Practical Advice On How To Regain And  Maintain Your Confidence On Snow.

[Editor Note: The Ski Diva (Wendy Clinch, our friend and colleague) has given us permission to re-print a transcript of advice on confidence in skiing. The Ski Diva site is a community of women who love winter sports and the outdoors. The site has been honored by the North American Snowsports Journalist Association for excellence. We think this is an important article and are happy to present it here in edited form for our readers.  To read her expanded article, click here.  Many of the references to women characteristics and tendencies can be applied to older skiers, too.]  

In skiing, lack of confidence can be a real game changer. It can hold us back and make it difficult for us to tackle harder terrain or even keep up with our family and friends. And when we don’t feel like we’re good enough, we let that take over. We have negative thoughts, which leads to poor skiing, which leads to more negative thoughts, which leads to more negative thoughts, which leads to more poor skiing, until your confidence is so shot you may not even want to ski anymore. 

What we want is to develop a deep, lasting, and resilient belief in our abilities as skiers. We want to stay positive, motivated, and emotionally in control when we need to be. We don’t want to let lack of confidence or fear take over and drag us down.

There are a number of things we can do to help if we don’t have the inborn confidence we need.

First, confidence is something that has to start way before we get to the hill. And you can’t overlook the effect of how you feel, physically, in all this. Because if we’re not physically fit, if we don’t feel like we’re in good shape, we’re going to have a rougher time when we get out there, and that’s going to affect our confidence when we ski.

Second, you have to pay attention to your equipment, because poorly functioning equipment can be real confidence shaker, too. Which means have your skis waxed and tuned and your binding checked. But your biggest priority has to be your boots. Too many of us don’t have boots that fit properly. Boots are the one piece of ski equipment that comes in close contact with your body. So you don’t want to feel your feet move or your heel lift up. If your feet are moving and your ski boots aren’t, your skis aren’t doing what you want them to do. You’ll ski less well, and definitely less confidently.

You know what’s a real confidence crusher? Peer pressure. When friends push you to do something you’re not ready for. Do yourself a favor and give it a pass. I know that skiing with people who are at a higher level can be frustrating and even embarrassing, but don’t let it get to you. Remember, skiing is supposed to be fun — not stressful. One solution is to look for easy runs that parallel steeper terrain. Ride the same lift as your friends, and then take a different way down.

Ski School, Austria, circa, 1930s.

Another alternative: Break away and take a lesson. Personally, I think lessons are the best way to build your confidence. Because it’s easy to lack confidence when you don’t have the skills.

Whatever you do, though, don’t take a lesson from a spouse or a significant other. There’s way too much emotional baggage tied up in that. You want an objective third party, and you want a professional ski instructor. 

So let’s talk about fear for a minute. Because what is fear, but a lack of confidence? And I think every skier has been afraid, at one point or another.

One of the best is to just breathe. When you’re nervous or scared, your body tends to tense up and your heart rate increases and you hold your breath. Deep breathing sends a signal to your brain that everything’s ok and you can relax.

Along these lines, I’ve found mindful meditation extremely helpful.  Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present and paying attention to our thoughts and feelings at any moment, without passing any judgement. It’s not about rehashing the past or worrying about the future or things you can’t control. Instead, you focus on what’s here and now: On the feel of snow beneath your feet. On the feeling of the cold air on your skin. And while you’re doing that, you breathe positive energy in, negative energy out.

So some other tips for building your confidence. Another good tool is positive self talk. Talk to yourself the way you’d like a good friend to talk to you. You want to focus on your strengths – we all have them — and instead of tearing yourself down, build yourself up. Studies show that maintaining a positive attitude can do wonders for your confidence. If you keep telling yourself you can do this, amazingly enough, you will. 

And there’s one more thing that I think really helps with confidence: a good support system, like TheSkiDiva.com. One of the things that make it such a great community is the way we work to build each other up. Let me give you an example: I was on a trip with TheSkiDivas where a number of us went down some pretty difficult terrain. The ones who went down first stopped at the bottom and waited for the others. And as each one came down, we all cheered. You can’t beat that.

 

5 Comments

  1. Another confidence booster is a book called “INNER SKIING”. I remember reading the book but before that taking an accelerated lesson at Sugarbush probably 20 years ago , applying Tia chi , breathing methods and focus . all as confidence builders. That weekend improved my skiing by 100%. It was nice to be able to feel the skis turn.
    Probably can find the book on line ?

  2. Catherine Meyer says:

    PSIA now has a program to train instructors to teach older skiers. It’s called Senior Specialist accreditation. Addressing fear and instilling confidence is a major part of the training.

  3. I am 86 years old and thought I had to give up skiing two years ago. The first year I concentrated on regaining muscle strength but I just simply had no confidence in my ability. Last year I worked on regaining balance and lo and behold I found that I could then ski again, perhaps not up to my previous level but I was on the slopes again! Many skiers do not realize that seniors lose balance – I learned!!!i

    • Jon Weisberg says:

      Hi Bruce, It’s wonderful that you can get out again and enjoy the sport. Keep it up, and best wishes for a fine season. Jon

  4. In the 70’s I taught at Okemo. One week I had a ski week class of middle aged intermediates. These were mostly week-end skiers from the CT and NY suburbs, they enjoyed the social aspects as much as the skiing. One female member of the class held a season pass and the family had a house on the mountain. The kids were hard chargers and the husband (a surgeon) was aggressive, and a bit of a bully. Friday we had a fun race for the class, and as she got in the starting gate, she looked at me and said, “You know, I’m doing this cold turkey.” Turns out she had been taking a valium with a Manhattan before her lessons! She made it to the bottom, and afterwards we had a chance to talk more. She didn’t really enjoy alpine skiing, but felt pressured to ski by her children (didn’t want to disappoint them) and her husband (again, a bully). Shortly thereafter she put away her alpine skis and took up cross country. It got her out of the ski house and into fresh air and some lovely terrain. Most important of all, she was comfortable doing it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Downhill may not be for everyone. If you give it an honest try, and don’t like it, it’s OK to say “Not for me,” and nobody should tell you different.

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