There is no mental challenge like the one you face at the top of a snowy mountain strapped to a snowboard (or skis), looking down realizing the longer you stand there, the steeper the slope becomes. At this point you’re unsure how you’re going to make it down and wonder what made you think that getting on the chair lift was a good idea in the first place. Maybe if you stay close to the tree edge, perhaps no one will see you slide down the hill on your heel edge although you know it will leave your thighs burning. Before long you’ve lost your mojo and given into defeat. You’ve told yourself that there is no way you’re getting down that mountain but there’s no turning back…
My first time out this season reminded me of the best snowboard lesson I’ve learned to date - which was my final day out last snowboarded season. The snow in Nagano, Japan would not, could not stop and there was fresh terrain everywhere - a powder-snow lover’s dream. The deep powder was new to me and I hadn’t been up long when I froze and sunk into feet upon feet of snow. The pitch was steep and the snow was fast and once I got up, I was right back down again. And by down, I mean sliding, rolling and tumbling down the hill. With snow in every area I was trying to keep protected from the cold, it took every ounce of energy to pick myself up (read: dig myself out) and get down the hill in whatever manner possible. Best part is, this was only the second run of the day.
Up the chairlift I went. After all, it had taken a train, a plane and an automobile to get here and spending my time in Japan sitting in a chalet was not an option. The games my mind was playing started to drive me nuts. I knew I had to shut down those pesky voices in my head and concentrate on the magnificentness of my situation: being on top of a mountain is the closest you get to the top of the world - it doesn’t get any better than this.
I would love to say that it only got better from there and that I got up on my board conquering the mountain, sailing through the snow run after run. Truth is, I fell on almost every run. But when I was at the top again, I took a deep breath and looked down at the terrain ahead of me with my mind made up: I was going to own it. No matter what, I was going to get down that mountain on my snowboard (not ass-over-tea-kettle), and wouldn’t you know it, I got to experience what riding on powder really feels like (before catching an edge and tumbling again but at least powder snow is soft, right??). Regardless of the ups and literally downs, I survived those two days and though I left in a whole lot of pain, I was mentally stronger than I’d ever been before. It was a rude awakening that half the battle is a mental one and as soon as we give ourselves an opportunity to have any doubt, we are defeated. By focusing your mind on what you can do, all of the sudden you can tackle even the most difficult challenges. It’s no different than sitting down to write this blog. I had a million reasons in my head why I couldn’t write this story, including a lot of post-holiday distractions, but once I got my head in the game well, here we are! Sometimes it takes making a mountain out of a molehill to remind you that with the right mindset, you can do anything.