Cooper Ott's Dawn Patrol: Conquering Fears


Fear is a crazy phenomenon.  Some people are scared of spiders, snakes, or going fast downhill on mountain bikes.  For me it is skiing (both up and down) areas that are exposed, have risks of hitting rocks, or are steeper than my comfort level.  When I got the text from my friend Sydney a few days ago, asking if I wanted to ski Red Lady in the morning, I immediately responded "YES"!  Then I thought more about it and remembered that the skin track followed the ridge out in the open and the last time I skied it I froze in fear.  I thought about bailing but that seemed like the easy way out.  After pondering my options I decided it might be a good time to conquer my fears.  Which is much easier said than done.  But I was going to go, and it was going to be awesome.  


We left the trailhead at 6 a.m. and headed up the skin track.  My skins slipped a couple time in the first few minutes, which wasn’t very confidence inspiring, but with a little encouragement from Sydney, I kept going.  We made our way up the skin track through the trees, with only the sound of the snow under our skis and my labored breathing.  The sun slowly came up back lighting Crested Butte Mountain Resort and the surrounding mountains.  I think this is the most beautiful time of day.  


The wind was blowing as we made our way out of the trees and into an opening.  This is the first opening on the way up where you can get a clear view of the bowl. I don’t know if it is the fact that it is steep and doesn’t have the protection of the trees or if it is the feeling of being an ant in these huge mountains but something about it scares me.  It scares me a lot actually.  I could feel my chest getting tight and it was getting harder to breathe.  I stopped and reminded myself to take it one step at a time. After I take a couple deep breaths we continue on our way.  


I kept my head down and followed Sydney, and before I knew it we were at the top!  Geo, Jenae and Kelly are already there waiting for us (thanks guys!).  We assessed the conditions, our biggest concern was the wind slab that formed the previous day.  After talking about it as a group we decided that it was safe enough to ski.  I was shaking.  It could have been the safest skiing conditions of all times and I still would have been scared.  Being on top of a mountain makes everything seem so small and really puts it in perspective how spectacular Mother Nature is.  I watch as Geo drops in and skis to the safe spot followed by Kelly and then Jenae.  Now it is my turn and I am still feeling uncomfortable.  Sydney reminds me that I am strong and that I can do it.  After a couple fake 1,2,3’s like when you are trying to jump into cold water I finally drop in.  I traverse around some rocks and then its go time.  I am doing it!  I am really doing it!


I made it down to the group and am so pumped that I didn’t give into my fears and skied Red Lady bowl.  We watch Sydney ski and make our way down the rest of the bowl to the cars.  Its before 9 am and we already had an amazing ski adventure.  


As time goes on I realize that the biggest (mental) rewards are accomplishments made when i'm outside our comfort zone.  I don’t think I completely conquered this fear, but I definitely think I took a good jab at it today.  Happy snowy day! 


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