By Sophie Gold
The shortest distance between two points according to the geometry we experience is a straight line. Galileo made a career proving this. That statement is not always true, but I am taking poetic license and we will assume it is. If you drop a ball from the top of an incline, aka a slope, it will naturally roll straight down assuming no obstacles or hazards along the way. I call the ball’s path its fall line. I like skiing and have come to appreciate the fall line concept through skiing. But the fall line idea is something that I believe applies off mountain as well.
My first introduction to the fall line arose when I was 5 years old. I was a Powder Panda in my ski first lessons. My instructor rolled an orange downhill and told us to follow it to the bottom of the hill. That orange always somehow found its way to the bottom safely. “Be the orange”, my instructor told us and I aspire to be that orange. Years of “following the orange” have taught me how to find and follow the natural fall line of the mountain without thinking about it. And that has made all the difference to my skiing.
The orange always takes the most natural and easiest path down the hill, and by following and trusting it, rather than fighting it, we can too. The central idea is that skiing into and with the fall line, instead of against it, makes for an easier, more controlled and more enjoyable ride. You cannot change the fall line, any more than you can change the wind, but you can change how you react to it. When the inevitable trees, moguls or other hazards arise, they are manageable and simply things to avoid rather than calamities. A mogul is not a problem, it just is. How I react to the mogul is an evolving story as some of them still trip me up and scare me. From my perch on the chairlift, I have watched the most graceful skiers dance their way down difficult runs. They don’t fight against the fall line; they make turns to control their speed and for safety but they are not fighting anything or trying to avoid the moguls. On the easiest groomers and the steepest bump runs, the simple truth is that it is easier to ski with rather than against the fall line. If you are a skier, think about that particular run your family does to get off the mountain. Some of you ace it, while the others struggle and dread it.
I’d like to suggest that the fall line concept is also true in most things, particularly those that seem to matter most to us. Going with the flow – i.e. accepting – the moguls and obstacles that inevitably arise and that you cannot change makes all the difference. If you accept the mogul as a mogul, not a good or bad mogul but just a mogul, you will have a more enjoyable run. Your reaction to the mogul is what matters because you can change your reaction to it but cannot change or wish away the mogul. So, be the ball and embrace the mogul; don’t wish the mogul be otherwise or that you are on a different trail or at the bottom of the hill already.
When I struggle or am out of sorts, often it is because I am fighting the fall line and not being the orange. I watch this play out all the time, and truth be told I can see it in others better than I can see it in myself.
A lot of people go through life wanting to change things beyond their control and wishing that circumstances were different. My dad wants to have big hair (he is bald) and dunk on LeBron (he can’t). Problems and obstacles will arise, but they are only problems and obstacles if you label them so and give them that power. Moguls are part of skiing. Skiing would be boring without them. But moguls don’t change the fall line and I can’t either.
So, when you find yourself staring down a steep and bumpy trail, breathe and look for the fall line. As often as not, the fall line is not obvious until you make those first few turns. But it is there and will reveal itself if you let it. For sure, those first few turns can be scary. You may be a yard-sale about to happen, but we’ve all had them, will have them again and survived to tell the story. But following the path of the orange is the way. When scared, say go and have faith that the fall line is always right and frankly doesn’t care that you are scared. Enjoy where it takes you because it’s likely taking you there whether you like it or not. You may, probably will, find yourself on some hills and trails that you think you cannot handle or just don’t want to be on. But if you treat life’s minor annoyances and challenges as nothing more than moguls you too can be the orange and make it safely down the slope.