The ultimate proof that the acceptance of the now through Zen, and that the meaning of inner balance through Tai Chi, had moved me to a level
of skiing Id never attained before came on a National Standard Race (NASTAR) course. Three or four times each season, for several years, Id run timed NASTAR racing courses for amateurs. My usual result was the earning of a bronze racing through the flags, with an occasional silver for a particularly good run. Skiing Stowe on a weekend trip I decided to tackle NASTAR again. First run. Heart pounding. Heavy breathing. Float, I said. Carve those turns, dont fight them.

The starter waved to me. I leaped out of the starting gate. The poles flashed past.

I choked when I saw my time and heard the track announcer cry: Gold.

This was a goal, a level of skiing Id long struggled to achieve, and reached only when Id quit struggling.

A couple times ski instructors had told me to relax, to take it easy, but none had mentioned either of the two concepts that turned me into at least a low-level expert.

The first was accepting the Zen concept of mentally letting go. Of accepting how and where I was. When the mountain was steep I had clung to it with my mind. Only when I was told by a rather ordinary guru skier to let go did I do so.

The second was understanding and practicing balance on the same symbolic level taught in Tai Chi - not fighting for balance through strength, but flowing with an inner sense of balance, flowing with the trail, letting myself adjust to balance as a willow adjusts to the wind.

The more you understand and weave these concepts into the totality of skiing, the easier it will be to learn skiing, and to become one of those someones slaloming down the slopes whom the skiers watching from the chairlifts admire.

Its not necessary, of course, to study Zen and Tai Chi to become a skillful powder hound. Few of the dynamite skiers who cruise past you on the slopes do, though they unwittingly follow the principles of both philosophies. And, in a sense, they may have practiced the art of inner skiing that interweaves these two powerful forces.

When the yawning depths of a deep plunge on a double black diamond, or a mild plunge on a green run, concern you: Let go of the mountain. Put your faith in your skis. And, as you start sliding forward, flow with the trail, become part of the run, casual as a snowflake.

If youre curious about what you might learn from these ancient arts that would be of value in your skiing - or any other athletic skill or sport - slalom over to the nearest library or bookshop and peruse books on them.

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