There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when an expert teacher believes in you. They throw you challenges, and up the ante a little at a time, acting as if each new level is no big deal because they knew you could do it. Then you find they were right. They keep each new lesson playful and fun, so that fear gives way to excitement. Their experience and skill is obvious . Just by observing them, you can learn to model their skills and improve.
Today I’m writing on a plane returning home from an epic adventure to Banff, Canada. As I reflect on the never-ending highlights of my trip, I have to laugh at the difference between what I expected and what actually occurred. I expected to appreciate the beauty of nature and the company of a ski friend I met on my first trip to Banff. What I couldn’t have anticipated was just how exhilarating it would be to attempt to keep up with my 70 year old friend, teacher, and expert skier, Dennis, who I swore more than once must be trying to kill me!
I skied terrain I have never before attempted, and I did it in temperatures as low as 4 degrees Fahrenheit. I skied through boulders and trees. I skied sheer cliffs with big powdery moguls. I skied along a snowy ridge on a path just wide enough for two skis that led to the ski area boundary and a breathtaking vista.
The first day I fell several times (into powdery pillows of snow). The next day I fell a little less. The next two days consisted of much more confidence and skill, with a healthy dose of terrifying new challenges thrown in for good measure. All four days were spent with a smile plastered across both of our faces.
My dear friend and mountain guide often paused and (with a mischievous grin) reminded me to stop and take pictures. What he really meant was, we’re going to take off our skis, sink into hip deep snow, climb up on a boulder, and try to do a yoga pose in our ski boots! He was also fond of saying, “Let’s take a nice long cruiser,” which I came to discover was usually code for “If I told you this trail was going to be this hard you would have been too intimidated to enjoy it.”
When the first ski day was over, I began planning my aprés ski jacuzzi soak and early bedtime. Silly me. Dennis had other plans. He was up making delicious dinner. On evening two we attempted to ice skate on frozen Lake Louise. Without ice skates. Evening 3 he hauled me along on a surprise 4 mile moonlit trek through Banff along the Bow River and through the beautiful Banff Springs Hotel, followed by drinks at an Irish Pub. He was ready to ski first thing in the morning. I kept trying to hit the snooze button.
I truly hope that at 70, I can inspire as much confidence, playfulness, and exhaustion in my friends and students as Dennis does. I also hope to take on the world and the winter with as much gusto and good humor. That is, of course, if Dennis doesn’t kill me first on one of our next adventures!
Here are some of the awesome photos I caught while trying to document my epic journey. Unfortunately cameras never catch the pitch of the hill, the chill in the air, the sound of the snow, or the joy that comes from merely standing there in the moment sharing your amazement with a friend.