Fear of Falling. Fear of Failure. Fear of Heights. These are three of the 7 Fear Factors that hold you back skiing or snowboarding.
1) FEAR OF FALLING
From toddler age, we spend our lives trying to remain upright so the idea of slipping and falling down a mountain goes against nature. The fear of falling is a valid anxiety when most people first put on skis. And it's certainly not a fear to have when stepping into snowboard bindings for the first time.
But it's not just beginners, a fear of falling is also natural for expert riders about to drop into a steep narrow descent. Like Corbet's Couloir in Jackson Hole (top image).
Falling, though, is an integral part of the sport of skiing and snowboarding at any stage. Learning, doing tricks, going off piste, down couloirs. If you freeze with fear, you're more likely to fall - and fall awkwardly resulting in injury.
The answer is to stop trying NOT to fall. Go with it and relax. Even better, turn a fall into a stylish forward roll and stand upright again. #doitinstyle
Unless it's a steep icy couloir, in which case, don't stop trying not to fall. Lose the fear but don't lose all sense of survival.
2) FEAR OF FAILURE (AND LOOKING A PRAT)
Let me just get my iPhone out and record you shredding the pow. Oh, watch out for that rock. Oops. What? You don't want me to post your epic fail on Jerry Of The Day on Facebook? You want me to delete it?
Yep, we all have the fear of looking a prat whether captured on film or not. Doesn't matter how good you are. Of course, pro riders rarely do look like prats even when they fail to pull off a triple cork in the park. They still look damn cool. And, take note, anyone who puts their all into pulling off a manoeuvre whether on piste, off piste or in the park is always going to be more hero than zero, unless they're attempting something way beyond their ability (see Jerry video, above).
But, for recreational skiers, the thought of looking a prat down the black or in deep powder is more likely to lead to that paralysing fear and inablity to function than worrying about actual injury.
However, fearing how you might look can really inhibit growth as a skier or snowboarder. If you never leave your comfort zone such as going from reds to blacks or piste to off piste because of Fear of Failure you'll never progress And thinking that everyone is watching you ready to laugh and/or take photos is more paranoia than fact. Besides, what are the chances that they'll have their mobile or camera out and gloves off, anyway?
So lose this fear? Go out with riders who are even bigger prats than you - and get your camera out and gloves off in good time to record their epic prat fall.
3) FEAR OF LOSING CONTROL
Lose the fear, not the control. Going too fast and/or sliding on ice often creates what would seem to be a reasonable Fear of Losing Control. But don't go fast or slide on ice unless you are IN control. If you're out of control you instill another fear factor in everyone else on the slopes, The Fear Of Being Flattened (see Fear 5, below).
Therefore, never ski at a speed that is beyond your ability to stop. Then you'll lose the fear. And just how are you going to do that? Take as many lessons as you need to learn control.
4) FEAR OF BEING LAST
If you are riding in a group lesson, with friends or a guide, there is a very real fear of being spat out the back ie the last one down.
Of course, someone has to be last but why you? Because you're the slowest / least experienced / most fearful (see Fears 1, 2 and 3). And this leads to even more fears and the double whammy; fear of the frustration / pitying expressions you know are behind the goggles of those waiting for you at every lift; and fear that they won't actually wait for you, but wave with a 'see ya' from the chairlift and leave you to go the wrong way.
What to do? Make sure you're NEVER the weakest link. Go with friends and in groups with skiers or boarders who are not as good as you, enjoy giving those pitying looks when you've been waiting for them - and then feel your confidence grow.
5) FEAR OF CROWDS
Just when you think you've progressed as a skier or snowboarder and conquered Fears 1,2, 3 and 4 because, by now, you're doing off piste, backcountry and/or awesome tricks in the park, you become aware of a new fear, the Fear of Crowds.
Having taken guides for off piste skiing and ski touring, you realise the inherent dangers of skiing ON the piste. Out of control beginners (see Fear 3), jibbing teens, snaking ski schools and general holiday hoards are all more frightening than a potential avalanche in the backcountry. In fact, when it comes to bladers, you'd rather take your chances in an avalanche, any day.
So don't go on piste? Easy to say but there's always going to be a time when friends, relatives or kids are going to need your presence in resort. So bite the bullet, but with the provisors that you're going on first lifts and back by 10am, skiing between 12 and 2pm when lessons are over and everyone's at lunch. Also, you're definitely wearing a brain bucket aka helmet. In fact, make that full body armour. Also never ski in Niseko during the holidays in Japan (see pic above).
6) FEAR OF HEIGHTS
Now this is a fear that could really hold you back if it means you turn into a gibbering idiot when suspended high above a mountain in a gondola, telecabin or chairlift. Probs best to try golf instead.
However, if you can cope with the lifts but couldn't watch the film Man On Wire or get palpitations looking at the classic 1932 photo of 11 construction workers having lunch on a girder while sitting 256m over New York City- see pic, above, (if you can look that is) - then chances are you'd have problems skiing a windy narrow ridge or standing on top of a sheer sided summit.
So stay calm and carry on skiing or snowboarding but, here's the thing, stay away from windy narrow ridges and sheer sided summits. Oh and Corbet's Couloir is not for you.
7) FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
Often the fear of doing something is far worse than actually doing it. Unless it's the fear of falling down a crevasse in which case actually doing it would undoubtedly be worse than thinking about it (see above).
One way to avoid Fear of the Unknown is not to listen to other people's scare stories. Or, rather, listen to people who give you confidence. A ski instructor will never say, 'this is the worst black run in the resort, steep as shit, insanely icy and full of murderous moguls, doubt you'll make it'. No, they're going to say, 'follow me, nice and slow, yeah, looing good'. Only afterwards they might point out that you just did 'the worst black run in the resort' while keeping the 'doubt you'll make it' bit to themselves.
Also, there's your good friend, adrenaline. This is the sort of friend you need to push you off down your most feared run or through the backcountry trees. Courage, as they say, is only fear overcome by adrenaline. But just be careful, Adrenaline can also give you courage when you really need caution. Perfect powder bowl? Pah! Adrenaline says go, go and no worries about avalanches - a classic Heuristic Trap. Also there's the risk of turning into an adrenaline junky just living to do the most nerve-sucking spines. Of course, it works for Jeremy Jones.
The one good thing about Fear of the Unknown is that it's the sort of fear that taps you on the shoulder and says,'hey, don't forget your avy bag / compass / ice pick'. The mountains are mighty fearful places that should command respect. Fearing what it might throw at you whether avalanche, ice or hidden crevasses means being prepared for the unknown. Fear, of course, is the mother of foresight.
But remember fear is not real, it is the product of your brain. Danger IS real. Ride safe.
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