Zen and the art of skiing | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Zen and the art of skiing

Rob Hicken

I started skiing when I was in my early youth, not even a teen-ager. We had the chance to ski some of the best resorts in the intermountain area from Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.

So, when I hear people question why skiing is such an addiction, I tell them it’s hard to get off of it after nearly 35 years of being on the slopes.

In fact, I’ve developed an attitude that skiing is something more akin to a religion, a type of Zen study in the making.

Sliding down a hill on either a board (though I’ve told my daughter a hundred times that I could never do it) or on skis, this riding thing is a method of self development. It offers principles of concentration, breathing and posture.

Let me take you to my first experience on skis. A 10-year-old sliding down the hills of a community park in eastern Idaho. (Couldn’t wait for dad to take us to Jackson Hole, had to get it immediately.)

That rush, that exhilaration. All I could think about was holding those skis in a perfect position. My breath was held in. No chance for exhaling while zooming down the hill (a total of about 100 yards.) And, keeping my weight in control over my skis.

That’s like anything in life. That initial challenge. That rush of newness and the desire to succeed (some say growth and development).

By the time I was a senior in high school, we’d tackled almost every resort along the Wasatch Front (Snowbird, Park City, Alta and the likes). My growth in all aspects were very evident.

It’s that basic development of a deeper awareness that lets any graduated skier go beyond just sliding down the hills. You start to look for that perfect line. Your heart moves beyond just the “swish” at super high rates of speed. The development of character goes to care for the environment where the resort is built, to courtesy for other riders, to caring for and helping others who are in trouble on the mountain.

The point now where I am as a skier is looking back on how far skiing has come. From the pommel ropes that would haul you half way up the hillside to the new high-speed six packs.

And beyond.

I spent four years skiing in the Park City area during my collegiate years. It was a quaint, common resort. “The Canyons” was nothing more than the locals ski hangout. The season pass was something that you worked weekends for, then enjoyed the rest of the year. Deer Valley, while it was there, was not even developed. It was someone’s concept. It was a sledding hill, and sheep ranch.

Park City was a small town of locals. We all knew each other and we all took pride in skiing some of the best snow in the world.

The McConkey Bowl was somewhere only the best dared to go on the best of days (Mostly because you had to know the right angle to take so you wouldn’t have to hike out. Now they have a lift there.)

Today, while visiting there, I was stampeded by the mega resort mentality that has taken over. The old ParkWest (The Canyons) resort is nothing more than a version of what’s taking place in all the resorts around United States. (Sure, we knew that to get the best powder, the resort needed to expand into the canyons above the original chairlifts).

The trial run for the Olympic’s women’s GS and downhill were taking place in the Snowbasin resort above Ogden, Utah. It was something else to see all the fanfare and hoopla going on. The run which had been laid out was one of our favorites for years. (We always said that it would be a great downhill.)

I look now at the future of the skier. I think that while resorts need profits to exist, there needs to be a vision implanted to skiers of the future. That would be the youngest and those not yet involved in skiing. (Sierra-at-Tahoe is doing some of that by handing out free passes to students with good grades.)

Skiing is more than just sliding down a hill. For those of us who participate, its part of our values system. It’s wisdom, compassion and sincerity all rolled up into one. It’s principles transcend consciousness and differences.

Addictive, yeah, but it’s an addiction that goes beyond just the rush of the slopes. It’s almost a religion.

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