At least once a year, a thread on TheSkiDiva.com discussion forum pops up where someone asks how to describe her skiing abilities to acquaintances, ski shops, potential instructors, and anyone else who asks. Usually, the discussion starts with a complaint that people with a Y chromosome are prone to exaggerate, and the discussion then becomes peppered with words like beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate (low and high), advanced (also low and high), and expert, with lots of blurring in between. At some point, someone will write that she’s an expert in one part of the country but advanced in another. Then another person will assert that a skier of a particular level skis a certain type of terrain whereas a skier of a higher level skis another type of terrain. Somewhere along the way, someone will point out that she doesn’t want to ski that type of terrain, so why should a higher skill level mean that you ski that type of terrain? From there it gets even messier. Cliff Notes version: One person’s intermediate is someone else’s advanced. Blech. I can’t deal.
I recently had to rate myself as an alpine skier for an upcoming ski camp. I
hate strongly dislike rating myself. For running, there’s something tangible and objective (if not aspirational) to provide. Skiing? Unless you’re watching someone ski, it’s just a bunch of words, from the skier’s perspective, and they’re almost always wrong.
Right before I went out to the Pacific Northwest in mid-2010, I thought long and hard about my skiing ability and how I’d express it to people who didn’t know me but with whom I’d want to ski, or at the very least, to those who would be mounting and adjusting my bindings.
I came up with “On the cusp of greatness.“
It’s intentionally vague and open to interpretation.
I realize this is not particularly helpful when placing me in an ability level for a camp, for instance, but the guys in the ski shop in the middle of August loved it. Then again, I was a woman in a ski shop in the middle of August in the northern hemisphere. Never mind.
What does it mean to be a skier on the cusp of greatness? Well, first it means that I know and ski with a ton of awesome skiers who rip. They’re the great skiers.
To be on the cusp means that – having spent my formative years skiing on the
Ice East Coast – I tragically suck in powder. It means I can pick my way done a lot of terrain, but it’s not always pretty, and at least one person has been known to pull out her lunch and eat it while waiting for me. It means that sometimes on steeper terrain my turns have no plot (no middle). It means that I occasionally brace myself with my downhill leg, rather than bend it. It means that I have to repeat to myself “Only one first turn” at the top of a run and on every turn so that I link my turns on steeper terrain. It means that I totally bite it on some groomers at the end of the day, when I’m not paying attention.
It means that I’m often pleasantly surprised when I see a photo or video of me skiing.
It also means that even though I’ve been assured by numerous people that I’m the right level for this camp, I’m still nervous about it, especially because at the rate the northeast ski season is going, my first day this season could be the day right before camp.
It means that if I ever have a season consisting of more than 20 days, I might get over the cusp and be one step closer to being great at skiing. (Or, maybe it’s just someone else’s idea of mediocre….)