Lessons From Learning to Ski


As you may have read in my recent Custom Update, I have learned to ski. While I am still a beginner, I feel I am fully able to handle most situations in-bounds (meaning inside a ski resort area). That’s because I spent a substantial amount of time skiing. I mean I really pushed myself to get better. And after 8, almost, full days of skiing, I have come away with some new, and rediscovered, knowledge that I believe can be applied to many parts of life.

Do not let the Details Bog You Down

Let’s face it, the first few hours are awkward. You have long objects attached to stiff boots that don’t allow you to move per usual. Your basic instincts do not help you move, and there is a lot of technique to just moving, let alone gracefully. The little ways you shift your weight, the slight angle of the ski, how you lean, the position of your hands, where you look, so many moving parts and details to keep in mind just to move with control. Starting out, I focused on the details, trying to will my legs, feet, and skis to perform properly, but it often did not work. After several bouts of frustration, and some patient couching, I altered my focus. Instead of focusing on me, I focused on where to go; and my body followed. Refining the details are important, but in the beginning it is more natural to focus on the big picture and focus on the target. The body will adapt and know what to do, you just have to let it happen. Every time something was going wrong, I noticed I was to focused on the details. On the other hand, when I focused ahead, down hill at the whole picture, I skied well.

Expect Another Run, Not Perfection

It is amazing how often frustration comes at the smallest imperfection while we are learning. I often see it in new climbers, as that is what I have most of my experience in, but I cannot believe how frustrated I got learning to ski. I forgot that it is OK to be a beginner. I feel too often we hold ourselves to the expectation that we are supposed to just get something the first time (especially those of us that are ‘outdoorsy’). Worst of all we expect ourselves to be be good at it. That doesn’t happen. When it does, and that is rare, there is a word for it: prodigies. The word brings with it the expectation of master level proficiency and skill without trying. For most of us, there is a learning curve. So I failed often, I fell often, but there was always another run. I had the option to go and learn again, and too often we as beginners forget that. Accepting that failure in the short term is OK. There is another run, another turn, and another chance to improve and get better.

Let Go of Fear

I will be the first to tell you that I was freaking out on a green. I’ll be honest, my body was clenched so tight going down a green traverse that my farts were coming out like bugle calls (Yes, I did just blog about farting. I’m human and I was stressed; sue me). Trumpeters don’t purse their lips that tight when reaching for high notes. I mean was I tense. And all that fear was for nothing, because two runs later I was peeling off that green onto a much steeper blue. Fear only limits us from our potential. Whether that be taking your dream vacation, speaking with the cute girl, or guy, or opening that business you always talk about. Our fears stop us when often we have little to lose in trying and more to lose in not. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our fear makes sense. For instance, looking at a double black cliff face and your friend saying “That’s a no fall zone.” When you can count on one hand the number of runs you’ve completed in the past four days without falling, that is reasonable fear. But the reality in learning is you are going to fall, whether literally or metaphorically. Falling doesn’t always hurt, sometimes it’s like falling onto a bed of pillows. Sometimes falling hurts like hell, but by god the feeling of bombing a hill is so good that even though a fall at the end can leave a baseball size lump on your hip, the exhilaration is totally worth the pain. So my advice is swallow your fear and bomb the hill more often. you may surprise yourself with what you can really achieve.

Challenges are Exciting

There are probably many reasons why wing-suit base jumpers like to do ‘fly-by’s. Conceptually, I think of it as this: the challenge enhances the excitement gained through the perception of speed. Speed is perceived by the objects that surround us. So buzzing by the side of a cliff face or over the tops of trees allows one to feel the speed more than gliding in the clear open sky. Challenges on their own are stressful, not always in the sense that it is a bad thing, but in the sense that our bodies have a biological response. Adrenaline for instance. Our fight or flight instinct. When someone makes you jump and every nerve in your body pulses at the same time. How does this apply to skiing? The trees. Those tall, girthy, pines that will not bend when you hit them and will eat you if you get caught too close to them. Or aspen groves that are so close you feel as though you are being birthed again and that their claws will reach down and ripe you off your skis. They are terrifying obstacles to a beginner (or at least to me). My friend always wanted the tree and I did not get it. But then I tried it and I understood. The feeling of weaving through those trees successfully and blowing out the other side is a triumphant felling that is hard to deny. The obstacles make skiing even more exciting. If we didn’t have obstacles in life, it would be easy, but groomers are easy and we all know they can get boring. Embrace the trees that enter your path, they may be scary and stressful, but remember that you can also perceive them with excitement.

“If you’re not falling, you’re not trying”

This is a concept I have held onto for a while, but I really like how skiing showed me the broad application of the idea. It just applies to so many things. You have you push yourself to improve. Period. Simple as that. If your not falling off the rock, crashing your skateboard, having to work to create a program, or double ejecting every now and then when you try the back-flip, you are not trying. On that last point, shout out to Chase Krumholz, one of my best friends and the source of the photo at the top. Check out more of his badass photography. Some times you have to fail before you succeed. This is a really hard concept for me to swallow.

Be with Those That Build You

I would not be writing about skiing today if it was not for my friends who taught me, encouraged me, and pushed me to try and try again. I learned from people far better than me and it forced me to get better. I wasn’t the one who ever thought I would go down a blue my first day, but my friends believed I could. And I did, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it (and bombed the last hill with Ski Patrol watching and crashed epicly). I skied with this kind of encouragement everyday and got pushed everyday to get better and better. So now I can ski blues and blacks with confidence, because I had the best people to ski with when I started. Shout out to the Bomb Squad; blow it up!

Untitled design
Photo by Chase Krumholz

Custom Update: Finding Rhythm in Reality

Well, I’m already slipping. Fourth week of January and I have already missed a week of blogging. While I cannot go back, I can move forward.

Yet moving forward right now is difficult. I am in the ‘vacation coma’. This haze of reality where all I want to be doing is skiing with my friends in the mountains. Because I know how to ski and I feel I can ski decently well, that being blues, and some blacks, with confidence. First item off The Dream List! Sadly, the vacation is over and reality has set in.

I am not ready to be back at work though. I walked in the first day and felt like I was hit by a hammer. Just crushed. I felt out of place. Lost. Like I had taken the wrong turn coming home and should have gone the other direction back to my friends. I miss my friends a lot – here is your shout-out, Brenden, and the rest of the Bomb Squad; thanks for reading and your friendship – and it is pulling me down.

I have experienced few vacations as incredible as this past one. It was amazing. Just unbelievable how peaceful, relaxing, and comfortable I could be. We’re talking 12 days in the mountains, 8 days of skiing, 2 days of hiking, and 2 rest days. We found pristine ice to climb (sadly, we were unable to climb it because a friend fell through a frozen creek, water up to his thighs, and we had to get him to warmth), and much more. I don’t know if you have fallen asleep next to a fireplace watching huge snowflakes fall outside, but it is magical. Honestly, I could go on, and I probably will at some point (actually, later this week in a post about skiing I will), but right now, I need to focus.

I am not on vacation anymore. It’s the hard reality, and I wish it wasn’t true, but I have to accept it and move forward. Productivity is the priority now. I really need to start writing. Start moving forward, because frankly, if I don’t move forward and maintain my current emotional momentum, it’s going to get hairy (and it did for a time period). I can feel the darkness lapping at my ankles, staring me down, and I don’t want it to come for me.

So here I am on my day off, nursing an injured ankle, pounding away at getting ahead. It is time do work. A big part of that is finding my rhythm in writing again. Writing is one of my daily goals, and I have yet to meet that goal once this year. And that is sad. I call myself a writer, but I barely write. It is a contradiction and I don’t want to be that.

One thing I started doing is carrying around a mini notebook in my pocket and everyday I pick a prompt to write on. A story only told in dialogue, a character description, creating tension, suspense, anything I can come up with and I try to write a little bit in the notebook on that prompt. Or I can use it to capture my random ideas. Sometimes ideas blind side me and I tell myself, “I’ll remember that and write about it later”. It never happens. I am hoping this tactic with the mini notebook will solve some of my writing problems. I’ll update you guys next week on how it is working.

On a different note, one thing I get constant questions about, and with good reason, is what happened to my Van Life plan(spoken about in a past Custom Update). And to answer the question, it is still in the books, it is just taking time. I have been fortunate enough to have my sister and brother-in-law be SUPER supportive of the idea, along with inviting me to stay with them in the interim. It has been a great experience so far and they have allowed me to stay a bit longer than originally planned. Thus, I have been able to build my nest egg a bit more and search for a nicer van option. Finding a van that I want to call home is a big deal. In the end, the time spent searching will be worth it.

It is all about finding rhythm again. Little bits of effort everyday will get me there, it just takes persistence. It is coming together, it is just taking time.

Custom Update: Vacation and The Dream List

Alright, so the post didn’t come out on Thursday. But I swear I have a good reason. Wednesday evening I drove 13 hours to Driggs, Idaho. I am finally on vacation. It is the beginning of 13 days of blissful skiing, ice climbing, and quality time with some of my closest friends. In any case, I arrived promptly at 9:30am Thursday morning and and by 11am I was on the slopes learning how to ski for the first time. We got back to the house around 5pm and then we were shopping for food, making dinner, planning other trips and doing research, etc.

Thus, my post was not completed. . . for several days because sometimes hanging out with your friends is more important.

And let’s face it, I am on vacation. Beautiful, peaceful vacation! I am so happy to be away, recharging my batteries, and reconnecting with good friends. My productivity is taking a hit, but my soul is getting exactly what it needed.

Nevertheless, I am here this morning (along with continual bursts of effort every other morning), bruised, battered, full of joy, and ready to present the first iteration of The Dream List.

What is The Dream List? Think of it is my version of a bucket list, to do list, and The Impossible List from College Info Geek (based off the original Impossible List by Joel Runyon). This will be the central location all levels goals and kinds of aspirations will live. With them all in one place I will be able to track the ones I have accomplished and those I have yet to accomplish. I like the visualization of goals and dreams. There is something about seeing progress by crossing items off a list. Not to mention, publicizing these kind of goals is great accountability, at least for me.

So that is that. I am on vacation, loving the time with my friends, and learning a new sport. Sometimes the only update needed is that life is going well.


Custom Update: The Year of Upgrades

Ah, the New Year. The time when choices of the good, the bad, and the ugly variety are made. When people put down the pint of ice cream and pick up the jump rope. . . then pick the pint back up after two weeks.

I have set a few choices in motion with The Custom Life. Upgrades are what I am deeming them – for instance a certain upgrade of which I am happily writing this post from that finally arrived – and I could not be more excited. For starters, I am launching The List this Thursday. This beautiful page will be an on going list of goals, both personal, professional, and for The Custom Life.

Secondly, and get psyched for this one, the Custom Life now has a Twitter handle, Pintrest page, Instagram, AND. . . wait for it. . . email. Ok, that isn’t exciting enough.

So I bought my domain. Boom.

thecustomlifeblog.com is live people (well. . . hopefully, it may be 72 hours, but it is a real thing).  Click that link and basque in the refreshed glory of the front page. It is that good.

Anyway, it feels great to be back here on The Custom Life (should I start calling it TCL? I’ll think about it). My soul has missed the oasis that is writing. Fun fact, I went almost an entire month without writing and felt as though my soul was being slowly sucked from my body. I was becoming an empty husky, like chaff in the wheat grinder, or the bits of eraser that no longer have a purpose.

Full of imagery my writing is.

Side Note: Star Wars was epic, because I got to watch it in theaters AND drink great beer. Cinebarre, if have not tried it, either you are under age, or lacking the kind of impulses that would make us friends. Because even if you don’t drink, you cannot tell me that being able to eat bar food and drink a milk shake, all served to you while you sit in plush leather seats during a movie in theaters, is a not gift to man kind. Seriously. However, I also adhere to the notion that I shouldn’t probably do that to my body that often. Heath and fitness becomes difficult when you are full of greasy food and crappy calories.

Which brings me to other news, I finished my 6 week training program! You can read all about my thoughts about the training when I post a sweet review (or two. . . we’ll see).

All in all, I am back and The Custom Life is going places. Get excited, because 2016 is going to be the Year of Upgrades.

Check out the Contact page for more information about all the ways to contact me.