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I Used to Ski: Thoughts on How to Reconcile Your Past

By Ilene Marcus February 03, 2024 Mindset

Right after Thanksgiving, in the Northeast USA the temperature drops precipitously. It’s ice cold outside. As I step out of my warm cozy home, the best place I have ever lived, onto a newly planked landing, looking at one of the best cars I have ever owned, in my favorite mink coat with rosettes on the bell sleeves (cause it’s that cold); en-route to meet friends for coffee, the best friends I have ever had, my first thought when the chilly air hits my face is: I’m glad I am not on a ski lift!

The truth is, where I live, there are no gondolas or enclosed lifts. Being whisked to the top of the mountain is not a magic ride. No special occasion needing long fancy dresses, sporty rental car and hotel suites overlooking the ocean with 3 bathrooms. In my past everyday life, there was just the barebones steel wobbly 2-chair lift. It’s time to be honest with myself about why I don’t ski anymore.

Swooshing down the slopes with the sun shining down, the clean white snow punctuated by the greenest trees and the bluest skies. Counting on your body to hold you, propel you. Your mind and body – one. Making every cell align and feeling happy, exhilarated, free, at peace. No drugs, no alcohol, no help. Naturally leaning left or right, bending my knees, placing my poles in the deep soft snow, gliding down the hill in a graceful linking s-pattern. Digging deep into a tight mogul. Skiing was one of my life’s greatest pleasures.

I stopped because of the clothes. No matter how much I spent or how much weight I lost, they didn’t keep me warm or fit right. Halfway down the mountain, I would twist and something would shift either binding me or exposing a patch of skin, that didn’t need exposure.

My arthritis and the years of wear and tear made the ski boots uncomfortable. The other people on the hill got faster – or did I get slower? And once the trails were co-mingled with snowboarders, navigating was hard work akin to changing lanes in a six-lane highway. I missed the backroads. And what rant about the state of skiing today would be complete without complaining about the parking situation. Mushy, muddy, deep iced ruts. Getting through the parking lot, I always wished I had obstacle course training and could afford a valet.

So why do I have to come to grips with the statement: I used to ski?

Process the Loss

For many years, I have not let myself think this deeply about why I loved skiing. Honestly, I started this blog post three years ago to the date. I moved to this town because it was a 12-minute drive to the mountain. And the mountain is everything. I see it going and coming into town. When it gets cold, before the first snow, late at night, the sound of the blower never fails to excite me.

The promise of skiing filled me with joy. I started skiing before I was 13 years old. I skied for 40 years. How come it is no longer in my life? How could my body betray me like this? When did my equipment get so old? When did it become too much effort to do something I love?

It was too painful for me to think about. It wasn’t just the skiing. It was the friends I shared the weekends with, my daughter relying on me and a weekend so different from my every day, that it reinforced me for a hard week.

Revisit Revisionist History

When I break up or lose a lover or friend or family, I tend to have revisionist history. I only see black and white. I only feel it was all good or all bad. Usually, I remember the version that allows me to continue to mourn the loss and beat myself up. My internal monologue goes like this:

Why didn’t I appreciate them when they were in my life? It’s all my fault. Why did I start asking for what I need?

I don’t remember how they took advantage of me or loved to pick fights and were always (and I mean black and white always) running late. I remember only the good parts. No more.

My memory of skiing was all good. I loved it. My pants always fit, I was never cold, I raced down the hill like Suzi Chapstick, and all was right with the world.

I think there is a reason our hair turns gray. To remind us that life is just like that. It’s in the muted tone, the everyday, the realness that we find peace.

Accept Two Divergent Thoughts

The hallmark of being older and living without regret for me is being able to hold two complicated thoughts. Such as, I loved skiing and hated the cold. Or, swishing down the mountain, I felt free and yet carrying all that equipment was exhausting. And then, the breath of fresh air as I gathered speed was exhilarating, and the long wait on the lift line exhausting.

Being able to hold these two thoughts keeps me balanced and better able to look back on my life with deep gratitude.

Get the Balanced View

Now I force myself to write a list. Two simple columns. Usually, on a bright yellow or pink sticky note. Sometimes I use a frilly heart shaped pad so I remember to love myself. On the left, I list what was great. On the right, what sucked. No sugarcoating, no long sentences. Just the facts, Ma’am.

Writing it down forces me to see it. To come face-to-face with the assessment I keep making in my head but never changing in my heart and keep saying, one day, one day. I needed to change that narrative.

Today was that day. I walked into the cold air and said, “I’m glad I’m not on a ski lift.” It’s the first day I didn’t beat myself up about not skiing.

Once the “it sucks” column gets longer than the “it’s great column,” I know I have to change my ways. And when I forget and start getting angry and mad at myself that I no longer do something I love, I can spend time, looking for the list and once I find it, being grateful for the memories.

Pro Tip: Use one notebook for these musings. Or create a file on your computer or a note on your phone. The easier it is to find them, the more you look at them, the more you will remember to have the balanced view. For me, that changed everything.

Be Honest, Even When You Don’t Want To

The truth is that I probably couldn’t ski if I wanted to. I am not in shape. And that was even before the pandemic. All the way up to my 40s I stayed in pretty good shape no matter the pounds I packed-on. And before ski season, extra wall squats, getting those thighs stronger than ever to go all day long, up and down the mountain, up and down the moguls, up and down from falling. At age 60 I was no longer even close to being in shape.

And there’s more. When the pandemic hit, people had to make a reservation for the lift. That was way too much pressure for me. What if I wanted to linger longer over my coffee, the dog needed extra time or I just couldn’t get out of bed – all possible and real scenarios. I mean, how long would it take me to get my tight ski pants on anyway? The truth for me today is, I’m just happy I can get down the steps and to the car without breaking my other hip. Having to get to a ski line appointment just isn’t something I am willing to tackle.

Know Your Body’s Current State and Ability

If you were reading carefully, you noticed I said, “get down the steps without breaking my other hip.” Yup, one of my hips was replaced at age 46. I like to tell everyone it was a ski accident. Then I break the news, it happened the night before, in the slippery sliding parking lot at the lodge. The truth is, skiing compounded the lack of cartilage in my hip, after pounding down moguls year after year. The high heels I lived in didn’t help, and the years of walking on sprained ankles compensating with my hip was a recipe for disaster.

Know your body’s current ability. One of the downfalls of my skiing career was that when I bought my last new pair of ski boots and all the supporting equipment, I chose what I would have skied best in when I was in my 20s and 30s. Fast blades, with a deep wood core and racing stance. That wasn’t what my body could handle anymore. Instead of me riding the skis, they were riding me. It was scary.

What’s Next

Enjoy what you are doing now, like walking barefoot, shoveling the snow, because not being able to do it, may be just around the corner. You know, I used to be quite the skier.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Is there an activity that you were good at but have had to give up? What did that feel like? What was the reason for giving up that activity or hobby?

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Gmarie

I have been a cross-country skier all my life and chose this sport because it didn’t involve having to ride a ski lift, expensive equipment and lift fees, big crowds. For me Nordic skiing is more like a moving mediation where you feel, see and hear the quiet beauty of winter. It can also be quite a cardio workout if you choose to go uphill, ski fast or navigate back country. I’ve done it all these ways and when younger back country was the chosen path. I used to love skiing in a light snowfall. Now that I’m 70, and don’t like the cold as much, I can still enjoy this activity on groomed trails at a leisurely pace and only on warmer days. I can stop whenever I want and enjoy the the scenery, take a deep breath and thank God for the beauty, quiet and peace surrounding me. I admire those who downhill and go for the exhilarating thrill of it but I never have been that athletic or risk taking so this suits me better and can be adjusted with age. I haven’t done it much in the last few years because of Covid and lack of snow where I live but hope to continue in near future. I’m glad you have found your happy place having to adjust to giving up something you once were so passionate about.

ilene marcus

Thanks for sharing your experience. Covid was a game stopper. Best, ilene

Linda F.

Thank you for this article, especially at this point in my life Ilene! Just turned 71.
I loved to go country dance, 2 step, line dance, etc. I would go out 3-4 times per week, learn, practice and then Big ‘ol Saturday night :-) However in 2018 had a bad case of Vertigo for 6 months :-/ After that cleared up, I just never felt the same with my balance and lost interest in dancing. I used to think to myself ” I can’t imagine not dancing anymore”. But then, the day came, like you said, and I now say ” I USED to love to go dancing.”
It wasn’t easy to come to terms with that fact… a sort of grieving process, I suppose.
but I realize there are just things that I USED to do that are not part of my life now. Working on finding new “I love to “blank” ? Knowing other people are feeling this sense of loss is a small comfort. Your book sounds interesting ;-)

ilene marcus

Thanks Linda – as a lover of country music and dance and a fellow vertigo sufferer – I know just what you mean. The book was written really for workplaces (timestamp of an older life) now I am writing one about getting out of our way – Self Constructed Obstacles. If you relate to this article, the stories in the book will really resonate with you. Best, ilene

Pat

Fantastic article!. Those are the same lessons I’ve learned along the way. I now tend to celebrate what I still can do. I hardly look back anymore, but live looking forward. I’m 73 and am gentle and kind to my body. I do stretches, yoga, and walking. I volunteer, have lunches out and take classes. I have lots of friends from lots of walks in my life. And I’m truly excited about creating a happy me. Thanks Ilene!❤️

ilene marcus

Thanks Pat – thats the way gentler and kinder to our bodies and ourselves! Best, Ilene

Stephanie Bryant

I skied up until I had children, but it was too expensive after that point and I just never got back to it. And at this point in my life, if I wanted to even try it again, I realize I hate the cold. I moved to a warmer climate because of the cold, I’m more of a beach person at this point in my life so I look back on my skiing days as memorable but I look forward to more beach days. I’m going next month to Costa Rica, and Turks and Caicos in May I’m OK with that.

ilene marcus

OOoohh Stephanie – what a good point, I forgot to rant about the price and the cost, especially when you get too cold to ski! I can see how you can be okay with those travel destinations!

Arleen

Love this article. Really hit home for me today. It is often hard to be accepting of my status today.💜💜💜

ilene marcus

Hi Arleen, knowing others struggle helps me! Thats one of the reasons I write, Glad you found it! Best, ilene

Cathy

I too miss my days of skiing. My skiing days came to an end following various injuries…

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The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at Alignedworkplace.com.

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