Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Skiing the Failed Mountain

The team trying out for the team.  2012 Snowbird. 
(note: Several people have commented that they don't like the name of this post... and I have to agree. But every time I try to title it, I can't really come up with something better. I think of failure not as a bad thing, but as a diagnostic tool. I did fail here in the overall picture, I didn't make the team. But along the way, there were so many successes... not the least of which was coming back and loving this place even more now. So I suppose "failed" in this instance would be with a wink and a nod.)

I'm in Utah right now, skiing in Snowbird. It wasn't until I stood in the tram and watched the terrain rolling away below me that I realized I haven't been here since tryouts two years ago. As the tram rocked and swayed, I couldn't help but think of all of the memories I have made at this place, and all of the wonderful people I have skied with on this mountain. All the times I've tried really hard, booted out, crashed, got stuck...

I remember Bobby teaching me how to retract in the monkey snot one year, and Nick throwing us down the rasta chutes... I remember meeting Megan here and Andy as well, and getting hounded to move to Aspen.

The tram, of course, brought up all of the Academies I've been lucky enough to attend, all those times of barely scraping enough cash together to get my ass to Snowbird, pulling up at the Cliff Lodge with my shitty beat up Bronco, telling the Valet he'll have to climb in from the passenger side and slide across...

All the late nights, the early mornings, the incredible coaching, sitting on the floor eating sandwiches at lunch... the deep friendships, the trust, how happy it was for all of us to be together, sharing our singular psychosis for ski teaching.

Today, we dropped off the cat track onto Regulator Johnson. This was one of the first places I skied in the tryout. I looked at the pitch on my right as I skied down, and I could see the line of people waiting on the knuckle at the bottom, Robin Barnes and Mike Rogan in a huge group of people. I remember seeing Ballou mess up on his run, and know he had skied balls to the wall anyway, before and after the mistake. I also knew, as I pulled up to the group after my turn, that I had just cut myself from the team. And that my job right then was to just keep bringing my skiing up if I could, so that I knew I had shown my best.

I remember standing there in that group thinking, shit. Its over. Its over and I just started. I remember Michael being so incredibly encouraging, and Hafer smiling at me, and Kurt reserving judgement. And I remember rolling, bitterly disappointed, back down to the chair, and Megan skating up to me and riding up with me and saying, "Kate. Well, at least you showed up. It's good just to be here." Nail in the coffin. And I remember feeling strangely fueled by that.

Not "I'll show them" but "I have more to show." I wanted Megan to know that even with the weight of the terrible run I had just had, I could find my skiing in there somewhere and bring it to the surface. It might take me all three days. But since there was no ski cut anymore before the last day, I had an opportunity. I was part of the group, part of something important and special.

I stood on the hill today, and looked around at the place I had failed, and I was filled with so much gratitude. I felt Weems and Squatty teasing me and helping me when I was on the road to my full cert, I felt acutely that we can not do this alone. I looked down the line at all the people who were trying out, all the "competition", and I all I could see was our community. Each person trying to bring their best, each person being willing to show up with kindness for those they were skiing against.

I have never been so privileged to stand in a group of my peers, and I realized that the journey to the tryout was as much or more about learning acutely that it can not be about making the team. It has always been about the journey, and it is the people of this sport who help to make that journey incredible.

Today as I skied down, I found all the places where I had made decisions during the tryouts, the places where I failed, the places where I succeeded, the places where I was scared, the places where I was thrilled. The mountain today was a memory chamber of what it is to be alive, spanning the full spectrum, and I was privileged to ski through it, feeling my whole life broken down in to stations, feeling my connections to the people I had trained so hard with and dreamed so fiercely with at each way point on the mountain.

Its odd to be at Snowbird by myself, just me and a client, no one around who I know, but its wonderful to realize that those hundreds of people I've always shared this mountain with are right here with me, every turn I make.

Andy, Schanzy, Kurt, Megan, Cindy, Michael and Robin, I am so grateful for you.