How to Fall in Love With Falling Downhill

“What do you mean, you don’t know how to ski? You’re from New England!”. Confession: not only am I from New England and don’t know how to ski, I was born and raised in Vermont and don’t know how to ski. As a child I had the desire to do it, of course. A lot of my friends got to leave school at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays during ski season to head an hour or two north and spend the rest of the day on the mountain. I never did and in retrospect I understand why: it is an expensive hobby. Neither of my parents had ever done it, and were not in a position to pay for lessons or rentals, let alone my own equipment. They also didn’t have the time to take me on their own. It certainly wasn’t the biggest heartbreak of my childhood and I had all but forgotten about the activity by the time I was in high school. Then I committed to studying for four years at the University of New Hampshire. To say that there is good skiing in New Hampshire, especially up north, is an understatement. Everyone I met my freshman year was a skier, or had at least done it multiple times. One of my roommates had been skiing since she was a child and was appalled when I told her I grew up in Vermont and had never been on the slopes. I put it in the back of my mind that I’d like to try it before I graduate, and went on with the rest of freshman year.

This past fall, I had the delight of meeting my girlfriend. Obviously, as fate would have it, she has been skiing since she could walk and, again, I received the incredulous reaction regarding my upbringing and lack of downhill experience. She is a very good skier, and I mean very good, so she was thrilled to be able to teach me. For the first time ever over winter break, I got into, rather I was picked up and placed into, a pair of skis and the adventure began. It took me that entire trip just to figure out how to turn, and honestly, by the end of it I still didn’t really know how to stop. Just simply having the word “pizza” screamed at you only does so much. By some miracle I didn’t fall a single time, but I was warned that my time was coming. My time came, hard and fast. The second time we went, the mountain was much harder.

“It’s a fun one! You’ll be fine, I promise!”

Fine was interesting choice of words. I fell. I fell twice. I fell at least twice on every single run. My girlfriend had to level me in order to prevent me from careening off a cliff. And I was indescribably frustrated. I let logic escape, it probably fell off the cliff without me, and I was very unhappy on the lift ride up. Learning something new is never supposed to be easy, but we expect ourselves to be perfect all the time. I wanted to be as good as her, as good as everyone else on that mountain despite it not being realistic. But, I got off the lift and over myself, and went down again. I fell again of course, but it was okay that time. It is a long ride up the mountain and in that time I realized that all I needed to do was try. It is an obvious and rather cliche realization, but in that moment of frustration when all you want is to be good and maybe even impress the people you are with, the defeat you feel can take over.

I improved slightly as the day went on. More importantly, I had more fun as the day went on. Despite being a beginner, I had the luxury of skiing in northern New Hampshire, which is one of the most beautiful areas in the world, and I was doing it with people I cared about. I view skiing not as an obstacle to overcome but as an adventure that I choose to take. Like many areas in my life, I do not have to be the best, but I do have to put in effort and remember to enjoy myself. Each inevitable fall is a learning experience because there is the option to get back up, try again, smile again, and ultimately finish what was started. There is no shame in falling, no matter what the situation is, and sometimes the fall is so epic a little part of you will wish it could happen again. I’ve come to love going downhill, because I know that I will get down, one way or another.