Hey, this is great! I’m in Snowmass, Colorado, with my wife and kids, and I don’t even know who won at Doral! For the first time in my life, I’m going skiing, and for the first time in 25 years I’m trying to learn a new athletic pastime. Having reached a high level of proficiency at my only other chosen sport, the feeling of being a complete beginner is a strange one indeed.
I felt like the original duck out of water, or a 24-handicapper on the practice tee at The Masters, when I first snapped on my skis and tried to shuffle forward. My wife, Anita, pointed out, I should probably wait until I got outside into the snow. She is a really good skier, and she booked me private lessons with a fantastic coach, Grisha, the mountain guide from Chamonix in the French Alps. For the first day, I was a one-man avalanche, as witnessed by Tom and Melissa Lehman amongst others. I bumped into them at the top of one of the lifts by chance, and they had a good chortle at me as a cartwheeled down Fanny Hill, one of Snowmass’s green slopes.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I’ve found so many similarities between skiing and golf. (This ought to be good.) Firstly, if you are going to learn quickly, you have to start with a good instructor. I’ve been lucky to find a great one, and like all great teachers, Grisha is able to transfer to me not not only his knowledge but the way that he feels, as he glides effortlessly down the slopes. Never mind the importance of balance, or the transfer of weight, or alignment of skis, or any of the physical skills that are required. Like a child learning to walk, I have learned by falling down, and getting up again. Grisha has kept me in the present, not worrying about what might happen, but rather focusing deeper and deeper on what is happening. I’ve learned that, just like in golf, where if you are afraid you might miss from 4 feet, you probably will, in skiing if you are afraid to fall, you’ve probably fallen already. More to the point, you won’t remember why.
After three days with Grisha, I’m really skiing, and able to go up and down with my wife and sons. My boys are living proof that the theory above works. The only thing they’re afraid of is that the lifts might close. Yesterday, I skied/fell down my first blue slope, and I don’t care if they have to use a crane to get me into the 15th tower at Augusta, I’ll be there. I remember my early days learning golf, swinging on my own on the range, maybe four large buckets of frustrating tops, duffs, and shanks. Then my first real lesson with someone who knew how to let me feel it. One came right out of the middle of the clubface. It felt sweet and effortless, and I was mesmerized watching it fly. That’s a feeling I do remember. It was the bug biting me.
(As a footnote, I asked my editor to let me tell you that if you’re in Snowmass and looking for a ski instructor, Grisha Kravtchenko can be reached at 970-923-6266. To put how good a teacher he is in golf terms, we’re talking David Leadbetter here.)