Today I had the wonderful opportunity of joining my class, “Adventures in the Outdoors”, on a trip to Sunday River, one of the last ski resorts in Maine still making snow. We left at 7:30 in the morning, and stayed at the mountain until 3:00.
Once we got to the nearly empty resort, checked in, and got fitted for boots, my group and I headed to the small Learner’s Slope, to practice going and stopping. At this point, I could not find any horse analogies.
Shortly after, I headed up my first ski lift and headed down the mountain, where I discovered why lots of thin layers and wicking clothing is so wonderful. I got in the groove of using the woosh, woosh (aka turning) to slow down, rather than crossing my skis like a slice of pizza. My instructor (who was very patient and wonderful as well) told me to drop my poles, of which I had been heavily using for balance, and to hold my knees instead. It was at this point I realized that two-point (or half-seat, whatever it is jumpers do) is totally universal. I could bend my knees as shock absorbers, and I found myself “posting” over bumps in the slush.
After lunch, I was invited to go back up the lift one more time. I figured the hill would be the same sunshine and rainbows as the hill I had ridden down previously, however I was sadly mistaken. We quickly passed the hill I had stopped at before, and continued up for well over double the distance up the mountain. At this point, I well remembered my fear of heights.
The lift slowed, and we went to gracefully slide off the bench and begin down the slope. My poles and skis, however, had a different plan. I crossed my poles over each other, got my pole (which was attached, via a strap, to my wrist) and tumbled down the platform. The entire ski lift was brought to a halt, while my classmates untangled me from the machinery.
Off to a great start.
We chose to ride down the Dream Maker Trail, which runs down the North Peak.
I do not know where to begin. Still shaken from my lift-trauma, the steep double-black-diamond hills were not settling the butterflies in my stomach. Once we slipped into the woods, however, I began to get a rhythm going, and started to build my confidence back up. That is, until we reached what I like to call the scary steep icy slope of death.
I will not take up the internet with the gory details, but there was a lot of quick turns, stopping, flipping over, sliding backwards on my butt, tears shooting out my eyeballs and streaming uncontrollably down my face, cold fingers, and quite a bit of me mentally-shouting swears at the universe.
Once we got past hellish part, however, I was the queen of the mountain, undefeatable, risen-from-the-dead bada*s. I flew down the hill (with my pizza skis and “whoa”-ing) to land in the learner’s trail, which now seemed incredibly insignificant. I was immensely proud of myself, and was thrilled that I stuck with it. I overcame my fear of heights, kept my head high in my graceful departure from the lift, stuck with the group (sort of) during the first half, and made it through the icy bit, to come out a much better skier.
How does this apply to riding??
Riding always has its ups and its downs, its uphills, downhills, and plateaus. My new favorite analogy of dressage is of a wave; it always has its crests and troughs, and the lower the trough, the higher the crest usually is. You just have to keep on riding the waves, remember what you learn along the way, and remember the feeling of the highs, to remind yourself why you do what you do.