Learning to Ski as an Adult: Overcoming Challenges that Will Help You Conquer


Learning to Ski as an Adult: Overcoming Challenges that Will Help You Conquer Anything

By Mary Sheehan

 Photo by Marshall Birnbaum

Photo by Marshall Birnbaum

Like any mountain town, Powder Mountain has plenty of activities to do if you don’t ski or snowboard. As an adult, learning a new sport can seem even more insurmountable than learning when you are a kid. But at Summit we are all about stretching our limits and challenging the notions of our abilities. When I married into a family of ski pros, I was excited for more mountain vacations and excuses to head up to Powder Mountain. There was only one problem: I didn’t ski.

I soon realized that I was missing out on most of the day with friends and family as they hit the slopes early and skied the seemingly endless powder sessions. Some of you might know what it’s like to learn a new sport as an adult: it’s hard. Really hard. I tried on my first pair of skis at age twenty-eight. This is a time in your life when you’re usually good at most things you choose to spend your time doing. I was good at my job, I was good at yoga, I was a good friend. Starting at the absolute lowest level - the bunny slopes - was incredibly humbling.

It wasn’t pretty. Well, the mountain was pretty, but my skills were far behind. I took some lessons, but was taught mostly by my husband, who must be the most patient human being on earth. I always felt a little guilty that he was taking time out of his favorite activity to teach me how to “pizza” and “french fry.” My meltdowns were as plentiful as the après cocktails, which were often my biggest motivation.

Slowly I progressed, and with each passing day on the mountain I would see improvement. Runs that once made me sweat with fear all of a sudden seemed really straightforward. After a couple of seasons I realized I actually liked skiing and it was no longer something I was doing just to hang out with my family. I also started to realize that it was influencing other areas of my life - for the better. At Summit, we value challenging the status quo, and building connections, and learning to ski has helped me tremendously in these areas.

Fake it ‘til you make it

I learned one of the most important things about skiing in the parking lot - how to carry your skis. If I looked like I knew what I was doing, it built my confidence, and I ultimately performed better.

Paralleling my new hobby, my career was also moving forward, and I was often thrown into situations where I frankly had no idea what I was doing. I am a big Amy Cuddy fan; she advises projecting confident body language in important meetings or while public speaking because eventually your body tricks your mind, and you actually become more confident. Pretending that I knew what I was doing with skiing, and a new management role, eventually led me to truly feel confident about both.

 Photo by Ian Matteson

Photo by Ian Matteson

Deepening connections with lady skiers

Some of my biggest joys over the past years have been skiing with other women. There is nothing like going down a run on a powder day that is WAY too difficult with three other ladies, falling 10 times on the soft fluffy snow, and giggling uncontrollably. The women I’ve skied with have been so supportive of each other, helping each other up when they fall down (literally) and encouraging each other to push the boundaries of what I thought was possible.

Jumping off the cliff

There have been many, many times learning to ski where I have been in situations that were terrifying. That’s the thing about skiing - you often go up a lift without really knowing what you’re getting into, and then you have to make it down in one piece. There’s no going back down the lift (believe me, I have asked)! Once you jump off the cliff, sometimes literally on the mountain, taking metaphorical jumps are not as tough. Recently I started my own business, and I do not think I would have had the courage to do so had I not overcome so many of my fears on the ski hill. Starting your own business is very similar to looking down a mountain and realizing you are in way over your head. On Powder Mountain, let the powder break your fall and your friends help you up. We promise you’ll want to go down again.