The Spontaneity Challenge!

My trip had a special element to it – spontaneity. I was finishing up a week of skiing in Breckenridge when my dear friend Manda Morris came up Thursday evening to join me for skiing later in the weekend. She made it up from Denver just before the “huge” snow storm hit. Thing is…the storm only pounded Denver with two feet of snow and we got nada in the mountains! So there we are Friday morning doing our first run of the day in Keystone and it’s all ice! We turned in for the day and while enjoying a beer at lunch, Manda and I saw the snow report for Taos…hhmmm…they got snow! And they were still getting snow!

That solved it…an hour later we were in her SUV and driving the 5 hours to Taos, New Mexico! The weekend was my first visit to Taos, first time skiing their mountains, and first time road-tripping with Manda. You can read the story of the trip in my other blog, but in this post I want to focus on another aspect of the trip: being challenged in what we really want out of life and who we claim to be. Now hang in there with me…maybe this is getting deep for you, which if that’s the case, this may not be the blog for you to enjoy. Thanks for trying though.

But for those of you intrigued and feeling the starting twinges of familiarity within you…well, you’re reading the right blog and relating with some similar people.

So the story goes like this – just a week before I acted out this last-minute trip to Taos, I had written a blog post about Being Synonymous with Spontaneity (click here to enjoy please). Have you ever found that when you start to really chase after what you want out of life, you can be challenged in that? It’s almost like life is saying…”Oh, so you want this and you’re going after it…okay, let’s see how serious you are about that…”. And the doors start to open, while others close, all the while carrying you on what seems like a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. You better make sure you paddle hard so the current takes you where you want to go rather than washing you up on some shore far from your desired destination. And hey, doesn’t staying in the raft safe and dry (of course, you’re still gonna get somewhat splashed and wet), sound good for the journey as well?

“Where are you going with this Amalia?”, you may be asking by now…to this point – I believe all things can be used as opportunities for us to really go after what we want in life. We pretty much have no excuse and we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. So what you want will seem to be challenged and at the same time encouraged and the biggest thing I’m learning about it all? Here it is…I’m the one who can turn away from it, the one who can choose fear and the illusion of security rather than take up myself and life on what I really want out of life.

This trip taught me about that. Because there I was at lunch with Manda, having just come off of skiing ice and now comfy and warm, when Manda excitedly suggested we take off spontaneously for Taos, and I hesitated! I started to come up with excuses, to feel apathetic and lazy about it! Thankfully, Manda served me up with the wake-up call question of “Didn’t you just write a blog post about being Synonymous with Spontaneity?” Uh…yeah, I had and there I was with a chance to back away from the ledge or…take a leap off the edge. Good thing I took that leap because I enjoyed several new first experiences and also came to learn, we can come equipped with parachutes! Or gliders or bungee cords…whatever your imagination fancies for the leap that helps you overcome the challenges that you will surely face in pursuing what you want out of your life.

Here’s to happy jumping and when you see me around next, feel free to raise that challenging question. I’ll do the same for you.

Moguls are for Hoot’in and Holler’in – My Recent Ski Day

Yes, that's me tucked in all those ski clothes...

One of my favorite things about living in Colorado is going skiing. I’m one of the transplants to the state who didn’t learn to ski until an older age. I was 24 and fortunate enough to be dating a private ski instructor in gorgeous Telluride, Colorado. Needless to say, years of free private instruction was one of the best things I gained from that relationship. I can see now how beneficial it is for anyone to invest the money and time into ski lessons, whether they be group or private, it really pays off.

This past week I went to Keystone for a nice weekday of skiing. Being able to go on the weekdays versus the weekend is my favorite part of my schedule right now – you don’t encounter the traffic there and back or the crowds and lift lines on the slopes. My dear friend and old roommate Diane Wood was my ski buddy for the day. The woman has already raked in over 15 days of skiing this season which is pretty good for someone living in downtown Denver versus directly in one of the ski towns. We drove up around 9am, making it to the Keystone free parking lot in less than an hour and a half. The day was starting out promising, with scattered wispy clouds in the blue sky and a bright sun warming up the air.

Now, Diane and I have not frequented Keystone more than a couple of times each so we were starting out not knowing the mountain that well. But we grabbed our trail maps on the way in and made conversation with the older gentleman who rode the gondola up to the peak with us. He was a business consultant from Minneapolis who was taking two months off to ski Colorado and then visiting his daughter in Spain for two weeks. Now that’s the life! We all agreed that Colorado attracted a lot of people who wanted priorities in their life that allowed them to travel more and to have a more relaxed work schedule. After discussing our inspirational approaches to life, he recommended the runs on the mountain that were good to ski. So there we go…we had a head start on where the best skiing was for the day.

Taking off down our first couple runs, we quickly rejoiced in how warm the weather was. The pit vents in my jacket came open and I adjusted the inner layer I had on to let some cool air in on my neck. As most of us in Colorado know, the snow conditions this season thus far are not as good as last season. For that matter, they’re not good compared to the last decade. Our poor mountains and ski areas just haven’t been getting the snow we need for a better base. The bottom of our skis came face-to-face with this reality as we did a run that ventured deeper and deeper into the trees. Know what it’s like to ski trees and moguls with rock exposure? Well, the bottom of my skis now know what its like.

Why so covered up, Diane? It's warm out!

It was still so much fun. There’s something about navigating through the trees as they become sparse in areas and then dense again a few feet later. The mounds of snow forming into bumps cascade like a waterfall down the steeper terrain and then flow along where the terrain levels out. An obstacle course is what it’s like and a fun one. It reminds me of playgrounds when I was kid and the momentum one gets when you’re having fun at something.

Here is where it started…from deep inside and without any effort…as I was skiing along and avoiding trees and flying over bumps, a hoot and then a holler arose. And it was from within me! This was the natural and joyous response of not only my body, but my mind as well. If I were a scientist, I have no doubt that I would have been fascinated by the response of endorphins and chemical releases in my body that were flooding my mind. The result…an amazing release of excitement and happiness in the audible form of hoot’in and holler’in. Now this is fun! This is life!

After the thrill of the trees, we found our favorite lift – the Outback Express. With the majority of runs being black diamonds and then a few great blues, it had fun terrain that included traditional downhill and then great moguls along-side the trees. We stuck more to the blue runs since the snow wasn’t the best and we wanted to avoid the rocks. Bighorn was our run of the day where we mainly stuck along the right side (skier’s right that is) and practiced our mogul skiing. Some of the bumps were a bit sloppy starting at the top, but mid-way down they were pretty decent and we had a blast. Before the day wrapped up we found the Porcupine run to the left of Bighorn. At first we started in on Pika, a black run which opened up nicely into the blue level run of Porcupine. The slope afforded us beautiful open vistas the whole way down and the glade of trees was sparse versus the trees we had skied in earlier in the day. The moguls were larger too and more spread out until further down where they became smaller and more compact. The diversity of them kept us on our toes and we properly wore ourselves out by the end of the day.

The hoot’in and holler’in only increased as we did more and more moguls throughout the day. Even though it takes more out of you and the pole planting can wear out the arms, there is something about the exertion that is invigorating. It’s downright contagious and we found ourselves going back for more and more moguls! What I found to be a great technique, since I consider myself to still be learning mogul skiing, is to ski with music. Finding a song that has a beat you’re comfortable with can really set the pace and helps you establish a rhythm. Having a rhythm, I’ve come to learn, is crucial to successfully skiing moguls. Once you have your tunes of choice cranking you set your eyes ahead, navigating in your head the upcoming route over and in between bumps, ┬ákeep your knees bent and juicy, and make sure your body is kept facing forward down the mountain. I like to think of it as similar to salsa dancing…it’s all in the movement of the body from the hips down and following the rhythm. Oh, and of course don’t forget to use your poles effectively. Making sure to keep your hands out in front of you 1) keeps them out of your way and 2) helps you pole plant as you need to, which keeps you aggressively leaning down-mountain and therefore more in control of your speed…believe it or not.

Beauty worth hoot'in and holler'in over...

As I rested at the top of the blue run Procupine, I gazed out at the vista and took in the amazing feeling of freedom and joy…to be in the outdoors under these Colorado blue skies and sailing down dazzling snow-covered mountains…the exhilaration can only be expressed by hoot’in and holler’in. And this was skiing less-than-great snow conditions…imagine how I hoot and holler when its fresh powder and great snow! This was a good warm-up. So next time you get to enjoy skiing the moguls or experience something that thrills you, don’t you dare hold back…make sure to hoot and holler.

Skitrip Familia – A Study of the American Family on a Ski Trip

Skiing. It is one of the world’s most popular winter sports. For some, it involves beautiful scenery, exhilarating speed, skill and talent. For others, it represents uncomfortable cold, steep terrain, and risk of bodily harm.

Family. One of the world’s most important relationships. For some, it involves encouraging love, inspiring fun, and a life guiding foundation. For others, it represents hurt, embarrassment, and haunting dis-functionality.

So what do you have when you combine the two? What takes place when you attempt to do one with the other?

This week, I am joining my family on a week-long ski vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado. For an entire seven days we are living together again. This time in a ski-in/ski-out town home. I am extremely grateful and excited for this time with my loved ones. As you can see from that one line, I am one of the people who sees the first description of family. And now that I have invested a few years into learning how to ski, I can say the same about skiing – I am of the first opinion previously noted. Before you get ahead of me though, realize that there are elements of the second opinions of both skiing and family that do exist in my life. Maybe this means that it has a lot to do with perspective: does a person focus on the negative in things or on the positive? And of course the other elements and factors need to be taken into consideration and they do play a powerful role.

Over this next week, I am going to write about what I observe in my own family while we are on our family ski trip. While my writings will be influenced by my own personality traits (which tend to be on the positive and optimistic side), I will do my best to observe and note what occurs when you combine skiing with family. As you follow along, feel free to share about your experiences with skiing and your family. And as much as being objective is valued, let’s make a point to have our biases and perspectives recognized and fully used. If you’re optimistic and idealistic, then read this and then respond with that perspective. If you’re realistic and pessimistic, then read and share through that lens.