I didn’t really get into tree skiing until I was 20 and my fear was firmly in tact. All I saw was trees. Lots of begging my quad muscles to stop my body to avoid the giant trees that were committed to my eventual concussion. I was arhythmic and awkward. And I wanted it. I watched my husband and our friends glide through woods, one hundred percent aware of their body width, speed, ability; giving in to pitch, sailing with the precision and confidence and grace of a low-flying bird.
I’m still not a great tree skier but the trees are a favorite place to be. It’s always quiet, with the occasional bright blur to the left or right – a vibrant, alive low-flying bird doing its thing. I like the challenge. The immobility of the trees – the invitation of the inconsistent, alluring space between them. The altitude, the puzzle, the dare. The commitment, the euphoria when turns match breath, the frustration when nothing aligns. The fun of it alone, the fun of it with friends shrieking a few trees away. Laughter echoing among trunks and roots and canopies older than we are.
There’s this philosophy about tree skiing: that if one focuses on the space between the trees, the body will go there; if one focuses on the trees, the body will go there. So the SECRET to smooth, confident, fluid tree skiing is peripherally, barely noticing what you don’t want (tree collision) and focusing your entire self on what you DO want (floating through wintery portals).
I want my daughters to ski trees. I want my daughters to see the white space between the trees.
I want them to know the adrenaline burst of standing before an unknown plot. I want them to begin by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting place. I want them to trust their choice. To push their shins against their boots. To aim their heart toward the next thing. To feel their very own earthly support. To know the support of their family. To lean into gravity, point toward fear and need and want and trust and thirst and naivety and importance and fallibility. To carve a turn through giant obstacles, like a swift thread through a needle. To follow another’s path. To forge their own. To bury their face in snow so bright they can’t breathe for the joy of it all. To fall gently. To fall hard. To feel what they feel. To hurry. To take their time. To do it again. To stop when they feel like it’s time to stop.
To begin again by aiming their bodies toward the bright, inviting, white space.