Skiing is 100% physical, 100% mental, 100% spiritual... maybe even mystical! To try to define proportions for any one of these aspects is simply not possible.
Consider the classic helicopter manuvere. The physical execution is easy. Pop off the jump, spin, land, ski away. End of story.
What do you have to call upon to pass through that moment when you turn your back to the world? You've heard it: "spin with the hips". "Lead with the head". "Breathe through your left ear if you spin right, through your right ear if you spin left". At the end of the day, we don't need more technical instruction to do a helicopter, we just need to say "dammit, I'm just going to do it!!"
That's why snowboarding gained quick popularity. In the beginning, there was no textbook for teaching snowboarding. The riders just tried everything they could imagine. They didn't always know how they did these things, they just did it. In the end, what really counts... knowing HOW to do a given something, or actually DOING that something?
I use a computer a fair bit, as do the rest of you, quite obviously. Do you really know HOW your computer works (I know, some of you actually do), or do you just accept that it simply works? I'm one who hasn't got a clue how I can sit here in my little home office in the rocky mountains of Canada, and with the click of a mouse, send my thoughts across the entire planet. For better or for worse, I simply accept that this thing works, even though I haven't the foggiest idea how. Sure, I could learn, but I don't need to. I go on faith.
Sometimes when you're skiing, you have to do the same. Skiing, at any level, is a leap of faith. For the beginner, it's that first hesitant venture into the fall line. The committment to the downhill ski, the rush of wind in the face, and learning to trust that you will survive this moment. A little bit scared, the hormones a-flowin'... and whoosh! We arc the skis, maybe not gracefully, but enough to get the chemical stimulus from our central nervous system that whispers... " that was cool! do it again".
Was it physical? Yes it was. The chemical stimulus has to come from somewhere. Was it mental? Yes it was. We have to rationalize our actions and make the commitment to go for it. Was it spiritual? Yes it was. "Oh-My-God, here I go!!!!"
Anybody mountain bike out there? You know when you've been on a long ride, and you get done, load everything into the car, hop in and start driving home... and your foot feels like it's "clipped in" to the gas pedal?
When you've been skiing and you get home and sit in a relaxing warm bath, close your eyes and replay the day's events, and it's like you're right back there, so vivid are the memories? You don't simply remember, you FEEL it. That's what is meant by that phrase that was discussed on here a while back: "We learn to ski in summer". It's a meditative state born of the marriage of the physical and mental beings. It is a higher consciousness.
As Shivas Irons said in Michael Murphy's book "Golf in the Kingdom": it's the new yoga of the supermind. Yoga, in the ancient Sanskrit means "union"... a union of the mind, body, spirit in perfect balance. Now relax, you don't have to stick your little toe in your ear to be a great skier!
It might be summed up in a little phrase I heard from a bit of an eccentric golfer I once had the privilege of meeting.
"Imagination times vividness equals reality in the subconscious".
That guy's name is Moe Norman, and if you're a true golfer, you know who he is. Everything you've heard about him is pretty much true!
How about Hermann Maier? Remember seeing him cartwheeling his way down the Olympic DH at Nagano? What a horrific crash! Ordinary folks could concievably die in that situation. Hermann shakes the snow out of his ass and a few days later, wins the gold in Super-G.
More recently, he nearly loses his life in a motorcycle crash, doctors debate his ability to WALK again, sits out for over a year, then after little more than 2 weeks of on-snow training, throws up a seventh and a first in his first couple races back. Take that! he says.
Strong mind, strong body, strong spirit.