For years I would often describe my first ski trip with these words: “I couldn’t ski when I got there; I couldn’t ski when I left; I had a lot of fun in-between.” During my first winter of college, I was at our favorite watering hole called “Moe’s and Joe’s”. Georgia Tech owned the tavern on weekends, but we had the deed on Tuesday nights. In 1975 the state drinking age was 18, Emory had no classes on Wednesdays, freshmen could not have a car, and I accepted a ride from any Sigma Chi who would invite me.

On a wintry Tuesday, around 10, somebody said, “Let’s go skiing.” “When?” “Now!” Between Moe’s and campus, I was instructed to borrow a coat and change clothes. Seven squeezed in for a 5-hour drive to Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Rather than knock on the dorm door of our leader’s friend at 4 am, we napped on the hall floor before eating breakfast in a campus cafeteria.

At Beech Mountain Ski Resort, I spent most of “Wonderful Wednesday” on the bunny slopes trying first to survive and then to stay up one minute. We all met for lunch and the other six invited me to the top for a group picture. The view from above was great, but I didn’t get that view in the photo. What I did get was abandonment on the “Upper White Lightning Trail”. The usual 10-minute run lasted almost 2 hours. I would wait for an opening at the side, ski across flailing arms & poles, fall down on the other side, work to flip my skis over, get up, and repeat. It became my last run of the day and the decade.

22 years later at Winter Park, Colorado I was taking my first lesson at the “ski improvement center” (they don’t call it ski school). I was taught to “ski at your own level”. There are many trails marked for your level of skiing and instructors to help you understand and experience your level before they guide you to move on to the next. The goal is to not get too far beyond your abilities AND the goal is to improve to move to more meaningful trails.

When have you experienced a community of hospitality that accepts you for where you are? Who have been your instructors and guides from the “spiritual improvement center”? Where can you go for assistance in experiencing your next significant trail?

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