Training on snow for the first time after months of roller-skiing can be frustrating. As much as we’d like to pretend that those two things are totally analogous, they’re not. There are many little differences that add up to create a very different experience when you step into your skis and out onto snow for the first time. I am currently down in New Zealand on the Snow Farm, and I can tell you that — at times — training has been very frustrating.
The first speed session we had down here was one of those times. Speeds are generally some of my favorite workouts, but these ones did not go especially well. I felt lost at times and rather than the balanced powerful motions I aim for, I was skating around like I had banana peels under my feet. I wasn’t happy with how I had skied in the new circumstances, and as we headed into our off day I couldn’t help but feel a little slow.
Our off day was spent down in the nearby town of Wanaka where we rented a house on the lake. Around 1:00 in the afternoon, one of our coaches Matt, told me about the house’s great secret; there was a ping pong table in the garage.
I could try and tell you what happened next, but it was mostly a blur. What started out as a simple rally turned into one game, then two, then five. As our mutual inclinations to take things like ping pong just a bit too seriously fed off each other, the garage became suffocating. We began to sweat, so shirts were thrown aside, and 5 hours later, the total sat at 17 games to 17 games. We kept score with a bucket full of walnuts we had found in the garage. A game for me meant one walnut on the left windowsill, a game for Matt meant one on the right. We tentatively guessed we had played close to 1500 points, but I don’t really remember that.
What I remember was the feeling of having banana peels on my paddle. I remember struggling, and I remember Matt and I learning every single strength (our forehands) and weakness (our backhands) we had. I remember starting out with rallies that lasted 3 or 4 hits, and finishing with rallies that lasted a minute or more. I remember thinking I would never be good at ping pong and finishing ready to enter the 2020 Olympic Trials with Matt as my doubles partner.
After spending the better part of a week frustrated with my ability to find speed across the Kiwi snow, I had been reminded that sometimes, it is only through the struggle of trial and error that you can find your form.
When we returned to the Snow Farm, we had another speed session, and this one went better. Making the switch to snow can be awkward and slippery but this time, the apprehensions faded away and the metamorphosis back to a snow skier was complete.
Well, more complete anyways. If I learned one thing from our marathon, it’s that in ping pong or skiing, you never stop refining your skills; you only need the drive to go out and play. With that in mind; it’s a sunny day, the snow is fast, and I’m headed back out to play — but I’ll have a shirt on this time.