A ski lesson…


We’re in Cervinia, a small Italian village in the Alps bordering Switzerland, with the recognisable Matterhorn in the distance. A perfect family skiing destination. I’d not been skiing for five years, but after day one had found my ski legs return relatively quickly – muscle memory really is quite phenomenal.

Fast forward to day five, and we’re having a fabulous morning skiing in the bright sunshine and on beautiful fresh snow. There really is nothing quite like it, until my son starts to feel ill (he’s totally okay btw). It’s one of those moments that you can’t plan for, but when it arrives you realise how stark and remote a ski resort really is. The on-slope medics arrived and it was decided to toboggan him down to the medical centre and have him checked out. I am to follow the medics down the remaining slope.

Let’s just say – medically trained skiers go at the pace of lightening even with a toboggan and they go the most direct way possible, whether the following skier is a novice or an expert. There I am worried about my son and attempting ski runs that I wouldn’t remotely go near normally. And then I’m face first in the snow having wiped out. I pick myself up and carry on tackling this challenge until I finally reach the destination – which I think the medics must have reached around 10 minutes earlier!

My son was back to normal in a couple of hours and was champing at the bit to go skiing the following morning – wanting to make the most of our last day. And so off we go. I’d not thought a moment about it, but when we got to the top of the chair lift and my ski’s touched the ground, I didn’t feel the same as I had just 24 hours before. It’s like someone had rewound time to the first time I put ski’s on and attempted to even stand. That first run was torture. Petrified of falling. All I heard was a constant critic of my capability. I was constantly premeditating when I might fall and restricting myself during those times. The tension and pressure in my body could probably have been felt in the UK.

After what seemed like an age, I found myself back at the chair lift again. Debating whether to bother or not. I sit down for the 3-4 minute period of elevation. During that time, I wrestle with myself. I’m better than this….no you’re not. Before I knew it tears were rolling down my cheeks. And then it hit me…I was in the pit of vulnerability and my inner confidence was rock bottom. I’d not realised until now the impact of wiping out on that ski run had had. I could let this define me or I could rise up and step into my light. It really was a choice.

After a minute or two of releasing the emotion and the tears continuing to roll, I gathered myself. I would not allow my mind to beat me. I can ski. I am a proficient skier. It was one fall. I just needed to do it my way. Trust in my feet and legs. Let go of anything else. And we were up at the top again. A different run. One I had done before and done well. I had this.

10 minutes later I’m back at the top of that chair lift agreeing to take on a run that I’ve not done before and I could see it was steeper and more challenging. And yet, I chose to do it because I wanted to end my skiing trip this year on a high. Yes it wasn’t as natural as the day before but I knew if I relaxed and trusted myself I would do what needed to be done. And I did.

As a coach I’m often supporting others to navigate through similar challenges – self worth, confidence and vulnerability. It takes strength to manage our own emotions and fears. I was reminded that owning your choices is so powerful. We all have choices as long as we let ourselves have them. When we’re unconscious to what’s going on we are in effect choosing without even knowing it. I could have ended this trip so differently.

Where might you be unconscious to choices available?

It’s no coincidence I’m sure, that after writing this blog I’m preparing for a session I’m delivering tomorrow and a quote featured in the session is ‘I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions’. Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.


Emma Canter
Leadership Coach