Fragile Little Glass
mysterious Cortina fog
As I was reading through previous athlete’s blog posts on T2's website, trying to come up with ideas for a topic for my personal contribution, I found myself inspired by tear-streaked cheeks. Genuine words of love, compassion and radiance influenced by two ski racers who recently died doing what they loved fill a few of the posts preceding mine. Bryce Astle and Ronnie Berlack were caught in an avalanche in Sölden, Austria at the beginning of January. I don’t want to talk about the tragedy or my grief, as I barely knew Ronnie and Bryce, but I am enticed to write about presence and fear. Because when somebody who does what you do dies doing it, it shakes you to your core and makes you think; why am I doing this? Is it worth it?
the intimidating start pitch at the Bad Kleinkircheim, Austria World Cup Downhill
Sometimes I recall my past with sadness, regret, confusion. I so very often think of my future and become anxious, frightened, confused. Living in these places in time where I do not exist stirs up a certain weight, an itch, a twist in my gut that wrenches my psyche and pushes me into a dark place known to so many others. Call it what you will—depression, anxiety—the only way to conjure my submersion from these depths is to bring myself back to where I am. There are a few ways to manage this. My first go-to is to fill my lungs, so perfectly gently and steadily, with intent and poise. When my first attempt falters, or my mind proceeds to bring me back to some other jet-blackness, I have to do something that requires my whole self, something that fetches my flow.
Returning to your breath sounds so simple, so cliché, so hippie-yoga-earth-loving-bohemian-flower-child like. Meditation has a similar reputation. But there have recently been piles of scientific studies and research on how mindfulness can enhance quality of life, and I’m buying it. Because it’s science, and I guess I believe in things that can be scientifically proven. Silly, I know. So—I’ve been sitting in the mornings, boiling water just to watch it bubble, and enduring through pressure and irritations with pauses. WOW I sound like such a balanced, free spirit. If only. It takes so much work—a lifetime’s worth—to get to where I want to go. But because I live in such a competitive environment, full of stress, fear, pressure, doubt, and nerves, it seems worth the effort. And when I just can’t seem to realize my composure, I turn to something like skiing.
groomer tracks next to the St. Moritz Downhill course
Skiing freaks me out. Racing down a course at 80 miles an hour, through ice patches and bumpy darkness, around tight corners and close to not-so-forgiving fences, really scares me. Putting your life at risk for a rush of adrenaline seems so foolish in the grand scheme of things. But when you arc a perfect turn, when you fly off a jump and time stops, when you cross a finish line, whether with a smile prompted by thrill or relief or delight, it all suddenly becomes worth the risk. If not for fear and doubt, there would be no reward, no fulfillment, no high.
I’ve learned more and more about why fear and doubt are positive emotions, and I continually have to remind myself to accept them. Many experiences, mentors, crashes, and fast runs have taught me this. Many tears and scars, close calls and powder-slashes have magnified this realization.
birds in flight over the foggy Cortina course
I find myself fully present, fully absorbed, by only a few simple pursuits: music, creating things, and skiing. There are some other activities that require my full attention, but none that I am so well versed in as skiing. Skiing makes me laugh and cry, pushes my buttons and my limits, teaches me relentlessly, challenges me outrageously, and fills me up to the very tippy top of my fragile little glass. I can’t think of a better way to transition from this life to the next than doing it on my skis. Skiing, to me, is worth far more than the risks that accompany it. I truly believe that Ronnie and Bryce would have said the same.
boundaries:::down a valley in St. Moritz--from the hil
With the dangers considered and the fear acknowledged, I return to my sport once again at a big event: World Championships. After the Olympics, World Champs is the largest event in Alpine Ski Racing. And this year, it’s in Beaver Creek, Colorado. This will be the only big event of my life that I will get to race in that is hosted in my home country. I arrived here a few days ago, and felt the weight of it immediately pressing down on me the moment I saw the snow. But I will let that weight drive me, let it frighten and enliven me, bring out my fury and tickle my fancies.
Ales, my magician technician, hexing and rubbing potions on my skis :)
After a season of using my terror and unease to inspire aggression, I am learning more and more about how beneficial it is to embrace whatever I’m feeling in any given moment. My racing has been much more consistent and less wild than ever. I feel so much more comfortable and confident to take risks and ski on the edge. I get excited to get in the start gate: to feel the nerves, the excitement, and the fear, and to manifest these crazy feelings into aggression and tenacity. Of course there are bumps in the road, of course nothing is guaranteed, this is ski racing. But every day I look more forward to stepping up to the challenge, and here I am—facing one of the biggest ones in my career. So cheer loudly. I can already feel the energy.
See below for some photos I took over the past few weeks.... enjoy
our mountain huts in Bad Kleinkircheim
a welcome sign from the hotel in Bad Klein--one of my favorite places to stay! (see the website above) and another photo below
the two pictures above were taken from the exact same spot--Cortina when we arrived, and then Cortina after the snowstorm hit (during our speed weekend, naturally)...
Cortina early morning inspection
downtown Cortina at night
one day I taught Kevin how to ski.... (with the help of Ron!!!)
(he taught this to himself though...)
....and on a canceled day, Kevin taught me to snowboard! SO FUN!
more Cortina fog (above and below)
top of the Cortina course, on a mostly beautiful day
free-skiing in Cortina
our deck from the Salastrains Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland
he can howl too (a close-up of above)
snowmobiles n' stuff, St Moritz
bored in my hotel room
rodeling in St. Moritz (SUCH AMAZING FREAKISH FUN!!!!) above and below
(thankfully that wall was there...)
LOVE LOVE LOVE
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind