There is no greater peace, no quieter moment than riding the first chair on Carpenter Express at Deer Valley with my husband. Cool and crisp is the morning air and each inhale may result in a exhale of seeing your own breathe. Floating free as we ascend up the mountain, it won’t be long until the thrill of my ski makes contact with the perfectly creative execution of the corduroy and I surrender to the fall line, knowing Marcel is skiing in symmetry not far behind. Each turn is a focused, moving mediation with ease aligning my body, slowly angling and countering as I release my weight below my one edge and trust that the ski will bite, engage and come around in the most satisfying clean carve. To share these unspoken, thrilling while relaxing and peaceful moments with my husband for the last 15 years has healed me. It has made me whole again.
On November 1, 2013 Marcel and I were in Los Angeles after our return from an amazing training camp with the U.S. Team in Hintertux, Austria for a few days of sun, relaxing and training with my strength and conditioning coach, Adam Friedman of Advanced Athletics at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach. We both remarked about the contrast of being in a tiny Austrian village in the Alps versus being in Los Angeles and how we couldn’t wait to get home to Park City and for Deer Valley to open so we could have the “schlaraffenland” (spoiled paradise) at our disposal for the entire winter again.
At 10:20 a.m., completely unaware of the horrific shootings that just took place an hour before at LAX airport; I innocently drove down Sepulveda Boulevard to Yogaworks to get in one more yoga class before our flight. Traffic was crazy, cars were at a complete stop which I didn’t find too unusual, it is L.A. after all. But when I saw people running into and out of the airport with their suitcases and five helicopters circling overhead I knew something big was happening. Somehow, I cruised easily in my car through the chaos and it wasn’t until I stopped in the Yogaworks parking lot that I could look up on my phone “news at LAX.” What I read stunned me. I don’t think of myself as having Post Traumatic Stress until moments like this when I feel triggered. Being in L.A. just a few miles from where my accident took place 18 years ago, the blur of the sirens, ambulances, fireman and police cars made me spiral into memories of that night December 19, 1995, where I too, was a victim and rushed to Harbor UCLA Level 1 Trauma Center and my life hung in the balance just like these innocent TSA personnel who were simply going to work. I was simply going out to dinner and my life changed forever. So would theirs.
Somehow I got myself upstairs to class, unrolled my mat, hugged all my fellow yogi friends who wanted to hear about my skiing in Austria and even got a special hug and kiss from our beautiful teacher Aimee, who did not know about the shootings. I did not tell her; I let class unfold as she planned I thought, what can she do with this information in this moment? She took us through a beautiful class one that focused on breathing and feminine energy. There were moments in my plank position that tears rolled off my cheek, onto my mat as I thought about the victims, all of them, including myself. I was overflowing with compassion and empathy.
Simply breathing, with a focused intention on the breath returned me to a place of peace in those 90 minutes. I was centered, grounded and calm just like I feel when I am moving in my meditation of skiing. I did to want to let that feeling go as I got in my car and tried to process reentering “the world.” I have to drive up Sepulveda Boulevard again, pass the airport and see if we are even going to fly today. The entire drive I prayed, I took in the chaos and handed it over to God in prayer. Life does go on, even after a tragedy, it’s how we move forward that matters.
As I tried to fall asleep that night I told myself to go to a happy place, imagine something and someone I love, anything to take my mind off of the horrible, senseless images of the day. What came to my mind was Marcel with me, on the first chair at Deer Valley, just breathing, floating and peacefully anticipating our first tracks. I felt myself filling with gratitude, with joy, with love and appreciation for the many beautiful things I have been blessed to witness and experience. Most of those moments involve my life as a ski racer and every single one of them includes Marcel.
I intended to write this month’s blog about our amazing trip to Austria and if they will let me write two blogs this month I will. I just had to share with you my thoughts, my feelings and my gratitude for the amazing life I am living and invite you all to come enjoy what we both know is peace…skiing.
Opening day is December 7, 2013 see you on the slopes.