The Art of Falling Down

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I’ve been skiing every day for a week straight now, and I don’t need a calendar to remind me.

There’s a new bruise (or five) each morning, a slight limp to my walk, an increased frequency in groans that escape me every time I shift positions. Places hurt on my body that I didn’t know could hurt, like behind my ears, the arch of my foot, my armpits, between my eyebrows… Part of me feels like I’ve spent every evening in the gym lifting weights. The other part of me is convinced an invisible gnome beats me in my sleep before tying me to the tracks so a train can plow me over.

While this past week of skiing (and my few remaining days left in Tucker County) may not result in my sudden unveiling as the best skier in the world, I know for a fact that I tried damn hard to get there.

This hasn’t been some downhill shred fest, mind you. Oh no. I’m in the heart of uphill-skier-landia, where cross-country skis and telemark outfitting dominate the trails. I know what it means now to “earn your turns” and I know why a friend once told me, “once you tele, you never turn back.” There is such a freedom in freeing the heel (yes, I’m going to whip out every tele-cliché in the book) that, upon donning a pair of alpine skis last week at Timberline Four Seasons Resort, going downhill and riding a lift all day just felt wrong.

Learning how to cross-country ski has been no easy task, and I’m still a long ways from droppin’ knees with anything resembling grace. The learning curve, however, has been a steady uphill climb, like that of the hilly terrain I fumble up every afternoon, and I find the skinny skis and skating motion come a little less awkwardly each time I go out (the pizza wedge, however, will never not be awkward).

So for any newb skiers out there like myself, don’t get frustrated (ha!) and take solace in knowing that everyone sucked at some point…your time is just now. And if that doesn’t comfort you (which, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t), here are a few lessons I’ve picked up every time I had to physically pick myself up. Because after all — the art of skiing is really the art of falling down.

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Ski with people who are way better than you,

and make sure you stay behind them. This allows you to mimic their body motions but also not feel as self-conscious about how often you’re falling.

Ski with people who are only marginally better than you.

These people are usually overly supportive and regularly remind you how well you’re doing. Ski with these types of people after big skis with way better skiers — that way you can tell yourself you don’t suck “that bad” even though you and everyone else knows the truth…you suck pretty bad.

Ski even when your body doesn’t want you to.

It may hurt, it may yelp, it may keep you up at night because you can’t lay on your side, but getting better is all about time on the skis.

Ski when it’s good, suck it up and ski when it’s not.

When you’re only in a certain place for so long, you take advantage of icy days and pow days alike. No pickiness allowed.

Ski at night.

Aside from being a freaking cool experience, doing any activity at night increases your awareness and forces you to listen to your body and adapt to the terrain. Plus, no one can really see you when you wipe out. And you also kinda start to feel superhuman with your heightened night vision. Yeah. That’s right.

Ski with someone who always carries a flask.

These people are generally more fun than raging-alcoholic and a little liquor on the tummy helps you loosen up and go with the flow. And if not, it at least helps you think you’re doing better than you are. It’s all about the attitude, people.

Ski as if you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.

If you don’t fool your friends you might fool yourself.

Ski solo.

My mother will likely disapprove of this one, but skiing by yourself forces you to do better. You might be a little more cautious with your speed or what trail you take, but when you’re flyin’ solo, that self-sufficiency-survival mode kicks in and the “don’t f*ck up” mantra becomes less of an option and more of a rule. Who else is going to get you down that mountain?

Ski like nobody’s watching.

Because let’s face it, people are watching you. Especially if you’re bombing down the slope at White Grass, there are most certainly people in the cafe with their noses pressed to the windows commentating on the skiers sliding down the mountain. I know. I’ve been one of those people. You’re going to be a spectacle anyway, a gliding yard sale. Who cares? Just ski. It’s about having f-u-n in the end anyway, right?

Ski really hard stuff first.

That way everything else seems like cake and you feel like a pro. Ego boosters. Take ’em when you can.

Ski fast, wreck big, and pop up like nothing ever happened.

The faster you stand back up, the less likely anyone is to know you fell in the first place. Or if they did see your wipeout, the more they’ll admire your ability to shake it off. You can always nurse your body in the hot tub later. So, oh yeah. One more thing.

Find a hot tub.

Even if you have to go out after midnight and poach a vacant rental cabin’s hot tub, if you take none of the aforementioned advice, at least do this one.

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Big thanks to everyone in Tucker County for being so patient, kind, and hospitable. Check out some of these pics from the past week of big skis and big wipeouts (for me, at least).

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