icy snow that was hard for me to stand up on, hurt for me to fall on, and left me terrified of the mountain.
That first ski trip was just two months before Nicked deployed, and our next family ski trip (to Beaver Creek this time) was only a few weeks after he came home. I was genuinely spooked after my snowboarding concussion and my first ski trip, so I went out for my first day of group lessons in Beaver Creek a nervous wreck.
This from the girl who ran 19 races while her husband was deployed. Who’s backpacked Asia alone. Who was conditioned to run a full marathon a few weeks after this group ski lesson. Who white water rafted days after seriously spraining her ankle trail running Colorado’s Barr Trail. Who multi-pitch climbed in Washington State despite a newfound fear of heights.
The point is: I’m not easily scared by physical challenges, and skiing had suddenly become something I was so afraid of that I could barely strap my skis to my feet before the tears began falling. I was afraid of skiing down the mountain, and I was also petrified of going back up the mountain on the chair lifts, which sometimes dangled 50 feet or more above the ground.
Thank goodness for a husband who’s forgiving. And for a mother-in-law who took the initiative to get me into ski lessons. And for a father-in-law who brought me hot coffee and searched Winter Park for a store selling bubble bath after that blizzardy day of falls in 2011.
So after one snowboarding trip, two ski trips, a concussion, gallons of tears, and three days of ski lessons, in February of this year, I finally had fun skiing.
I made a good friend while Nick was away. Tom is a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and triathlete who was involved in the same community of volunteers, runners and cyclists that I became friends with last spring and summer. He and I hiked, ran, and cycled together last summer, and we volunteered together for the Triple Crown of Running — including spending a day at the top of Pikes’ Peak together for the Pikes Peak Ascent. Though we’re from two different generations, he became something like a big brother to me while Nick was gone. He was one of the few people in Colorado Springs who I knew, without a doubt, would be there if I needed him.
In February, the two of them invited Nick and I to spend a weekend together skiing Copper Mountain. It would be our last really big she-bang together before Nick and I PCSed to Germany, and as it turned out, it was just what this ski-fearing tender heart needed to learn to actually have fun with two piece of wood strapped to her feet.
Kathy and I spent most an entire day skiing greens together while the guys enjoyed some time on double-blacks. By the end of the first day, I’d finally gained a little bit of my lost confidence back, and — believe it or not — I’d actually had a good time.
By our second day, my friends took me down blue runs. We even accidentally tackled a few moguls! Finally. Finally, I’d discovered what my in-laws had talked about; how fun skiing could be.
I still have a long way to go before I’m a good skier, but for now, I’m happy that I’ve gotten more comfortable in a sport that my husband’s family genuinely loves to share with each other. And I’m also thankful — after so many months of Nick being away — that he and I were able to bond as a couple with Tom and Kathy.
If there are lessons in this, I think there are two.
First: Keep trying. Determination goes a long way when you’re feeling pressured by seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Second: When you have yet another military PCS on your hands, have faith that friends will find you if you’re looking for them. It takes time, but you can and will make good friends when you move. My career has taken me to Taiwan, New York, Missouri and Colorado since 2006, so while I may be a new Army wife, I’m seasoned in the art of relocation. And I promise you; friendships will come in your new community.
Bottom line? Keep on keeping on, and surround yourself by good people (family, trustworthy friends, your spouse) along the way. Life is a pretty awesome adventure, but only if you’re brave enough to keep working at the things that make you feel good about who you are and how you approach it.