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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