self-discovery on the slope

For the past several years, my daughter and I have taken an annual ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah. We love to be the first ones on the mountain, carving our initials on the slope before anyone else makes it to the lift. I love watching her find her stride, moving gracefully from greens to blues, and more recently, to a black diamond. I couldn’t be prouder.

When I take a moment to reflect, I realize that skiing is so much more than a winter sport. The slopes are powerful teachers, and they give my daughter and me countless opportunities to learn and grow together. Skiing is a moving meditation: one that demands presence, focus, and balance. Take your mind off your form for a moment, and gravity wins. It also requires shrewd self-study, exposing you to yourself in countless ways. Is your right leg weaker than your left? Skiing will show you what you need to strengthen. Do you have a latent fear of heights or speed, failure or success? Skiing will reveal it and give you plenty of chances to confront it. As with any sport, skiing takes patience, but perhaps more than any other sport, it takes humility. You can only fall on your face in the snow so many times before you learn not to take yourself too seriously. If you want to improve, you have to get good at falling and even better at getting back up again.

Just a few years ago, my daughter was stumbling on the bunny slopes; now, I watch her ripping through powder. She reminds me that courage is a muscle: it grows when flexed. I recently started taking my son and my sales team to Deer Valley for exactly this reason. No matter their skill level, each person accomplishes something on the mountain that surprises him or herself. They grow bravery, challenging themselves and each other to greater heights, complexity, and control. By the time we lumber off the slopes, headed single-mindedly toward a fireplace and a pitcher of beer, we are exhausted but exhilarated, eager to tell tall tales about our successes and make light of our failures. (I don’t know what I like better: skiing or taking your boots off after skiing. Beer has certainly never tasted better.) Even though skiing is not a team sport, experiences like this make a good team even better. Every time we challenge ourselves, we refine ourselves.

As I prepare for this year’s father-daughter ski trip, I think of my daughter’s fearlessness, her self-control, and her grace. Once again, I am grateful for the privilege of these ski trips and the greater privilege of watching her grow. I make a mental note to pack an extra gaiter and some hand warmers; I know she will be the first one on the mountain, and I hope to keep up with her for a very long time.