Location: Ithaca, New York
Date: March 2008
It was the second season. Following a great first season of lessons and Lake Tahoe in the previous year, I was excited for this season. I picked up the sport quicker than most, had a great time with my teachers and had a pair of cheap skis which I got off eBay.
One of my favorite things to do, was night skiing. It felt like you own the slopes, the sky, the stars and the mountain. Everything was yours – the wind in your face, the powder beneath your feet, and the glittery sky light above your head. It felt invincible, like you’re on top of the world.
It was the second or third run. As I started on an intermediate slope, I accelerated faster than I expected. Before I knew it, my butt was on the slope, but my skis didn’t break off. In an awkward twisted manner, my ankle landed with a crack.
Crap. Was it broken?
I thought you couldn’t sprain your ankle in a ski boot. But I guess, my body exceeded expectations, as usual.
I sat on the slope, thinking: Great, what happens now. I guess I can admire the sky.
My friend managed to get the ski patrol to call a snow mobile, and I got stretchered down the mountain, wrapped up like the Michelin Man.
That was the end of the season for me. Two weeks of crutches, a big cast, and many car rides from kind friends who brought me to school and back on icy hilly roads.
To be enamoured and excited by something, and then have life tell you that you can’t do it. It was insanely disappointing.
And my body remembered the fear. Because I didn’t go back the next season. And I tried it once again in 2010, only to find that I couldn’t get over the fear. My legs were on brake all the time.
I thought: Okay, no more skiing. But I knew that I would miss the slopes, the speed and that feeling of being on top of the world. I guess you can’t have everything in life, but still, the disappointment and fear sat on my mind for a very long time – 6 years’ long.
Location: Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Date: April 2017
Friends hit the slopes every year like a ritual. I would always say: oh, I miss skiing. It’s so fun. But I can’t take leave. Oh, maybe next year.
The truth is, I was scared. I didn’t know if my ankles could take it. More than that, I wasn’t sure if my fear would let my mind revive the muscle memory. And if I fell, my friends would have to take care of me again.
As I sat amidst swarms of mosquitoes in Thailand, I dreamt of frolicking in the snow again. Sipping a hot chocolate with a view of majestic mountains, and above all, being on the ski slopes.
In that moment, I decided. It’s now or never. In the year I turn 30, I will go and conquer my fear. I texted my friends, and plans materialised.
I found myself on the plane, arriving at the Sapporo airport and on the train to Niseko. It was the last season and many restaurants would be closed, but no matter. Because I’m here for me, not for the buzz, the tourists nor the powder.
Nerves got to me even before arriving. I googled a neurotic number of times on how to get from the airport to Niseko, even though it was an established tourist route. I kept checking my equipment list, the weather, the maps, when I was so familiar with this country that I used to live in. Jitters made the world seem scary all of a sudden.
But there was nothing to worry about. The moment we entered the town, it felt right. We signed up for a class on the first day, and my body remembered. Slowly, the confidence came back. And as usual, I annoyed the teacher. She kept saying: Safety first! Danger danger! Slow down! I thought: this was what my first teacher said too. Oh, nostalgia.
We boldly hit a more advanced green slope, and fell many times. But it was exhilarating, to challenge myself, and face my fear; to build a strong body and mind, to believe and do.
The next day, we sat in a lovely local cafe in the heart of the village. A girl plopped down next to me, and leaned her crutches on the table. Oh gosh, is this a sign? Is life reminding me of what happened before?
But we spent another day, gliding on the slopes, facing our fears with a spectacular view. I lay down on the snow, my arms spread wide like an angel, and breathed.
I’m back. And I did it! And of course, not without throwing a few snow balls at my friend.
Ride towards your fears, and conquer them; with a strong mind, strong body and of course, ample homework and great company. Never say never.