By Warner Nickerson
As a racer and coach, I’m biased, but I’ve learned that no other sport develops a well-rounded person like ski racing. It’s a sport filled with endless life lessons, and a community with unbreakable bonds.
The highs are amazing and exhilarating; you feel like you’re on top of the world. The lows are tough, and you’re forced to rely on your grit, determination, and hard work to continue.
Since all ski racers inevitably have experienced the lows of our sport, from the World Cup level to NASTAR, we are united as a community. Every athlete understands that being humble is a necessity, because the glory of being on top will never last forever and everyone’s luck can change in an instant.
And it helps to keep these three things in mind, no matter what kind of luck you have.
Ski racing gives you focus
Ski racers need immense amounts of focus on both long and short-term goals, which makes athletes adequately manage their time and plan for the future. To reach a high level in our sport, it takes countless hours of hard work off the hill in the gym, cycling, running, and playing other sports.
At younger ages, ski racers need to negotiate with teachers to spend more time racing and less time in the classroom, but still must show up ready to perform on the slopes and in the classroom. That takes focus, planning, great time management, and commitment.
Race day, meanwhile, takes a different type of focus to analyze the course and terrain, and to anticipate what the best line is, considering the speed and snow conditions. It’s incredible how much effort goes into just over a minute on course. But it’s equally incredible how athletes can focus on their tasks at hand and perform at their peak.
Ski racing gives you wings
Ski racers get to travel the world, seeing beautiful, majestic mountains daily. Throughout the years, skiing has taken me to five continents — North America, South America, Australia, Europe and Asia. Even if you’re not on the World Cup, and racing NASTAR locally, chances are you get to see new resorts, or at least new angles of your home resort.
Through travel, ski racers learn to appreciate cultural differences and learn that, indeed, the world is a gigantic playground. Listening to new languages and meeting new people is illuminating. There are the international trip-ups over the words “aluminum” and “avocado,” for example, or the V’s and W’s spoken by Germans — and then there are the many ways Americans mispronounce words in French or Spanish.
Whether racers are traveling the world or just traveling outside of their region to other ski slopes, the travel shapes us into being more open and considerate to different cultures, religions and values.
Ski racing gives you friends — for life
NASTAR racers know more than anyone else that it’s not just about the hard work, determination, goal setting, risk analysis, compassion, focus, travel and openness that ski racers experience. It’s about the lasting camaraderie and friendship.
These are friendships that go beyond text messages and phone calls — they endure long distances and long silences without any hard feeling or resentment. There’s no better way to really get to know someone than by spending a few days or a week training and racing in tight living quarters. It quickly makes you adapt and tolerate different eating, hygiene and sleeping habits. (After a few trips, you learn to always travel with earplugs and a facemask.)
But it’s the skiing that creates lasting friendships: that feeling in the finish when you’re giddy like a little kid at recess. When you’re standing there, sweating on a cold day from the nervousness that turned into pure adrenaline and exhilaration from feeling the power, focus, and speed from the last minute of competition. This is where we can discuss a run or a turn or a pitch with our fellow competitors with an excitement that no one else can really understand. So no matter how much we break down along the way, such moments create those unbreakable bonds.
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