By Dan Egan EBS Contributor
Skiing is a Zen sport. The essence of the experience is to escape from the mundane routine of life and step into the adventure of the now. Gliding on, over and through snow provides us with the opportunity to experience, observe and express the emotion of being wrapped in a winter day.
It is important to remember what you think about your skiing is none of your business. Simply put, don’t let performance ruin a good day of skiing. Our job as skiers and snowboarders is to complement the mountain and add the exclamation mark to nature’s beauty. From our choices in clothing, to the style and flare in which we descend the slope, we leave our mark in time and space on the mountain.
However, to obtain this level of understanding and expression, one has to be free of self-judgment which includes the elimination of constant evaluation of one’s ability.
Freeing yourself of critical thinking in the sport of skiing is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall experience on the mountain. If you’re in search of the perfect turn or attempting to feel entirely in control during the entire run, there is a strong chance you will feel frustrated throughout the day.
So many people begin each ski day with some sort of judgment and usually it starts with the weather. Is it a beautiful day out? And the answer ultimately depends on your perspective. The next common critical question is what are the conditions? That answer also wholly depends on your perspective. Both of these questions are typically asked before leaving your home, condo or the lodge.
Often people will comment to me that the snow is bad today, and I always answer, “How can snow be bad?” The snow might be firm, soft, slick or windblown, but bad? It’s never bad. By never judging the snow I’m able to stay free of judgment that might affect my mood or emotions.
When you move into the judgment-free zone, it’s better to observe the weather and conditions. Maybe its windy, or cloudy or sunny. When we raise our awareness of our surroundings, we are embracing rather than judging.
The majority of people that ski with me always talk about their mistakes. It amazes me that on a lovely day on the mountain people choose to focus on a negative rather than a positive. As ski guide and coach, I like to observe what skiers do correctly. And as soon as I point out what went right, they counter with their negative or self-judgment and the net result is a reinforcement of the negative rather than the positive.
There are so many aspects of skiing that should be prioritized over performance and becoming aware of this moves us closer to judgment-free zone.
Turning off the critical mind is a constant struggle. First, become aware of how the analytical mind is making judgments about the day and your performance, and once you notice this, quickly change your focus—preferably to something beautiful, a snowy tree, the clouds moving across the sky, or a friend or loved one. This small slight reprieve from the critical will create space for the positive.
Practice this while you are skiing: if a critical thought comes into your mind, replace it instantly by observing something in your immediate surroundings. It takes practice.
On top of the mountain when I start to ski, I breath deeply and with purpose. As the speed builds, I feel the wind on my face, and as my skis begin to turn, I focus on the ski biting into the snow and I allow my eyes to search down the slope. Entering into the next turn, I smile and embrace the excitement of being in the judgment-free ski zone.
Extreme skiing pioneer Dan Egan teaches clinics and guides trips at locations around the world including Big Sky, where he’s be teaching this season (contact Big Sky Mountain Sports for availability). Find more information on his camps and clinics at skiclinics.com. Also, don’t miss Dan Egan’s Mountain Odyssey presentation, an evening of adventure, ski films and stories of his exploits to the most remote regions of the world skiing for Warren Miller, at the Yellowstone Conference Center Amphitheater at Big Sky Resort on March 9 at 7 pm.