By Barry Schwimmer
So last Thursday I dragged my skis, boots, leggings, etc down from the attic and headed north for Donna (and now Erin’s) annual yoga ski weekend. No we don’t yoga on the slopes or practice asana with ski boots on. Although come to think of it, I do remember Donna chanting something last year at the top of some particularly steep runs-but that’s a different story.
It’s a weekend I look forward to all year long. Everyone knows I love the Joint and rejoice in the warmth of the kula. Vermont is total immersion and I can’t get enough. The food, the wine, the laughs, and the love-it’s intoxicating (literally and figuratively).
When I headed north that night I was a little concerned about the driving rain and lack of snow between Westport and all points through Massachusetts. Would the mountain even be open? Would the skiing be any good? How much time could I spend in the hot tub? Would Donna remember to bring red wine? Magically rain turned to snow at the Vermont border and my head filled with thoughts of gliding down beautifully groomed, fresh snow filled runs.
Rain returned overnight however so the next day was spent between eating, talking, yoga practice and generally getting to know my fellow weekend wonderland participants (all women). It’s always interesting and frequently enlightening to be a guy in this situation. Women truly do look at life differently, have entirely different conversational patterns and it’s amazing what you can learn in a hot tub full of women who have had a few glasses of wine.
I usually enjoy these talks but even I had to leave the room a couple of times or impose some censorship when the conversation became immersed in the joys of childbirth or examined certain anatomical and hormonal peculiarities. (Ladies you know what I mean).
Friday turned to Saturday, the sun came out and I couldn’t wait to get on the slopes. Off we headed to Okemo (with some gentle prodding by me) and joined the throngs of people trying to enjoy the few open runs that ski operations had managed to salvage from the prior day’s deluge.
After a couple of hours we came upon a sign saying “AMP Energy Jump”. This was a short run with a 6-8 foot high ramp at the bottom and a giant blow up pillow in which to land after flying off the ramp. We all stood at the bottom watching several teenage boys on snow boards fly down the run, hit the ramp and execute some perfect back flips and twists before landing softly on the pillow.
After ten minutes of watching this exhibition I was dying to give it a go. Bear in mind that I am no teenager, an average skier at best, my back groans at even the mention of the word donurasana and I had never before done a jump like this. Nevertheless my buddy Taylor and I made our way up the ramp to get a closer look. All the way she was trying to “talk me off the ledge” reminding me that the jump might look like fun but coming home on a gurney was probably not included in the Good Commons amenity list and there might be an up charge.
I agreed not to go-for a minute. However, the jump’s ticket window was right next to the lift line and the next thing I remember was standing at the top of the ramp, handing some guy my ticket and having him tell me that all would be well as long as I went fast enough. Something about “speed is your friend”. So down I went, off the jump, in the air and onto the pillow. All bones were intact. So exhilarating. (Check out live footage here…Barry Ski Jumping)
And then I thought, isn’t this what the weekend and our practice are about? When we are on our mats we breathe and leap into new experiences, we embrace the unknown. For me it’s about the courage to embrace the new and unfamiliar and to be ourselves no matter what.
I look forward to this weekend in VT all year. It’s four whole days filled with the all too short 75 minute shots of practice we are lucky to get a few times per week. It’s an opportunity to truly “be on your mat” for four days and grow as much as possible even when you least expect it-like flying off a ski jump. So I just wanted to thank you all for giving me the wings to fly in this incredible moment. I am already looking forward to next year’s trip.