Since it’s Easter Sunday while I’m writing this, and also closing day/week for a lot of Ski resorts around the United States, I thought I’d pay homage and share a little bit about something that may have been one of the best things to ever happen to me. And I’m not even being the tiniest bit dramatic when I say one of the BEST.
So for those of you who watched this season of Keeping Up With Shannon, you probably figured out that I moved out of my parents basement and did a full send to Utah. Quarter life crisis? I’ll let you decide on that one. Basically, an opportunity came amongst beep bopping around in my hometown back in Michigan, and I simply had to take advantage. So now I’m here.
Summer of 2021 was hot, dry, new, scary, refreshing, happy, sad, busy, all of the above I guess. I started to settle into my new home, make some new friends, exist, and the weather started to get a little colder. My attention started to pivot towards winter. I thought to myself, “man it’s kind of a bummer the health of my knees is equivalent to that of an 80 year old woman with chronic arthritis”, and it had been a minute and a half since I was on a snowboard, plus skiing isn’t exactly cheap, so my thoughts for winter plans were looking pretty grim considering all of the above. Given my “circumstances” (aka excuses) I accepted the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be doing a winter sport this season. With that being said, I decided to ask around about doing something fun on the weekends to occupy my time, and maybe meet some new people while I’m at it.
And along came the Silver Baron Lodge at Deer Valley. A friend of mine mentioned there was an opening for part-time work in Guest Services at a property with Deer Valley Ski Resort, one of the nicest ski resorts in the country located up in Park City, UT. I was totally out of my element, and didn’t know left from right when it came to hospitality in a Mountain town. I reached out to the operations manager at the property, said I was “outdoorsy enough I guess” and the next thing I knew, I was talking about dates I could work, and how I could help. This was so exciting. I was elevated at this point in time, because I was going to get to work busy season where there was CONSTANT people flowing in and out of Park City for their ski trips. And as an extrovert, I felt like I just hit a goldmine thinking about all the conversations I was going to have, connections I was going to make, etcetera, etcetera. December came around and I started working the front desk at the Silver Baron Lodge, and I was already obsessed with the job. I loved helping people check-in, chit chatting with wealthy old dudes, hearing their stories, and mostly just enjoying being around individuals in vacation mode.
“Yeah yeah yeah, Shannon, but you have to learn how to ski” I kept hearing. “You’ll love it, you’ll become obsessed”, “it’s like a drug!!” I was working at a SKI RESORT and I had never tried skiing. It seemed like a criminal act. It bothered me that I was scared to hurt myself again as well. So finally, I was like okay “Shannon your knees can handle it. You’ll probably suck at first, but you’ll figure it out.” I was kind of afraid in all honesty but I figured, why not. So a wonderful soul I met along the way agreed to teach a grown woman how to ski on one of her free days, and basically — the rest is history.
To put it simply, I quickly became obsessed. By the time my second weekend skiing came along, I was already skiing blue runs, and simply wanted to be nowhere else but on or around the mountain for the rest of the winter. I was getting the hang of it, and I realllly liked to do it. Sunday’s were the day of choice, considering it was my only free day and favorite day of the week, given I was working in Salt Lake City during the week at my full time job. But Sunday’s became Friday’s and Sunday’s. Friday’s and Sunday’s, quickly became my Wednesday evenings, Thursday evenings, Friday’s, and Sunday’s. This was a new found love that I never expected.
To say that something shifted in my brain is an understatement. I finally knew what all the talk was about. There was a developed urge or like an impulse to drop everything I was doing and go to the mountain at any given moment. “What was happening to me?” I thought. I hadn’t felt more alive, happy, and calm in a very very long time.
I sit here and reflect on my first ski season as it comes to a close. The only regret I have after this season, was that I hadn’t started it sooner because of the fear of getting hurt. What a bullshit thought right? I now realize why skiing is more than just a winter sport for people.
If you recall, I played soccer for a bit there. My final season in college was cut short due to a knee injury, and since then, a wave of emptiness followed, considering the thing I loved to do for 18+ years of my life wasn’t there anymore. I’ll admit, I was really bummed about this for a while.
When skiing came along however, this was a chance to work at getting good at something again. The “training for the game” mindset was re-awakened, I started to get into better shape, my skin started to clear up, I started eating healthier, and it has provided me, in a weird way, a sense of purpose. “Train to get better at skiing” was the goal all winter.
And the only feeling that comes to mind right now is gratitude. Skiing has provided a community, new friends, some of the nicest, and most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life, from so many different backgrounds. Plus, I was lucky enough to become friends with people who were insanely good at skiing who were so kind to teach me, wait for me to get down the mountain, and challenge me to do something more difficult. It has provided a form of exercise, an opportunity to move the body, and an even better leg workout during a nice powder day 🙂 Deer Valley was the beginning of a journey I literally never planned would occur. I went into this winter thinking I was never going to get out on the mountain. For me, at the beginning, it wasn’t about the skiing. It wasn’t about the free passes. It was 100% about getting out of my comfort zone and meeting new people. Now, all I’m thinking about is “how do I ski down more black runs next season” and “should I get powder skis for next year?”
Here’s the thing — I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m “all that and a bag of chips” when it comes to skiing. I’m not even close to being good. Like you’re not going to see me in the next rail jam. I was just athletic enough to pick up on the basics, was lucky enough to connect with some insanely cool people to help me, and left the rest to God. Truly, I needed all the help I could get.
But to touch on another benefit, and probably the most important, is the effect it had on the mind. Skiing is truly a spiritual experience, not to get all “woo-woo” on you.
A friend I met along the way put it like this… “It’s one of the only things you can do in your whole life where, when you do it, it truly frees your mind. You stop thinking about everything else and just live in the moment and get down the mountain. It’s so freeing.” And I can attest to every word of that. Having to brace yourself for some rough snow, some bumps here and there, or some steep incline, kind of teaches you to stop thinking so much and just do. A mindless act. Meditative with a side of flow. You’re probably thinking right now, “please chill out, go and charge your crystals on the next full moon ya hippy”. Fair. But truthfully, I have never been more calm and focused and not to mention happy. Genuinely. Shit could have been hitting the fan that week at my less-than-chill job in finance, and going skiing the following weekend could literally reset my entire brain to be ready for whatever was coming the week following. Plus, what is better than being outside in fresh air, rolling around in the snow like a little kid, tailgating out the back of someones rig with a nice little beverage in hand, with the sun on your face in the middle of January?
So if I could say anything to skiing, I would say thank you. An unexpected “thank you”. For awakening a part of me that had been dormant for a long time. For connecting me with salt-of-the-earth individuals with so much to share and so much to learn from. For making a foreign and new place feel more like a home.
To the reader, whether you’re skiing or not, I hope you’re enjoying these last days of the season in ways that make you happy, with the people that make you happy 🙂
Now someone direct me to the nearest beach ASAP!!!