On occasion living in Europe has its perks – Wintersportsferien happens to be one of them. That’s a big ass word for winter-sports-holiday (see German isn’t so hard when you break the words down). It’s a weeklong school break to do winter sports, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year because skiing is one of my preferred things to do.
We headed to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria with a bunch of other families. The weather was nothing but sunshine and above average temps – it felt more like spring skiing than mid-February which meant the snow wasn’t exceptional, but that didn’t stop us from really enjoying the week.
A few weeks prior to going to Austria, my eldest daughter asked me to plan a weekend trip to one of our favorite ski resorts in Switzerland. It was supposed to be a prep trip to get our ski legs ready for Austria. The weekend didn’t go as well as I hoped it would.
Prior to heading to Wengen, both of my daughters declared they were going to the dark side – snowboarding. This was a bit sad for me, as I’m a lifelong skier; but I accepted their decision and rented them boards for the season. Since moving back to Switzerland, I’ve invested a lot of money in my girls and skiing/snowboarding lessons. I want them to enjoy the mountain as much as I do, so I scheduled them a refresher course to help tighten up their skills and grow their confidence. The lesson ended early with frantic phone calls, tears, and me stress skiing across the alps.
My husband also made a declaration – that he didn’t really want to ski anymore. While it’s never been his favorite sport, he’d always sucked it up for me. I accepted this too. I no longer wanted him feeling guilted into suiting up in the most uncomfortable boots known to mankind to throw himself down a mountain with me. At our age, he deserves to do what he wants to do just as much as I do.
The next morning, I had to beg and plead with my youngest daughter to accompany me to the top of the mountain because the one who wanted to go on the trip was “too sore” to go boarding. During our first (and only) run together, there was complaining, whining, and crying. Neither of us was having any fun. Huffing and puffing, we got to the bottom of the run, silently rode the lift back to the top and then walked back over to the train station where I instructed her to take the train back down to her father.
Maybe that last bit was a little unsympathetic, but I just wanted to enjoy the perfect blue bird day – doing something that I love with people I love. I was asked to plan the trip, I booked the lessons, I rented the equipment… you know, I did all the things. And you must understand that skiing is one of my happy places, and it was being flooded with bad vibes. So, yeah, maybe I was a little pissy.
When I met up with my family later that afternoon, I had to have a hard conversation with them. If my husband was no longer going to ski, I needed him to be available to jump in when the girl’s needed attention. Racing across mountain ranges is too stressful, and not very safe. And I needed the girls to either be in or out – I could no longer deal with their antics on the mountain, and they needed to become more independent (they’re 13 and 15). If you don’t want to carve the mountain, that’s okay, just don’t ruin my time on the slopes too. They told me they were both in, but my youngest wanted to go back to skiing (secretly happy). I told them more lessons were a requirement so we could enjoy the mountain together.
As our trip to Austria approached, I admit I was worried. It didn’t get off to a good start, what was meant to be a three-and-a-half-hour car trip turned into a six-plus hour traffic filled adventure. While sitting on the highway, I bought the girls and I each a six-day mountain pass. As I pushed the button to submit my order, I said a little prayer. I really wanted this trip to go well, and promised myself that I was going to let the chips lie where they fall. If I got all bent out of shape because of other people’s choices, it would just add fuel to the fire.
This was a chance to explore a new place with my family and friends, make memories and do something I love. I’m so happy things didn’t turn out the way I had imagined they might because our trip was absolutely fantastic.
My husband enjoyed his week off the slopes – hanging out with our dog, Paco, leisurely lunches, exploring Serfaus, cooking delicious meals, and hanging out with the other guys that don’t ski. He even hosted a Superbowl party. Instead of doing what I love, he got to do what he liked – and you could really see that he was enjoying his vacation.
My daughters fully embraced the mountain for the first time. My youngest took lessons four days in a row, and then skied the afternoons with friends. She gained confidence and didn’t quit when it got hard. My older daughter only took one lesson (the ski school farkled up her other one), but she really stepped it up and was so much fun to watch. Even though she took a couple of days off (boarding bruises), she found her own groove on the mountain alongside friends too.
And, as for me, I skied five sunny days in a row. There were a few blips, but I didn’t let them get me down. I took a lesson from a guy that looked like Rip Wheeler from Yellowstone who taught me to squish the bananas (i.e. putting more pressure on my downhill ski leg by pretending there is a banana inside my boot, to create more stability and control). I enjoyed sunny lunches on top of the mountain, aprés-ski with friends, laughter filled dinners, played cards, and enjoyed spending time with my family.
So, here’s my theory…
This trip ended up being so more than just skiing. It was a reminder to always be honest with myself about what I must do to fulfill my own needs. It also prompted me to notice others need to do the same, but that mutual respect of these needs will shape the outcome of how we end up feeling.
Over the years, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices – I’m sure you can all relate – from sharing my body with another human being to moving my entire existence from country to country. But when I get clear about what I need, and express my deepest desires to those closest to me, the sacrifices don’t feel like leaky holes anymore because they are packed with all the things that fill my cup. And, when I apply the theory of squishing the banana in real life, I create more stability and control in the everyday.
Sometimes I forget my cup even exists because life wears me down and my lens gets clouded. But the good thing is that I can recognize when I’m drinking from an empty one. In these moments, I give myself a refresher course in taking care of my own needs. There’s no shame in confessing I must do this from time to time – it’s like taking a ski lesson after 40 years of skiing and realizing you’ve been getting down the mountain pretty damn good but with just one little tweak (squishing the banana) it can be a hell of a lot easier.
Turns out bad habits are hard to break, life is flipping tough, and I must continually work at this stuff every single day – so I’m not going to be so hard on myself when I backslide a little because I know I’ll eventually catch myself, just like when I'm skiing and nearly bite it because I'm not putting enough pressure on my downhill ski. Sometimes I need a little reminder like this to help me remember what’s important… which typically initiates a self-inflicted kick in the ass to do what I know is right.
Who knows, maybe today you need a reminder to squish the bananas too.