What Do You Want to Do with Your Life

1965 Volvo P1800

This was my Skiing rig, with two teenagers, skis and equipment all packed in to this tiny car.

Growing up, I was a big fan of the rock group, Twisted Sister.  My childhood was not rough, compared to some of my friends, but back then I had nothing to compare my life to, so there were many parts of my childhood that I desperately wanted to change (i.e. school, parents, etc.).  In the MTV video of the song, “We’re not going to take it”, the father yells at his son, “What do you want to do with your life” and the kids response was, “I want to Rock”.  I was not a rocker, I was a skier, so my mantra, as you can probably guess was, “I want to Ski!”  Skiing was and is a massive stress reliever, as anyone who skis knows.  So practically every weekend from the moment I got my driver’s license, my best friend and I would take my little red Volvo P1800 up to Mt. Hood to ski our brains out.  Fortunately, I learned to drive in the snow and ice in Alaska, so my Mom had no problem letting her sweet little 16 year old and his rough and tumble best friend head to the mountain in a little, old red sports car…ahhhh, the good old 80’s.  I had dreams of becoming a ski instructor and someday being a ski school director at Timberline or Mt. Hood Meadows.  Sadly, as is the case for most people, childhood dreams usually fade away when faced with the realities of life and becoming a “responsible adult”. 

I continued to ski of course, but after a brief stint as a ski instructor in college, at Willamette Pass Ski area outside of Eugene, Oregon, my ski instructor dreams completely faded away.  My life up till now has been pretty normal.  I take all the good with the bad and in the end I do love my life.  I had accepted that I’d be a desk jockey for the rest of my working career (still am as of now), but after venturing in to my late 40’s and feeling the passage of time slowly creep away, I decided to breathe new life in to my childhood dreams.  The great Steve Jobs once said,

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today. And whenever the answer has been, “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” 

I had forgotten that life was slowly ticking away and that someday, could be tomorrow or could be 80 years from now, but someday I would not have any more tomorrows to be able to go do what really makes me happy.  Now, I don’t mean to say that every aspect of my life sucks because the opposite is actually true.  My wife and children are true gifts from God.  I live in a great neighborhood, in a very cute little house.  My job, is ho hum but is reliable, extremely flexible and pays well, so what do I have to complain about…nothing.  BUT, I took a hard look at my life a couple years ago after reading Steve Job’s quote again and it sparked new life into my childhood dreams.

I decided to make a conscious effort to tell the Universe that I wanted a change and the easiest way to start that change was to ski more.  Once I upped my number of ski days and REALLY remembered how important skiing was to me and my sanity, I skied even more.   I keep asking myself, If today were the last day of my life, would I want to keep working at the job I am today? and the answer is consistently, NO! Now my life story is still unfolding and I’m not going to up and just quit my job, but I have made a really conscious effort to work towards doing the things I need to do to improve my life, with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-time ski instructor and skiing over 100 days a year.  I am very specific in what I am putting out to the Universe and imagine myself daily wearing the blue ski instructor coat, teaching a private lesson and then skiing my brains out before heading down to Government Camp (the little ski town at the base of Mt. Hood) to my house and sitting before a huge fireplace with my family, drinking a glass of Pinot Noir wine from Dobbes Winery knowing that I don’t have to drive back to Beaverton to go to a job that I don’t like.  

My post today is to help remind me and everyone who is reading this, to follow their dreams and accept no less than exactly what you want, because we all deserve to be living the life of our dreams.  So please, please, please, think back to your childhood dreams and refocus your life around moving towards reaching that reality.  It may take a year or two or more, but I know that we can all have what we desire most in life, if we just keep our minds focused on it.  Push out any thoughts of it’s too late or I can’t have that life, because that will stop your momentum and drag you down.

As the late, great Warren Miller used to say, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.” So don’t wait till tomorrow or next year to start following your dreams.  Get out there and go skiing and change your life!

Paradise Park Discovered – Day One

Mt Hood Sunset from Paradise ParkFor a skier, the end of ski season always comes with a feeling of letdown.  Knowing that you won’t be able to ski for another six to seven months leaves you with a feeling of loss and sadness.  But… in the Pacific Northwest, that aching feeling of leaving behind another epic ski season soon passes with the arrival of late spring and summer and the plethora of summer time activities on Mount Hood.

This year was no exception.  As I skied my last run of the season, from the top of the Palmer Lift all the way down to Timberline Lodge, about 2.5 miles and 2,500 feet vertical feet, I was at peace.  The mix of emotions is extremely powerful on a run like this.  A non-stop, legs burning, adrenaline rushing, heart pounding run, with a feeling of exhilaration and sadness all at the same time, is hard to replicate.  As the song I was listening to in my helmet, “Closing Time” by Semisonic, says, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”, my thoughts started drifting to my summer time plans on my mountain home.

I’ve never really hiked much in Oregon aside from occasional day hikes, but have always wanted to venture into overnight backpacking, since my backyard is basically a national forest.  My son Joshua and I were desperate to maintain the feeling of freedom and adventure throughout the summer and hoped that hiking would provide us what we were looking for.  So about mid February, my 13 year old son and I began planning our backpacking trip . We decided on a three day overnight to Paradise Park.  Little did we know that for a first time overnight, we bit off a little more than we expected, but in the end it was well worth it.  Paradise Park is a gorgeous area full of wide open fields of wild flowers and unending views.   A six mile, one-way hike to the northwest of Timberline Lodge, up and down Zig Zag Canyon doesn’t sound too hard, but when you’ve never hiked that far before and with a 50 pound pack on your back, six miles feels like 20 miles.

Researching the right light weight gear and food, learning what to do if we encounter a bear or cougar, and figuring out the best route to take was extremely exciting and a great buildup of anticipation for our summer adventure.  In a later post, I will explain what gear we chose and why and what we will change for our next overnight hike.

The day of our departure finally came and we both experienced the same excitement and jitters we feel when we round the bend in the road to Timberline Lodge in the winter, which was exactly what we hoped for.  As you make the final turn in the road just before the parking lot at Timberline, Mt. Hood, in all its glory, comes into full view.  In the summer time, most of the snow is gone, as one would expect, but the lack of snow accentuates the bright white Palmer Glacier and the 60+ feet of snow that Timberline’s Groomers build up over it in the winter, which allows them to operate the ski area all summer long.

After parking the car and putting on our very full backpacks, we both thought that the packs didn’t feel all that heavy, but little did we know that after the initial adrenaline rush wore off, those 50 pound packs would feel like 100 pounds.  So began our six plus mile hike in to our summer home on Mount Hood.

Having not hiked Mt. Hood much in the summer, we weren’t fully aware of the exact route or landmarks.  We arrived at Zig Zag Canyon, crossed it with ease and both agreed that crossing it was not as bad as everyone said.  But…we soon found out that our initial crossing was Little Zig Zag Canyon and that you can’t actually cross Zig Zag Canyon, you have to go all the way down and then back up.

By the time we got to the bottom of Zig Zag Canyon, we filled our water packs up with ice cold water from the Sandy River and began our leg burning, back aching trek up the opposite side of Zig Zag Canyon and then both agreed that the hike up was much harder than everyone said.  Not knowing where the end of our journey actually was, we groaned at every bend because there seemed to always be another bend up ahead and that we would never arrive at our destination.  While we could have stopped anywhere along the way and camped for the night, we were both determined to make it all the way.  Finally, we rounded one last bend and BOOM, a huge field of purple, yellow and red wild flowers slapped us in the face.   We had finally arrived.

The Paradise Park trail is a fairly heavily used route, so finding a suitable camp site was not hard. With the help of a friendly hiker, we found a perfectly leveled camp site, cleared but still in the trees, 100 feet from Lost Creek with ice cold fresh water and absolutely drop dead views of Mt. Hood.  I was so exhausted, but the excitement of arriving at our destination with plenty of daylight left to set up camp and a 13 year old kid with plenty of energy reserves, made for a spectacular evening.  To top it off, my son packed in a bottle of Corona as a surprise, which after letting it sit in the creek for a half hour or so, enabled me to enjoy a cold brew with delicious freeze dried Mountain House Chili Mac for dinner (also prepared by my son).

Since camp fires are prohibited at this time of year (for obvious reason), we set our small lanterns in a rock pile left over from the previous resident of our campsite and enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing evening of great conversation, watching the sunset over the summit of Mt. Hood and then enjoying a completely galactic, clear night with a stunning view of more stars in the sky than I ever thought possible. Being that far from the city lights, enables you see tons and tons of stars.  We both finally retired to our tents and fell fast asleep listening to the relaxing sound of Lost Creek ceaselessly flowing just feet from our campsite.  We had a totally fantastic first day at Paradise Park and we still had three more days to go.

Why I Started a Skiing Blog

I’ve been skiing for over 40 years and every year I get more and more enthusiastic about skiing.  To a non-skier, when I talk about skiing, I get a range of looks anywhere from a look of awe and jealousy to looks of compete ambivalence.  The greatest gift my father gave me as a young child was the opportunity to ski.  He is a PSIA Certified Ski Instructor, so I basically had free lessons during my entire childhood.  He helped inspire within me a lifelong desire to continually improve myself and to always pursue my passions.  Skiers know what I’m talking about when I say that skiing isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.  Skiing is part of my soul!  When I am at the mountain and making turns down a freshly groomed ski run on a bluebird day, I am at complete and utter peace.  I forget about all my problems, my stress melts away, I am happy and I am close to God.  My life up to this point was the beginning of my skiing blog, I just didn’t realize it until someone slapped me in the face with it.

Getting older, we all start to feel the extra aches and pains in our muscles a little more than we used to.  We don’t recover as quickly and falls or potential injuries can be more severe.  Life stresses also seem to increase as we get older, whether it be job stress, parenting issues, family or financial, the list goes on and on.  Around the age of 45 (at least for me that’s when it started), you start to really think about life, where you’ve been and where you are going.  Facing our mortality starts to become something we think about more often.  So for me, skiing is a way to help stave off the aches and pains and the stresses of life. Skiing reminds me that I am still alive and that most of my problems in life are manageable as long as I can keep my mind clear.  Skiing is a great motivator for staying in shape and is an excellent form of exercise.  Skiing is extraordinarily fun…the feeling of flying down the slope making turn after turn or listening to the silence as I am skiing through the trees or through deep powder, skiing gives me an adrenaline rush like you wouldn’t believe.   Skiing calms my mind and gives me a sense of peace.  It keeps me close to nature and increases my appreciation for the outdoors.  Skiing is very spiritual and reminds me that God is always by my side.

Recently though, I began to think that my obsession and desire to ski was becoming unhealthy.  I was using it more and more as an escape and to get relief from my life stress.   If you had read my last sentence in a different context, it could sound like I was talking about drugs or alcohol.  I have never taken any kind of drugs and only drink socially, but just like most of us, I still search out a way to escape from reality sometimes and to just relax.  About six months ago I went to see a counselor and was explaining my worry about my fear that skiing was becoming like a drug to me because was finding that I need to ski more and more every year to maintain my sense of calm about life.  Her answer was very matter of fact, that there are a lot of worse things to be addicted to.  If skiing helped me deal with life, then the more the merrier.  I told her that I was dreading the end of ski season and the long break before the next season begins.  Her next question was if I enjoyed writing.  At first I thought this was strange question, but she went on further to tell me that many people start journaling because it helps remind them of their passions and the feelings and memories that we have of that thing or activity that makes us so happy.  Hence, the start of my skiing blog.  I got so excited just thinking about writing and sharing my joy of skiing with the world.  I set up my blog, started writing and voila, my blog and writing career was born.

There are very few things in life (at least that I have found) that can give you such a consistent and complete sense of peace about the world.  Skiing is one of them.  For many years, I just skied.  I’d talk with people on the lift, I’d talk with my family and the few friends of mine that skied, but I never really “talked” with other skiers.  When I’m away from the mountain, I rarely run into a fellow skier.  Growing up in the 80’s I didn’t have the internet or Facebook or social media, so my skiing friends were just the people around me.  So not only did my blog give me a sense of escape and remind me of skiing, it also opened my eyes to the realization that there are a ton of people who share my complete and utter passion for skiing.  In my attempts to do research for my blog posts, I found a whole world of skiers that share my love of skiing and the outdoors.

I want to say thank you in advance for reading my blog as I am completely honored.  My hope is that this blog helps people realize that there is a huge world of skiing out there and helps them to know that we die hard skiers and boarders have allies and friends who obsess about everything skiing just as much or more than you do.

Most importantly, I want my writing to inspire you to ski more, stress less and just enjoy life.

Spring Skiing At It’s Finest

Spring Bluebird Day at Timberline Mt HoodSome of the best ski days of the season are in the spring.  No crowds, sunny weather and the need to ski your brains out because you know the ski season is soon coming to an end.  After parking the truck this morning right up near the lodge, I stepped out to a 29 degree, sunny, windless, bluebird day on Mt Hood.  I literally felt like I owned the mountain, as it seemed as if I was the only one there.  Spring skiing can be hit or miss, but when you start out early, you can get a couple hours of decent skiing in before it gets too warm and the snow starts to turn the consistency of peanut butter.  This particular morning, the snow was absolutely perfect! The day started with the snow a little crunchy but not too icy, then turned to an absolutely perfect consistency which lasted for about two hours before it started to soften up.

Skiing down the Magic Mile just off to the side of the main groomed run or in technical terms, slightly off pistè, would on a normal day, be ungroomed, crunchy sastrugi (wind-sculptured, wave like snow with irregular grooves and ridges) and extremely difficult to ski, because it is usually a sheet of ice.  Today though, that ungroomed run literally turned to soft fairy dust that felt like skiing through fresh powder.  It was amazing!  Skiing the Magic Mile, way up on Mt Hood with a view to die for, with music playing in my ears is what I imagine Heaven to be.  With the mountain basically to myself, I literally skied my brains out.  26 runs in 4 hours and my legs were burning like crazy.


Timberline CorduroyAs most skiers around the country are skiing their last days of the season in late March or early April, those of us who ski at Timberline, on Mount Hood, have a good month and a half left to get our skiing fix in before we dig out the camping, hiking and fishing gear and start our summer time routine.  As I was driving up to the mountain today, I was thinking how those of us who ski on Mt Hood kind of take our long season for granted.  Timberline’s season pass is valid usually around Thanksgiving through May 31st and occasionally they extend it one extra weekend in June.  They boast that they have the longest ski season in North America.  I just know it makes my off season feel way shorter.  So while Timberline is not Colorado or Utah, it is my mountain and I am so very proud and fortunate to have been able to ski here my entire life.  Timberline is a special place and a diamond in the rough.  One ride up the Magic Mile lift and then on up the Palmer lift on a Bluebird, windless day will leave you speechless and with misty eyes.  Being that high up on a gorgeous mountain, surrounded by a beautiful forest and able to see for hundreds of miles, literally makes me feel like I am touching the hand of God.

If you ever make it over to the West Coast in April or May, do not pass up the opportunity to get some spring skiing in at Timberline Lodge.  It is an experience you will never forget.


First Rule of Skiing – Falling is Good

Falling and learning how to fall, are two of the most important activities while learning how to ski.  While most kids (and adults) typically base the success of their day skiing by the number of times they fall, i.e. the lower the number the better, I focus on the opposite when teaching someone to ski, i.e. the bigger the number the better.  Learning how to fall is important, as it can help avoid injuries, but just the act of falling itself is as important if not more, within the learning curve of skiing.

The very first lesson I taught my kids is that falling is not only ok, it is mandatory.  A very famous character (Yoda) once said, “The Greatest Teacher, Failure Is“.  My kids love Yoda (who doesn’t) so this was a powerful metaphor for them.  Many people feel embarrassed after a bad spill, which I completely understand, as even I look around and hope that no one saw me when I fall.  Falling can be dangerous to our physical well being, which is exactly why that primal drive to avoid injuring ourselves and not wanting to feel embarrassed is ingrained in us all.  As a caveman, if you fell while running from a bear, well…you died.  The faster cavemen and women survived and their kids were inherently faster as well and they survived.  This primal desire to survive is why no one wants to fall while skiing.

Being afraid to or purposely trying to avoid falling, often leads to less experimentation or in skiing terms…purposely avoiding the steeper ski slope because you might fall.  Trying and experimenting is how we learn and often that requires us to fail at doing something before we succeed.  The step that most people miss, is to figure out what you did that caused you to fall and to try again with a different approach.

What many folks don’t realize is that when most people are on the chairlift and see someone holding a yard sale (serious fall with all their gear spread around the slope), most of us don’t make fun of them, rather we feel bad and hope they aren’t hurt.  When that happens to me (yes I still fall once in a while), I get up shake off the snow and think about what I did.  Was I going too fast, was I leaning too far back on my skis, did I catch an edge?  Whatever the reason, I adjust my stance or slow down a little bit and I hit the slope again.

There is an old quote by the great Thomas Edison, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”  There are different variations of this quote floating around, but the main point that Edison is trying to make is that failure leads to success.  Don’t think of the 15 times you fell on the slope yesterday, rather evaluate why you fell and try again tomorrow.  It may take a few more times but on the 18th, 19th or 20th time, you will succeed.

I see kids get frustrated all the time because they keep falling down, get tired and frustrated and then just want to go in the lodge for a cup of hot chocolate.  During those times, I just have them take a break, stop thinking about skiing and have a snow ball fight.  A little later, we talk about what might have been causing them to fall and then I encourage them to try again.  More often than not, they get it! The look on their faces when they realize that they succeeded is priceless and is why I love to teach.

So my advice is to experiment with new slopes, mogul runs or skiing in powder, whatever skill you want to improve on and push yourself…keep falling and getting back up and trying again.  If you keep experimenting and try to stop feeling embarrassed when you fall, I guarantee you will have more fun and succeed in becoming a great skier.  Shaun White (3 Time Olympic Gold Medalist Snowboarder) once said “You take a crash, you get back up and next time you succeed and that’s a great feeling”.  So what are you waiting for…get back out there on the slopes and have some fun.

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