March used to be the worst time of the year. Back in elementary and middle school, we had a school break in February. It wasn't every year that my family would take a trip out to Utah, but often, we would. We would stay with family friends, my mom would say that I was 3 years younger than I really was. and I'd ski Brighton on cheap day tickets from 9-4. Getting off the plane, hauling my heavy gear and suitcases, I could jump 4 feet in the air; I was back. Going to sleep that first night in my family friend's guest room was almost impossible. I'd always get up way too early, and have to lie awake for hours, waiting until I could smell bacon cooking to go downstairs, so that I wouldn't wake our hosts. Driving to the mountain, I'd be squirming in my seat, knowing what was just up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Getting out of the car, tasting the snowflakes, seeing the skiers and snowboarders sliding downhill, I couldn't help but run up to the chairlift with my skis. I'd get absolutely winded from the 8000 foot change in elevation. It didn't matter that my gear was old, or that the weather wasn't bright and sunny, it was the happiest week of my life without fail. Then, that week would go by at lightspeed, and I'd take the flight back to reality. There was still 3 long months of school left, seemingly no end in sight before summer.
I might be 24 years old now, but sometime between July and August, I usually find myself with that same, dejected, okay, we're back to normal, boring life, feeling I had as a kid coming back to Connecticut in March. "Crap, 3 months before the freedom of summer, and another year at least before more skiing." Only nowadays, there is no 'freedom'. Many of us who have worked full time since leaving our parents' house to support having a bare bones place to stay and a car to get around know the feeling. Night school every semester, and a full time job that you probably aren't in love with. I've always said to myself that if I lived somewhere without skiing, I'd have gone crazy by now, and each offseason, I can feel just how real that statement is. Friends are having fun during the summer, and sometimes you get to have some fun too, but most of the time, you're either working, studying, or trying to keep the life you've made together. Nowadays it can be easy to get sucked into endless scrolling of Instagram or other social media. Maybe you see some videos of college kids on daddy's dime having fun in some foreign country. Maybe it's an 'influencer' who seems to do nothing other than have fun on climbing/hiking/biking trips and eat at expensive restaurants. It's all reminders of a lifestyle that seems impossible to attain, yet is constantly waived in your face from the 6X3 screen in your pocket. Sure, there are other 'hobbies' you might enjoy now and then, but it doesn't compare to what comes around in wintertime. It doesn't seem right to call skiing a 'hobby' compared to those other paltry hobbies.
Dealing with 6 months of no skiing isn't easy. Personally, I fall into a funk for at least a couple of weeks. Other people can tell, and now and then they'll ask, "Hey, you doing okay?" Typically, I've always answered with, "Yeah, I'm alright." and conversation moves on. Anyone who knows me well can tell that I'm not really that alright, but they usually don't push the subject any further than that since it's clear I don't want to bring it up. Upon reflection, I can think of a combination of things that has me writing this article: the death of a prominent skier, mental health being a major part of the Olympic conversation this year, and my general acceptance of a normal level of depression being a part of my summer. The thing that has changed this summer for me, compared to summers past, is that when people ask that question, "You doing okay." I've been honest, and said,
Other people can help, and since this article has been nothing more than a rambling account of my own offseason, I'd rather end it with some advice on getting out of that summertime funk that I'd imagine many of you know fairly well. My personal recipe to get out of the offseason blues (Disclaimer, this doesn't work for everyone, and you should do what is best for you):
1. Talk to some people. Doesn't matter if it's a therapist, or a friend, or whomever, just let people know that sometimes during the summer you find yourself in a rough spot, if they're truly good friends, they'll be there for you. I've spent entire weekends wasting time on the couch or doing nothing more than browsing the web and feeling sorry for myself when I have free time. Talking to people helped me break out of those times.
2. Ditch the gram: Viewing the high points of other people's lives is a sure way to heighten the feeling of, 'wow my summer sucks compared to that.' In the past week and a half, I've gotten it off of my phone. I'll check messages there now and then on my computer, and have told good friends to reach out to me via text rather than gram. It seems to have worked pretty well thus far in preventing that cycle of scrolling and feeling like wow, that looks like way more fun than my summer which sucks.
3. Get active. Humans weren't built to be sedentary creatures. After the season ended, I found myself sitting in a chair at work, and then sitting in a chair some more studying in the evenings. As soon as I added a regular workout routine to my schedule without any cheating or skipping it, I felt better physically, which helped me feel better mentally. You are less likely to be injured when ski season starts again if you're working out too.
4. Recognize that you can't compare your own life to other people's directly. We'd all like to be the world travelling person who never has to work for real and can have fun all the time, but at the end of the day, you make do with what you have, and recognize that it could be a whole lot worse.
5. Plan ahead. I found that I'd consistently get into a spot where I either don't make plans, or try to make plans too late and people already have other plans. Then you feel stupid for not having made plans. It's much better to make a call on Wednesday to do something on the weekend and be a part of something than to find out on Friday evening that a group of people you know already travelled somewhere on Thursday night.
Again, this is just what I've found that works for me. It's not all sunshine and daisies, and sometimes I find my mind in darker places than I'd like to be. Would it be awesome to just live up at Mount Hood, or perhaps down under and ride all summer, or spend the whole summer tripping around, camping and jumping in lakes? Totally! Is it feasible? Not for most of us, and that's okay. Enjoy the good times you have, and work to find fulfillment and satisfaction in the life you live, No need to lament about the life you wish you were living that seems to be everywhere on social media nowadays but doesn't actually exist in practice. Eventually, skiing will come back, and it will be that much sweeter when it does. I'd love to hear some of your guys' methods for dealing with the lack of skiing and summertime blues too. Much love to all of you.