Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Fresh Look at Skiing with the Bretton Woods Women's Alpine Retreat

Bluebird skies above and corduroy below, I rode the lift last week with a group of women who’d
taken a few days off for the Bretton Woods Women’s Alpine Retreat. We joked about how our husbands were faring at parenting without us. My husband posted on Facebook that the joke was on me because he was unloading the dishwasher and putting everything away in the wrong place. Tracey knew her clan would be eating out every night we were away. Cathy was getting phone calls from the school nurse about a playground crash.

Yet once we were on the snow, distractions fell away as we focused on the drills our coach Miki Fera had us work on.

As excited as I was to learn from a pro, before the clinic I was a bit nervous about being critiqued. I knew this was a unique chance to improve my skiing and gain more confidence on the slopes, but there’s an element of vulnerability in having someone examine your technique and provide feedback. It was a leap of faith in joining a clinic like this and hoping that I didn’t find out that I was doing everything wrong.

But not only is Miki a pro in the sense that she’s an Olympian and World Cup racer who’s traveled the world on her skis, she had an amazing ability to humbly share her love of the sport by giving me tips and techniques that tweaked the way I thought about how I moved my body and skis down the mountain.

“I want the women that join us to get confidence and see what’s possible,” Miki told me. I’ll give you a few tools, a few things you can work on. It’s just looking at your skiing from a different eye.”

Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, fellow outdoor mom and kids ski coach, picked up some tips at the retreat as well. “Its really helpful to do something like this every once in a while. You don’t always know how to correct bad habits.”  Meghan added that as a kid who grew up racing, they were always doing drills, always getting feedback, “but as an adult, you don’t get that anymore.”

At the top of the Rosebrook lift, Miki had us practice sliding along a relatively flat slope with both ankles rolled in and then both ankles rolled out. I felt like a cowboy on a horse. We giggled as we watched one another come down the hill. Later, Meghan told me that edgework was great for her to work on. “I hadn’t really thought about how much I need to work on pressuring my outside edge until we did that awkward drill.”

Yet by the time we had gotten to that silly drill, it never even entered my mind that I should feel self conscious about putting myself into a situation that might make me look silly, might even make me lose balance and fall.  Even though I hadn’t spent much time with these women before the retreat, we had some great opportunities to get to know one another. 
Miki's mom, visiting from Romania, joined us for an evening at The Spa.

The retreat started off with a wine and cheese welcome reception at The Spa, a luxurious chance to relax, have a glass of wine, and grab a chair massage in between telling stories about what brought each of us to skiing and to the retreat. 

We warmed up with some stretching in the mornings and enjoyed some painting fun on Thursday night.

For Miki, leading the retreat is a chance to do something different from being a mom, wife, and ski coach. “Being a new mom, I knew there might be other women like me that just want to get away. For some moms, it’s a way to get back into the sport. I like to be active, and it’s hard to find time to do something for myself.” She added that she knows there are also women who might not be in charge of a family, but want the companionship of skiing with other like-minded women.

That opportunity to ski for a few days with other like-minded women made me think about how different the dynamic can be skiing with just the girls. Unlike skiing with the guys, I didn’t feel the compulsion to prove myself, to prove that I belonged there. Although I’m a competitive person, I think women tend to be more supportive rather than competitive. Perhaps is it is instinctual to be more nurturing – we cheer each other on rather than talk trash.

Our duties as moms were never too far away. For this group of women, the conversation often turned to our kids and the joys and challenges of raising rippers. But for a few days, Miki’s contagious enthusiasm encouraged us to embrace our own opportunities to make the best of our ski days. I’m ready to hit the slopes again with a few things to work on, and a few new friends I know will be ready to join me.

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