You Are Who You Are

Phil Smith, director of Snoworks discusses this one statement that can transform your skiing and reflects on his own experience.


Ski instructors are probably the number one reason why people do not improve, yep it can be true, along with friends, relatives, colleagues, other people and of course yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not their fault. We become paranoid about what people think about us. Yep, I know this as it happened to me. I loved my skiing, couldn’t get enough, then one day it started. I became nervous, worried, concerned. I thought people were watching me. Yep crazy stuff. My skiing started to go downhill but worst of all I started to not enjoy myself. I had arrived at the top of my career or so I thought, created a reputation for myself, sold courses advertising ski with the best, learn from the best. Yep it was my own creation. Then all of a sudden I began thinking people were watching me. I remember one vivid day, I had arrived at a local ski centre to train and I was thinking they’re watching me. Watching to see how Phil Smith skied. LOL they were probably watching the seagulls! It was my own doing, my own thinking. My skiing began going downhill and there was nothing I could do about it. Nerves had set in. Paranoia. I became stiff, awkward, robotic. I was skiing for others not myself, struggling for years, then one day it all changed with three words a fellow colleague said to me when I explained how I was struggling. “That’s a shame” she said. Yes those three words ‘that’s a shame’ changed my skiing forever. I thought yes wow ‘what a shame’. Since that day I have never worried about what people think about me, or what I think about myself, never worried about my skiing, how I skied and now I enjoy every minute of it. Whatever the snow, whatever the weather, whatever the terrain. Let’s face it, life is far too short to worry about such things and to be honest everyone’s got their own worries to worry about us.

The first thing I notice when I meet people to coach is how worried many people look. Crazy isn’t it. We book on a lesson and worry about how we will ski before we even start the lesson. Imagine arriving for a lesson as you. Not as someone else, as you. This is me, this is how I ski. It seems easy but very few people do this. We worry if we will be able to keep up, worry what the instructor will think about us, worry about what the other group members will think, worry we may hold the group back, worry about what we wear, worry about not improving. We worry during the lesson, worry each time we ski down. Especially if we’re the last one down and the instructor and the whole group is looking up. Yep we’ve all been there. Worry worry worry and then we wonder why we don’t improve. Just think of our potential if we could let all that go. Ski worry free.

I’m now involved full time in ski racing and it’s exactly the same situation. No difference. Worried about the result, worried about skiing fast enough, worried about coming out of the course, worried about what our coach will think, worried about what parents will think, worried if the edges are too sharp, then worried if they’re too blunt, worried about being beaten, worried about not winning, worried about sponsors, worried about coming out, straddling, worried worried worried. Do you think you will ski to your full potential with all this worry? Not a cat in hell’s chance. We are stifled, handcuffed, we’ve imprisoned ourselves and there seems nothing anyone can do about it. We are a prisoner of our own thinking. If this is you then it’s time to let go. It was me and luckily I let go.

Imagine how much money is spent on ski lessons and ski coaching in order to improve when the number one reason why people do not improve could be worry. Not technique, worry. Worry will not only hold you back from reaching your potential it will stifle your enjoyment and yes that ‘is a shame’ as skiing should be enjoyable. I say to our athletes and fellow coaches, what’s the point of all the training, all the costs travelling around, ski passes, accommodation only to stand in a start gate, worry and then ski far below our potential. The same thing going on a ski holiday. Pay for the flights, the accommodation, ski pass, equipment, coaching and then worry about how we ski.

Billions are spent on ski lessons across the globe every year. But people still fail to improve. Whereas others seem to improve with no effort and no ski lessons. How? Maybe it has nothing to do with technique. Maybe it has to do with this one simple statement. ‘You are who you are’ and ‘you ski how you ski’ and accepting this.

It’s takes an event to arrive at the conclusion and accept ‘who you are’ and ‘how you ski’. It may be reading this article or may be something else. For me it was those three words a fellow colleague said to me. Three words that changed my skiing.

How can you overcome all this worry? How can you accept who you are and how you ski? One technique I have found useful is ‘timelines’. We all have our own timeline that we travel along. It’s ours, not someone else’s. The biggest mistake is to try to jump timelines from ours to someone else’s. It’s so easy to fall into this trap as we all want to do well. Our timeline is unique to us. It has its own pace, its own direction. This does not mean taking your time, being lazy, being chilled, waiting for things to happen, it can but it doesn’t need to be. You can be highly motivated, have desire, work hard. It’s up to you. It’s more about acceptance. Accepting time has its own agenda for you. In a lesson it means skiing at your pace at your level and accepting this. Not only accepting this also being proud that this is you. As a ski racer it means racing your race not someone else’s. In the days of social media it’s easier than ever to look at others and compare. But you’re comparing a moment in history. Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year is different. You need to trust in your own timeline. The peaks and troughs and wiggly lines of your own timeline. Taking your journey not someone else’s journey, being on your timeline not someone else’s. Your time line is unique to you. It travels at a different pace to others. It moves in different directions to others. Embrace it, it’s yours.

‘You are who you are’

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
Oscar Wilde

Have you signed up to the Snoworks Newsletter? Receive all the latest ski news. Read interesting stuff. Keep abreast of the Snoworks Ski Course Programme.
Phil Smith is founder of Snoworks All-Mountain Ski Courses. Snoworks runs Ski Courses and Race Camps throughout the year where you can embrace these tips along with much more to become a competent ‘open’ skier learning to cope with everything the mountain throws your way.