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  • Writer's pictureNicole Langman

Life Lessons from the Slopes

I used to be a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol System and for a couple of years, spent most winter weekends on the slopes of Hemlock Mountain. If I’m honest, I think I was more of an honorary member. I got labelled a ‘lazy skier’ and was put through the paces in an effort to increase my aggressiveness on the slopes. This is a painful label for me to admit, as I prefer to call myself graceful and thoughtful on the slopes, but whatever. The highly coveted patrol jacket was mine for a season.

I had some good friends on the patrol, men and women who are still near and dear to me to this day, 20 years later. Not only did I make friends and improve my skills, I learned many life lessons during my days on the patrol (I’ll spare you the less than flattering details of some of these).

If you’re a skier (or a boarder), you know the pressure of skiing the face. The face is generally the steepest run, usually exposed to the chair lift, and certainly not for the faint of heart. Oh, and it’s often a black diamond run. So it has all the elements of an unlikeable experience for this graceful, thoughtful skier. I preferred the blue runs in the back with the sweeping turns, pleasant grooming and easy slopes. And I surrounded myself with people who shared my lack of enthusiasm for the tougher runs.

This is where I introduce you to my friend Jim. Jim was an advanced skier, with lots of experience on the patrol. He had (and still has) a quiet confidence about him that was welcomed at any accident scene. I looked up to Jim. So when he gave me pep talks about skiing, first aid, toboggan management, etc. I listened. On a chair ride one day Jim decided to impart this very important lesson to me. He said, “Nicole do you want to be a better skier?” I said yes, of course I did. And then he said in his direct, but kind Jim way, “then you have to ski with people who are stronger skiers than you.” Crap! I did want to improve, but it was easier to do the blue runs with people who were content with blue runs. So, needless to say, Jim took me on my first run down the face, and you know what, it wasn’t terrible, and after a few runs, my skills did improve. And on that day I re-learned that pushing myself is the only way to grow.

Life is like this. The smooth, easy days are lovely and easy. But (and here’s the life lesson) easy isn’t where we grow. It’s not in the smooth times in life that we find our abilities or strengths. We find what we are made of in the hardships of life. At the risk of sounding cheesy, warriors are built in battle. That’s it. That’s where we learn courage, perseverance, endurance, pain management, and all the tools necessary for the battle. You want to find out how strong you are? Lift something heavy.

And, part two of this life lesson is this; we need to surround ourselves with people who are improving themselves too, people who realize that life can pack a punch, and that facing the battle requires a refined skill set.

Maybe your life right now looks like the black diamond run I mentioned earlier. Or maybe you’re enjoying the blue runs, and find things to be running relatively smoothly. Either way, I encourage you to choose your support circle carefully. Do life with people who will help you grow and support you when it’s your turn to face the challenges that life will inevitably throw your way. And, for goodness sake, go ski the hard stuff! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you’re made of much, much more than you ever knew.

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