Due to a combination of both human nature and our nurture, we are all “creatures of habit.” In both our professional lives and our leisure time, it is almost always easier and more comfortable to do the same thing today that we did yesterday, or last week, or last year. It is far less comfortable to take risks and venture into the unknown. Each time we repeat a pattern of behavior, it becomes easier to do so the next time, for better and for worse. If that behavior pattern is positive, everything is gravy. But when we form bad habits, it likewise becomes easier and easier to repeat the behavior, even once we recognize that it may not be ideal.
After 25 years of skiing, this winter has been my first season focused full-time on teaching others to how to ski. As such, I’ve had the opportunity to teach many dozens of first-time skiers, as well as many others who’ve been skiing for years. Expectedly, those who’ve been skiing for many years have much more deeply ingrained movement patterns, and consequently have a more difficult time correcting them. I’ve likewise struggled to correct my own bad habits, particularly my tendency to lean back on my heels, especially in deep powder.
In order to effectively change our habits, it requires more than simply recognizing our past flawed behavior. In order to break our bad habits, we have to actually replace them with new ones. And because habits get stronger with each repetition, it’s necessary to practice the new habits diligently in order to make them stick. As a fellow instructor likes to say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”
For my own powder skiing, simply thinking about not leaning back was not enough. Only when I learned to practice the cresting maneuver (sometimes known as “porpoising”) at the start of every powder line, was I able to retrain my body to stay centered over my skis in deep snow. And since repetition is necessary in order to make a good habit stick, it’s nice to have over 40 FEET of snowfall in Tahoe this winter.
With physical activities like skiing and snowboarding, movement patterns are fairly easy to diagnose. We can visually see the position and movements that our skis and boards make in relation to our bodies and the snow, and can even take video or photos if necessary. Non-physical behavior patterns, however, are far harder to diagnose and remedy. Take time management & procrastination, for example. It’s nearly impossible to observe an individual and say “you’re clearly procrastinating at this moment.” Yet procrastination is a very real bad habit, one that nearly everyone has experienced to some degree.
Beyond the physics of how we ski, our decisions for where we choose to ski are also determined in large part by our habits. From 2010 to 2016, I went skiing approximately 150 times. Despite the fact that there are 16 ski resorts in Tahoe, over 95% of my skiing days were spent at either Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows. This season, despite having season passes that allow me to access 6 of the 16 ski areas in Tahoe, I’ve spent 80% of my days at just one mountain, Homewood. To be clear, skiing at only one resort is not necessarily a bad thing. You may know your home mountain like the back of your hand, and it’s obviously more affordable to ski at the same place every weekend (with a season pass) than to go somewhere new every time. On the flipside, until you’ve tasted every flavor of ice cream, how do you really know which is your favorite? As such, we’re starting a new habit at Snow Schoolers this month. We’re calling it the Tahoe March Madness Challenge, and our goal is to ski all 16 ski resorts in Tahoe during the month of March. We don’t know if this has ever been done before, since it’s not exactly an inexpensive endeavor. But we’d love to welcome any of our fans or followers in joining us in the endeavor. We’ll be posting updates on our March Madness Challenge page, and if you’d like to participate, simply click here to sign up.