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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
If you’ve been a Humans Outside podcast listener for a while you might’ve heard me talk about all the times I’ve had to eat my words. We’ll put this in the outdoor fail category. It goes like this: I said very loudly, including once on National TV as part of that living Alaska episode we did, that I would never ever go skiing. Ever.
I have a really good reason for not wanting to ski. Or I think it’s good. Back in 2007 I had what can generously be called a bad experience skiing for the first time. Wearing rented ski boots and skis in Idaho, I put on my jeans and went with my dad, some of my brothers and sisters and my now husband Luke to ski at bogus basin not terribly far from Boise, Idaho. I had categorically no idea what I was doing. Luke promised to teach me to stop on the way down the hill. Luke did not teach how to get off a lift before we got on one.
So it won’t come as any surprise that I fell and hurt myself coming off the lift and that I spent most of the ski down wiped out and planted in a snow bank, yes in my jeans.
Yes, I’m blaming all of this on Luke. I’m comfortable with that.
So when we got to the bottom I basically said “I don’t want to see you again today,” took myself into the lodge to warm up and spent the rest of the day riding the tiny little conveyer belt, also known as a magic carpet, up the tiny little hill and coming back down again. It was not impressive and I did not have a good time. I also decided I’d never ski again, thanks.
That was a pretty safe ultimatum when we lived in Washington state, Georgia and Tennessee. And I stuck to it when we moved to Alaska.
That is, until it became absolutely necessary to my sanity to take it all back.
During our first winter here, before I started my outdoor challenge, I didn’t really make an effort. I thought getting through the darkness would come easy. I thought wanting to get outside would be enough — I didn’t realize that wanting and action are two incredibly different things. We bought some used nordic skis, but I didn’t really get on them.
The next year, in 2017 after I started my outdoor challenge, I was both interested in getting outside and making a concerted effort. So I signed up for a cross country ski lesson, where my primary takeaways were skiing can be very cold, I should learn how to get dressed asap and I was going to need more than one lesson, something I didnt end up doing.
Fast forward to last year, 2021. I hadn’t really made much of an effort to get out on the skis, instead taking them up into the pass a few times a year or out into woods behind our house when the snow was deep. But I was still a little stuck in my old way of thinking — that skiing was something I could do if I really wanted to, but not actually trying and not something I really enjoyed.
And then in 2021 I actually tried. I signed up for more lessons. I practiced a few times a week, using skiing as a way to consistently get outside and leaning into the joy found by learning something new.
That’s all well and good. Skiing is a way to get outside in the winter, yay. Fine. But I don’t think it was really until this month that I realized the power of having a seasonal outdoor thing to actually look forward to.
You know how I love summer, what with it feeling my boyfriend and all that I am so proud to show off to people. But winter and I have a different relationship. It’s something I power through. It’s nothing I really look forward to.
But skiing? Skiing might be changing that a little.
That’s what I realized this week when I found myself eagerly watching the grooming report, waiting for there to be enough snow up in the pass for the groomed cross country trail to be created, waxing my skis just in case things were ready, and rushing the 30 minutes up the road as soon as the sun rose on the groomed trails.
It was a perfect day, too. The sun was out and warm on my face. There was the slightest breeze. And with a big smile painted on my face, I hit the trail.
I’m not a great skier. Last year I spent time on my skis several times a week just practicing enough so that I could go down any hill on nordic skis and not immediately wipe out. And I’m proud to say that seems to be paying off. Not only did I remember how to ski when I hit the trail, something that I’m not gonna lie seemed a little up in the air there as I drove into the parking lot, but I didn’t bite it even one time on the way back down to the parking lot. I’m not sure that’s ever happened.
As I skied up and down I felt that warm glow that happens when you get to do something you’ve been really looking forward to. It’s that feeling of answered anticipation. And I realized that if I’m eagerly waiting for skiing because it’s something I enjoy, that means I’m looking forward to winter, in a way. It’s not finding a way to deal with a necessary evil, because while I used to think about winter that way I don’t anymore. Finding things to do outside that I enjoy — skiing, star gazing, winter visits to the lake or mountains to cabin camp — has changed winter from something I shut my eyes, grit my teeth and power through, to something that’s a beautiful, natural part of life. It’s a season of challenge, and it’s a season of joy found in learning and overcoming.
I hope as the seasons change you find a way to fill yourself with anticipation for something you enjoy. You can see photos from the things I’m tackling outside on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram, and post your photos with #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.