The Washington Post

(Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

Skiing has been a part of my life since birth, really. My dad was actually on the slopes when I was born. He had me on skis by the time I was 31 / 2, and my brother even younger, at 2. He went from walking right to skiing. We never really feared it because it was just a natural part of growing up, learning new things.

It’s a total escape.
When you’re at the mountain, you’re completely removed from every reminder of your day-to-day life. Unlike running, when you still have cues from your daily life, you’re completely absorbed by the environment, by the air, by everything. Just as it was with my dad and me, skiing has become a way to bond with my kids. When you’re at soccer games, there are coaches yelling, discussions about who gets to play when and with whom. At the mountain, you don’t have to leave after the game and run a bunch of errands. You’re up there in your own little world, staying at the mountain, having the hot cocoa after, no distractions.

Teaching has completely changed me. I can be a pretty fast-paced person, always going on to the next thing. Skiing is about patience. In addition to all the technical aspects I’ve learned, the biggest lesson is about how I communicate. You have to relate to each student at their level. Children, at different ages, learn better visually, or respond better to a story. Language barriers demand I do more showing than telling. The biggest thing for me — and I’m still working on it — is learning more about the person, not the student scared to ski for the first time, but getting to know that person as an individual. It’s changed the way I interact with patients; most ski instructors around here have full-time jobs, too, in that there’s no more of this “I’m the doctor up here on this level, and I know best.” If someone feels as if you’re talking down to them, that’s not going to work. When you’re not comfortable, you’re not confident. In skiing and medicine, you have to gain trust. When you’re up on the top of the mountain with two boards under you, it’s very scary. If they’re not comfortable with you as a person, it’s no good. You want to trust the person who got you up there.

People will be intimidated, so the reflex is to sit back from the mountain. In skiing, you want exactly the opposite. The fun part is letting yourself fall forward and enjoying that moment. You want to slow down the progression and just enjoy the fall.

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