Learning how to ski in Canada helped Sofie overcome more fears than she ever expected
Guest post by Sofie of WonderfulWanderings. Part of my Transformative Travel Tales series.
I’D NEVER BEEN SKIING, not even as a child. I even stayed home from a week-long school trip to the snow because I didn’t want to learn how to ski. I was terrified of it.
It wasn’t so much the sliding on snow that scared me, but the mountains and the lifts you have to take to get up those mountains.
You see, I have a terrible fear of heights.
When I had to stand on the kitchen table as a kid so that my mom could shorten my pants, I used to get dizzy.
The first time learning how to ski
I still remember the first time I realized I was afraid of heights. I was about seven or eight and I was on a weekend trip with my parents. We’d planned on visiting a castle, but to get there you had to take a cable car that ran upwards along the hill the castle was based on. The cable car was made entirely out of glass so that you could see through the bottom.
I don’t remember getting in anymore, but I do remember screaming all the way up. I still see myself hurdled against my father (or was it my mother?), crying so hard I thought I was going to choke. I was terrified and it was a fear that stuck with me throughout the years.
My dad has it too, so I kind of blame him.
When we went to see the movie King Kong together we had to sit in the front row because it was so crowded. You know the moment King Kong climbs up on the Empire State Building and the camera looks down to show you how high up he is? We both got sick. Not kidding you.
So that’s why I never went skiing. Just the idea of hanging in one of those cable cars along a mountain side… No, I couldn’t take it.
Read more Transformative Travel Tales on Breathedreamgo
- Transformed by the West Coast of Canada
- My story: Why I write about travel in India
- How the Ganga River helped me overcome loss
That didn’t change when I met my snowboarding boyfriend. If it were up to him we’d move to the mountains and he’d snowboard all day long. Luckily he didn’t mind keeping his snowboard vacations as “trips with the guys” and so during the first seven years that we were together, I never followed him to the snow.
And then it happened.
An offer I couldn’t refuse
As a travel blogger, I sometimes get invited to places I never dreamed of going. Like Canada. And then, one day we were invited by a ski resort in Canada to test out their slopes and winter activities.
I knew I couldn’t say no to this. This wasn’t a trip to the Swiss Alps. We could be going to Canada!
It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to finally find out why Boyfriend loved the snow and the mountains as much as he did and, as a good girlfriend, I felt like I couldn’t let that slip.
Already dreaming of conquering Canadian slopes, Boyfriend wholeheartedly agreed and so that was that. We were going to do winter sports in Canada.
In the mountains of Canada
I didn’t want to torture myself, so I planned for us to spend four days in Quebec City before we headed to the ski resort. That way I could get used to the cold and snow before tackling the slopes.
Luckily, we had such a great time in Quebec that when the time came to go skiing, I was up for it. Besides, I had a private teacher to myself for an entire hour and surely he wouldn’t take a total newbie like me up to the mountains, right?
Class started where I’d hoped it would start: on the baby slope. It was a piece of almost flat snow terrain, just hilly enough to teach you the very basics of skiing: slowing down and turning.
I slid down and to my own great surprise felt quite calm, in control even. It only took me two runs on the baby slope and my teacher Paul already took me up the children’s slope. Oh yeah!
Getting onto the children’s slope wasn’t hard at all. There was a magic carpet that you just had to slid on with your skis or snowboard and it would take you all the way up the hill (“all the way” being like 100 metres). From there the run down was a bit more hilly, but still very short and not high at all.
We worked on my technique and I learned how to properly zigzag to slow down as I descended the hill. I also learned to place my weight on the right leg and to switch my weight whenever I turned.
This was going great!
A little too great, even, because all of a sudden Paul pointed to the cable cars. “I’m taking you up,” he said.
What? That hadn’t been the plan!
Don’t they have a magic carpet going up the mountain? Like, all the way up?
Could I do this?
Part of me was scared like hell, but another part of me was proud that I’d gotten the hang of skiing so quickly and wanted to move on to learn more.
To my relief the cable cars were those kind of bubbles that close entirely and I strategically chose a seat facing up the mountain, so that I wouldn’t have to look into the descending abyss.
As I felt the cable car being pulled upwards, butterflies started flying around my stomach. I tried to keep the conversation with Paul going, mentioning about 10 times how beautiful it was up there.
If only the car would stop mid-air.
Vertigo, me and the mountain
Safely on top of the mountain I felt like I’d just conquered the world. Not only had I skied, I’d also taken a cable car!
That wasn’t all though, I still had to get down the mountain.
Paul took me along the easiest slope and off we went. I felt like I was going so fast, but of course I was a snail in comparison to the other people there.
Still, I managed to get down without falling once.
What a win!
I couldn’t wait to tell Boyfriend all about this. He’d been off snowboarding the expert slopes while I had my class. And while I was happy not to have him look on while I was learning, I kind of felt sorry now that he hadn’t seen me in action.
There would still be time for that though, as there was another day of skiing planned for me at another mountain. A guide would take us around the mountain, but for my sake we decided to stick to the family slope.
There was just one problem: to get to the top of this slope you needed to take a chair lift. That’s right, no cosy, enclosed cable car, but an open chair lift.
When we waited in line to get on, I started feeling nauseous again. For me, this was something of another level. This was why I’d never gone skiing.
Our guide, Melissa, took my sticks so I wouldn’t have to worry about them while we were up I the air. Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve even remembered I had sticks if she hadn’t taken them from me. I was so focused on not wanting to be scared.
In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I’d expected to completely freeze, get hysterical, or point-blank refuse to get on the chair lift.
Instead, apart from that irrational fear in my stomach, I was pretty fine.
The hardest part was the end, when you have to lift the protective bar that’s in front of you before you reach the lift station to make sure that you’ll get out of the chairs on time.
But the feeling I had afterwards? Wow.
In a few days time I’d learned to ski, I’d taken a cable car and I’d taken a chair lift. Multiple times even!
When I was standing on top of that mountain, the chair lifts behind me, I felt invincible for a moment.
I still have a fear of heights and I know that the lifts I took weren’t located as high above the ground as the ones in France or Italy are (thanks for pointing that out, Boyfriend), but I still felt like I’d accomplished something great. And from that moment on I have not let my fears hold me back anymore.
If you enjoyed this post, you can….
Get updates and read additional stories on the Breathedreamgo Facebook page.
Follow Breathedreamgo on Instagram.
Follow Breathedreamgo on Twitter.