Tag Archive for: ski


Small Bites of Fear Each Day

This essay was originally posted on Medium.com.


I have started wondering why I like to ski so much. Yes, it is the beauty of the mountains, the fresh air, the social component, but it’s also because I regularly push myself. Every time I drop in somewhere steep or carve early morning turns maybe a little too fast, I take nibbles of fear. I’m not being extreme, just challenging myself enough to enter an alert state, entirely in the present.

You practice how you play, and you play how you live.

Why consume daily doses of fear like multi-vitamins? Maybe because, as a coach once told me, you practice how you play, and you play how you live. Practicing how to live alongside fear develops important muscles, the same ones you need to take any risk, to fall in love, to have a child. Traveling abroad and training for a marathon have been similar opportunities for me to flirt with fear. I credit facing those challenges with helping me write novels.

jeanne-blasberg-small-bites-of-fearI have been so enjoying keeping up with the Story Club with George Saunders. One of the latest editions of this online master writing class was titled “Joy, not Fear. Unless fear is helpful.” He writes of a peril in writing being “the disappearance of joy in the face of fear,” defining the latter as caution and the former as daring. And so as I think about that sensation to which I am addicted when I ski, the wind screaming over my helmet, it is a fine blend of anxiety and elation, and maybe it is my joy muscle that needs exercising.

Listening to a skiing podcast THE LAST CHAIR which featured Kristen Ulmer, the first and one of the greatest female extreme skiers in the world, I learned how she turned that experience into a career as a high-performance facilitator and a fear/anxiety expert. One of her pearls of wisdom was to rename fear, to be aware of a state of heightened excitement and awareness, and to not think of it as a negative, but rather to think of it as a superpower. Our relationships with fear, after all, define our lives and can stand in the way of happiness. She wrote a book called THE ART OF FEAR which is a deeper dive into the topic. And of course Lindsey Vonn’s RISE: MY STORY sounds like a great companion story, both on my TBR!

The winter Olympics have shown outstanding examples of athletes who consistently overcome…

Continue reading on Medium.com.

Thirty Day Challenges- Life as a Laboratory

Thirty days is the perfect amount of time to experiment with something new and different. How often do we look back at a month or four weeks and think, “Where did it go?” Thirty days is a long enough period of time to really accomplish something, while its short enough to convince your mind to stick with a little discomfort. Some people can learn a language in thirty days. I have even heard of some who have written a book!

Over the last several years my husband and I have conducted various thirty-day experiments. We woke at 5am every morning to meditate. We were gluten free for a month and tried various other diets. I swam in the ocean every day, and I wrote a poem or a letter to a friend every day on other go rounds. Some practices stuck, others were tossed out as no fun (see gluten free).

Most recently I conducted a thirty-day experiment in Utah… a self-induced retreat where I detached from my regular life. I planned to ski every morning, write the rest of the day, and go to bed early. First of all, let me state that I recognize how fortunate I am to be able to choose such a thing, but in various ways, big and small, everyone has the ability to make a thirty day change. In January 2017 we leased a house in Park City for March 2018, and it was a good thing we did it so far in advance, because for a period leading up to departure, I was filled with regret and doubt: a combination of having to decline fun invitations and worrying the snow wasn’t good, and then there was the underlying expense of it all.

A month can get committed away if the calendar isn’t safely guarded. That it is why it is important to plan ahead and create an intention around a thirty-day experiment. I’d always loved the idea of being a ski bum out west, and am actually considering it full time (ssh that’s a secret), so I tried the life for thirty days – bought a pass – and was the first one in the lift line to the point where the operators started to recognize and expect me. I’d always envied locals who enjoyed the liberty of skiing as little or as long as they felt like. It’s the opposite vibe of family weekends where we had only two days and we’d paid a fortune, so we were going to ski all out no matter what the conditions were.

I was excited the rental house was close to a lift, but it was the slowest ride ever. As the fresh air cleared (some of) my type A personality away, I used the time to meditate, or to just absorb the colors – blue sky, white snow, green pine trees. Despite a blanket of snow, birds chirped every morning. The clocks changed, the spring equinox arrived, and the sun grew warmer. The altitude was something I had to adjust to, my heart beating a little faster and my body thirsty for water most of the time. The landscape dragged me back to the basics.

Meditation on the lift was useful, but nothing forces me into the present moment like downhill skiing. When carving and picking up speed, there can be absolutely nothing else on one’s mind except where to make my next turn. Returning to my desk, it was easier to approach writing with the same single-mindedness.

My motto for the thirty days was simplicity: dress simply (long johns), eat simply (loved the burritos at El Chubasco), and enjoy being alone (with my dog). I experienced solitude while a vibrant town buzzed around me. And I made a brilliant decision while I was there – to do it again in March 2019!

Skiing: Powder Dreams

I’m just returning from seven days skiing in the Canadian Rockies, staying at the wonderful CMH Cariboo Lodge. If you like the majesty of pristine wilderness, the cleanest air imaginable, and mountains covered with blankets of virgin powder, this is the place for you.

Heli-skiing in British Columbia had been on my bucket list for a long time, so when the invitation came to join this trip I jumped. But as sometimes is the case with a couple, one person’s idea of nirvana is another’s anxiety. Even though John likes to ski, he is the king of the groomers and has two bad knees. And I wasn’t obvious candidate for this trip either. I’ve watched the ski movies and really liked the idea of heli-skiing, but we are primarily east coast skiers, raised carving on hard surfaces. But since we aren’t getting any younger (my reaction to a lot of things post 50th birthday), we set off for the land of light fluffy powder, alpine skiing over glaciers and plunging down steep chutes through the trees. John rose to the occasion, knowing I wanted to be here with him (we’d be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary, after all).  So for the six months before departure, we trained religiously, primarily strengthening our legs.  If being able to keep up with our group wasn’t incentive enough, we soon learned of the need to avoid tree wells and getting swallowed up by the infrequent avalanche.

Just as the prospect of this trip made us stare down our own limitations, on every run our guides and pilots had to strike a balance between risk and reward.  They wanted us to experience the best snow and skiing possible while keeping the group safe. We were all (forty people total on the trip) putting ourselves outside our comfort zone and placing our trust in each other. Traveling to a remote, natural environment where at least eight inches of new snow fell every day, getting in and out of helicopters 10-15 times each day (rotors spinning), we were all pushing ourselves.

On day eight I am happy to report that John and I are each in one piece (just getting banged up by Air Canada at the moment) but stronger and better skiers for the experience. We faced our fears and held our own: strapping on the fat boys and pointing the tips downhill.  And then there is the glow that comes from doing something I’d dreamt about for thirty years with my best friend at my side.

In EDEN, Sarah pushes herself and her family into uncomfortable territory by deciding to keep her baby, and planning to raise it herself. Life constantly challenges us to accept invitations into unnerving territory, but feeling discomfort is when growth happens.