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Fear and Loathing

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I feel like I have a lot of the moves and technique for skiing most terrain. As much as it's hard to admit, I think fear holds me back at times. We all excercise a certain amount for self preservation. What irritates me is when I get in a narrow chute or some other "you better not fall" situation and make it down, but not with much fluidity. One of the techniques that has helped me is to concentrate on making the first few turns and getting some rhythm. I tend to ski fairly aggressively, but am looking for tips to help eliminate that tightness/rigidity I get when the speed gets high and I start to feel out of control (ie get sort of rigid) or the terrain makes my skiing defensive.
post #2 of 23
Desensitization: familiarity breeds contempt.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Nolobolono, Can you expand on that please.

"Desensitization: familiarity breeds contempt."
post #4 of 23
That was a bit brief.

Assuming your technical skills are adequate, a lot of mileage in the situations which frighten you can take away the scariness.

On the other hand, dangerous situations should raise your alertness to a high level. But if it is so scary that your skiing suffers, you are increasing the danger and should lower the task and then raise it incrementally as your body will allow.

You might pick up a copy of Mermer Blakeslee's book: In the Yikes Zone: Conversations with Fear. It has many tactics for turning fears into strengths.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I don't feel that I am a fearful person in most situations. Just sometimes with high speed or potential fall/injury situations my head says go and my body switches to the defensive mode.
post #6 of 23
Have a couple of Lucky Lagers.
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Or maybe a Lucky Strike.
post #8 of 23

You know that fear keeps us ALIVE in this sport! There's nothing wrong about having reasonable fear of things that can hurt us badly. Fear can be a sign of healthy respect for the mountain and the laws of physics!

But CONFIDENCE is what allows us to perform in the face of fear, in spite of fear, without locking up and becoming defensive. Confidence comes only with practice. Confidence is knowing that you can let go of the mountain and point the skis downhill because you KNOW that you'll be able to finish that turn and ski back uphill, or at least far enough around to control your speed. Confidence allows us to remain focused in spite of the potential distraction of fear.

Fear can create a heightened state of alertness and can actually IMPROVE physical performance, if we learn to focus and channel its energy.

The problem isn't usually fear, actually, it's WORRY! Worry is what makes us defensive. Worry is what makes us react to something that MIGHT happen LATER, rather than focusing on what IS happening NOW.

Fear can be a good thing--and lack of it unhealthy to say the least. It is WORRY we should worry about!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #9 of 23
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
It is WORRY we should worry about!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Friday nights drinking night. Deal with fear on a friday night and pow on saturday morning.

no worries mate.

Ya can do better than that!

post #10 of 23
In one of the Warren Miller flicks, Warren says something about some ripping skiers:

"They're not skiers like you and I, because they've changed the chicken impulse into the turn impulse"

Or something like that...

When nervous, I'll try to focus on my line, and decide where I'm going to make those first few turns. Nail them, and I'm fine down the rest of it...

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 01, 2002 09:10 PM: Message edited 1 time, by SnoKarver ]</font>
post #11 of 23
I know the worries. I'm a big fat worrier. But I've found a great trick.

I shake the worries with a big SMILE. Then I'll look up at the sky and and feel its vastness. Silently, I give thanks for being able to enjoy the day.

It works everytime.
post #12 of 23

I love it!
post #13 of 23
PinHed's talking to the "Spirit in the Sky" :
post #14 of 23
PinHed, In that case, you would definitely qualify for a state of grace.

I also wanted to add something a mentor shared with me that made an impact: People don't have FEAR. They have fears. Little-f and plural.

I fear heights but spiders don't bother me. Fears are neurotic, as Bob says, worries. This relates back to desensitization: know the thing for what it is, and don't build it up to be bigger than that. Why am I afraid of heights? Because I don't trust myself. I act like I think I'm going to fling myself off the traverse. I do this because I am listening to the nag (Mermer's metaphor) on my shoulder whose job it is to discourage, disparage, and distance me from my own awareness of what is really happening. Instead, I need to nurture the alter ego on my other shoulder, the guide, who will lead me to the other side of doubt, and support and encourage me to take a well-measured risk.

This is a colorful way of saying what I said previously, you need to shape your attitudes in order to shape your behaviors. When there's a choice, think of something positive that you can do instead of allowing self-defeating ideas into your mind. A famous psychologist called it "taking up psychic space," a notion I like. If your mind is occupied with a positive thought, like getting the pole ready in advance, there won't be room or processing power for the negative thought.

Sorry for going on about it. This is obviously a topic of interest.
post #15 of 23
One also needs to "know thyself." We all have fears that would rule us if it weren't for the desire to "go there" that enables us to break free.

For example, I have a fear of heights. I have learned that looking down at the granite cliffs below causes my body to betray me, so I don't look down. I look ahead and go. Once I'm in the chute, I don't worry about heights because I am now back in my comfort zone.

My advice is to find something positive (e.g., SnoKarver's line) to take up the psychic energy that would otherwise be given over to the bogeyman.

It also works with fearful students, as LisaMarie has pointed out in an earlier "fear" thread, to suggest a technical focus--ready pole plant, completing turns, looking ahead, etc.
post #16 of 23
I remember a run that I did last year. It was my first true "double black" at Tremblant. After only learning how to ski two months earlier I was standing at the top of a 1500' monster that was sheer ice from an ice storm the previous. Thought 1) I can't do this. Thought 2) It would be a heck've walk back to the chair. Thought 3) Go slow and go easy. Dropped in and dropped out...3X (thought one still in my head). Then thought 2 (was about 100' down for the crest). I saw that I was in a real bind, it was fight or flight. Took a deep breath, turned my skis down the hill and finished the run. In the back of my mind I knew that I could do the run, but needed to hear that. At the age of 36, rarely do I place myself in a situation that I can't get out of but the fear can be still there....
post #17 of 23
I don't see a shade of fear as a bad thing. There is definitely an element of self-preservation which is a necessity in our sport. Skiing is about Man doing something quite unnatural in the midst of Nature. Nature always reserves the right to kick our behinds!

From my experience working down the bottom of the hill in the local ER, confident and competent skiing tempered by a respect for the Mountain is a good thing. I've seen my share of the fearless twenty-somethings come in with their season or "career" ended by a lack of respect for the simple laws of physics...

How do you get past being dominated by Fear? Just ski, ski, and ski some more. Eventually you will find yourself comfortable in the white-knuckle terrain. But I don't recommend forgetting that when one object in motion encounters another object in motion, the bigger one always wins!

One final comment, having started skiing as a tyke 30 years ago on wooden skis, equipment makes a world of difference. Advances in skis, boots, and bindings have cranked up my terrain ability at different points in time while the skier has stayed the same....


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 02, 2002 11:16 PM: Message edited 2 times, by Mike C. ]</font>
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate all the feedback. I usually ski all the terrain most mountains have to offer (haven't jumped into Corbetts yet.) it just that I don't always ski it as skillfully as I think I am able to. I think Bob is right it is a matter of confidence and worry. I have been feeling the need for improvement lately so maybe this is a good area for me to focus on. Thanks again everyone.
post #19 of 23

As someone who loves being out'a control and constantly havin' the sh#t scared out'a them, my advice probably should be taken with a grain of exlax, but...

"Desensitizing" is a good answer. Always get onto a run much steeper than you're comfortable with at least once every few days, NOT ONCE OR TWICE A YEAR!. 35 degrees makes many people tremble & quiver... until you start hitting 40 degree slopes. Then suddenly that stiff legged, defensive stance goes away when you go back to the 35 degree pitches. Same with the 40 degree slope when you hit 45 degree pitches enough. Also, start straightlining the bottom section of chutes, higher and higher each time... supressing thoughts, of course, of what your body can reasonably survive if a rag-doll situation might occur.

What's the easiest way to "go for it"? You have to ski with people willing to help push you. A week or so ago I was lucky enough to ski with a group of those extreme helmet-heads who were competeing up at Red in Rossland. Most of them have comfort zones like anyone else but when skiing together they tend to push their zone, a bit to impress their peers but more to desensitize. In turn, their peers will see it can be done and give it a go themselves. That age group (18-25) seems the most open to expanding their zones... and it's contagious! But eventually, I suppose, you'll have to catch yourself and start acting your age........... Naaah!

"Commitment" is the best word I can think of to help push your comfort zone. That saying, "if you see yourself succeeding rather than flailing, you probably will", is hokey and over-used by self-help Guru's but there's some truth to it bolstering your confidence. That 'boost' is the most important thing to handle the fear, but you have to leave doubt at the top of the run. Do... or do not. There is no "try".

and like I said: if you're not scared, you're just not goin' fast enough.
post #20 of 23
Hey Lucky,

I didn't see any fear or loathing when we dropped off some of those steeps and into the trees at Whistler Those were some pretty confident lines I saw you take!
post #21 of 23
Lucky, after reading my post, I didn't mean to imply that you rarely push your comfort zone... well, maybe I did... actually all of us in the world are guilty of rarely pushing our comfort zone. I know I don't do it as often as I should. The self-preservation instinct and age related wisdom of keeping oneself intact gets harder to fight every year... but now having met a few like-minded ski partners, i've found that it's easier for us to challenge our fears together.

It's may sound a bit childish, but partially it's like daring each other to step it up. The resultant instant gratification is a nice little adreneline rush. Longer term gratification is the same as mastering any other technique in the sport you love... and I guess there's even some of that satisfaction you receive in realizing that part of you is still young at heart.

BTW - if Red & Whitewater appealled to you, Kicking Horse is the place. Fernie used to be, but after all the high-speed quads, slopeside condos, and international marketing it's trying to become another impersonal mega-resort (Vail or Whistler) wannabe that gets skied out in an hour rather than a week. Bring beacons&shovels and head out to the bowls north & south of the boundaries - they go forever!
post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 
Cheap Seats, thanks for the info and the tips. The guys I usually ski with are better skiers than me. One is a former speed skier and freestyler (inverted) and the other is an all-mountain expert. Even though I feel that fear sometimes keeps me from skiing smoothly I like the adrenaline rush that fear provides. Where I am trying to improve is in the areas that are pretty much "no fall" zones. You probably wouldn't get a dirt nap, but the chances for injury are there if the fall didn't go right. I want to become more relaxed and fluid in those situations. I have experienced a fair amount of physical pain in different activities that I have participated in and pain really isn't the issue. I am not a spring chicken anymore and I do worry somewhat about the down time from skiing if I sustain a serious injury plus I want to keep skiing for as long as possible. So it's a balancing act of accepting the risk and maintaining some sense of what's reasonable.
post #23 of 23

Nolo has it right. The best thing you can do is ski that chute over and over until it's almost boring. Then, when you get into a similar situation, you'll be much more comfortable with it. If you find another chute that pushes your pucker factor even more, ski that chute until it too becomes easy. Each successive time you ski it, you will be more fluid and more comfortable, as well as more confident in your ability.
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