Life Lessons from Skiing

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

If you’ve ever learned to ski (or even if you haven’t), there are a few things you learn right at the beginning. You learn to fall and get up. You learn to stop in a snowplow. You learn the difference between pizza and French fries. You learn to turn. And, occasionally if the weather is right, you learn some incredibly valuable spiritual life lessons.

Falling and getting up:
This is resilience—getting back on the horse after we’ve been bucked off, getting back on the bike after a fall, etc. Resilience is absolutely essential, for it enables us to continue in life and succeed. When everything crashes down around us—grades plummet, family or friend relationships get strained, we lose a family member—resilience enables us to see the possibility of a solution or of another way of doing things, to be grateful for the smallest thing, to know that God will find a way to bless us.

Rather than giving up, we press on, knowing that even though things may not be all right, we ourselves are all right. It’s not easy. Getting up in skiing can be incredibly difficult. You have to navigate poles and skis and make sure you’re not facing down the hill so you don’t go zooming down out of control. But cultivating resilience so that you don’t crumble is one of the very best things you can do for yourself. To see the benefits of this quality, you can read the story of Joseph in Genesis.

Being able to stop (or change) something—an action, a thought, a feeling, an impulse—is also important. When fear gets a hold of you, you have the ability to say NO to fear. You are not going to allow fear to control you. You are going to trust God. Just think about the power of No. No, I’m not going to do something illegal, immoral, or unkind. No, I’m not going to put myself in a dangerous position, or say or do something in anger that I will later regret.

If you start yelling or saying mean things, you can stop mid-sentence. You don’t have to continue down a path that won’t bless you or others. No, we won’t let others bully people. We will stand up for what is right and stop negative or hurtful actions. No, we won’t overindulge in impulse eating, spending, or destructive habits. Stopping enables us to change course and do what’s best according to God’s guidance.

Pizza and French Fries:
It’s not food. Well it is food, but in the case of skiing, pizza is when you put your skis into a wedge position, tips together into a snowplow. It’s the position you learn first to stop and to ski slowly and in control. French fries is putting your skis in a parallel position where you go faster down the hill. Parallel skiing is important for advancing as a skier. So a lesson here is in learning how or when to slow down and speed up, how to move at the right pace, in fact, how to move at God’s pace. Sometimes it can be scary to go fast down the hill, but we can always go into a pizza wedge to slow down or stop if necessary. If life were always the same rhythm, it wouldn’t be interesting. So knowing how to adjust to the changes and paces in life is truly helpful.

Turning is another way of slowing down. It also allows you to see different terrain and have new experiences. It allows you to maintain control as you go down the hill either quickly or slowly. And it is necessary when we get stuck or are about to hit obstacles such as trees, cliffs, or fellow skiers.

When you’re learning how to turn in a snowplow/pizza position, you need to learn how to lead with one ski and have the other ski follow. You have to put weight on the downhill ski and let up on the other ski. This can be scary because you have to commit to an action, to going faster to make the curve. And you’re skis need to take turns.

So with turning, we learn how to lead and how to follow. This is a tough skill to learn, but one that will serve you well. Being a good leader takes kindness, courage, awareness, humility, and vision. And following takes good judgment, listening, humility, flexibility, and trust. We don’t want to follow blindly. We want to follow only what is good for us.

And so the final lesson from skiing is:
Let God lead.
When I am on the top of a black diamond run or just trying to get into the rhythm of hill full of moguls, powder, or trees, I often think of the following Bible verse as I navigate down the hill: “And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left” (Is 30:21 BRG).

God will show us the best path down the mountain. If there are obstacles, God will show us a way around and give us the strength and resilience necessary to meet life’s challenges. We will have the courage to stop what needs to be stopped. We will know when to work quickly and when to slow down. We will know when to lead and when to follow and even what direction to turn. We can flow down that mountain, rejoicing in the beauty of God’s creation, knowing that we can look to God for every decision, small or big, and we will find answers.