What We All Can Do to Drive Positive Change
Although I’m moved by all the good people who are willing to embrace the work of diversity, it feels like suddenly everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon, like, “Quick! Get some Black and Brown people in our media so we don’t look bad!” Why now? Why weren’t we there in plenty before? Why did it take such drastic measures to change? Many say it’s simply because there were no people of color who wanted to participate. Those of us who’ve been here the whole time know this to be false; we’ve just been willing to stand alone and do what we love, despite having a different skin tone.
So, what steps can we take to change these inaccuracies? As snowsports educators, our skillsets are as unique as the individuals within this great organization. The foundation of knowledge necessary for longevity in our industry encompasses many tactics, techniques, theories, and tools. Let’s apply some of that knowledge in a new context with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Consider the following statements in a new light.
Skiing and Snowboarding Can Be Counterintuitive
Some of the techniques we teach seem to be the exact opposite of what students think they should do: Apply pressure to the left ski to go right, and the right ski to go left; commit to the fall line with a forward-leaning stance rather than instinctively lean back. These tasks challenge people to embrace ideas out of our comfort zone. We tell students that they shouldn’t live in fear of falling and that growth stems from challenge.
The idea that good things can come from something we didn’t want to do is also counterintuitive, such as having a sincere discussion about our personal perspective on current events. In considering diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice, let’s revisit the idea of “edging.” It is only when we’re able to flatten the ski or board and release our edges that we can commit to the fall line. This is analogous to the ski or board being our ego or defense mechanism, while the fall line is the dichotomy of freedom and fun with the element of danger. When we feel danger or hostility, we highly engage our edges and resist their release. On the other hand, if we feel fun and freedom, we’re able to release our edges with ease and communicate productively.
One private lesson comes to mind, with a pre-teen boy who came with his dad for the weekend. It was clear that tension existed in the father-son relationship. The kid did not care for skiing, but dad had enjoyed it since boyhood. “Good luck with whatever you can do,” said the dad, with frustration. “I know he hates this, but I just need to take a few runs.” His son’s attitude was clearly “Skiing bites!”
As the lesson began, I just talked to him about this and that. He asked me how turns were made. I told him about applying pressure to opposite feet to go either direction. It was like a bright light came on. When dad came to pick him up after the lesson, the son was smiling and said, “Dad! The turns are inverted! They’re inverted!” Dad gave me a perplexed look, and I explained the gist of our lesson. He shook his head and said, “Well, that’s a little weird, but it’s something. I’ll take it. Thank you!” And just like that, skiing changed their relationship for good.
We Learn Much by Studying Our Tracks
Studying our tracks in the snow shows us where we’ve been, and what tactics we’ve used to get there. A beautiful, deep, rainbow-shaped track indicates a carved turn executed with patience, articulation, and high edge angles. We can look at our students’ tracks, analyze where they’ve been, and prescribe the best way to move forward.
This is what we need to practice in our relationships to make improvements. It may not be pleasant to go back and discuss the tracks previously laid, but it will pave the way for making better tracks and pathways in the future.
Learn to Read and Understand the Terrain
Professional instructors understand the impact of terrain choice on lesson success. The more difficult the terrain, the greater your role in ensuring the student’s knowledge of NSAA’s “Your Responsibility Code” and the cumulative skills needed to take on your chosen runs. “Old hills, new skills; new hills, old skills” is a fantastic teaching cue. This is analogous to “reading the room” in any given social situation so the behavior you exhibit is appropriate for your audience. We might refer to this as intuition, a sixth sense, or “things feeling heavy” in DEI-related discussions.
Another teaching cue that comes to mind is “Banks, hops, and tops build mogul skills for life.” The logic goes like this: If you stay in the banks, your ski tips or board might get stuck in the adjacent mogul. You can take the easy way out by hopping over the mogul altogether but could miss out on learning tactics to work your skis/board and thereby improve your overall technique. If you go over the tops of moguls while avoiding the banks and tops, the likelihood of air, speed, chatter, and an overall lack of control increases.
Just as in life, striving for balance is key. Physical balance is fundamental, but mental balance is also pertinent. The ability to use these skills – together and apart in varying degrees – is required to effectively navigate our lives.