Decompressing from the Grind: The Skier’s Solace

Posted by JD on March 4, 2013

Click, snap, snap, click, snap, snap: boots secured, lock and loaded. Exhale. Finally - work mode off, ski mode on.  Sustenance for my mental health is now in front of me in the form of a 35ski run, bumped up, inviting me to drop about 10 lbs. stress from my shoulders and engage in the challenge. It still occurs to me that decompression is not always easily achieved.

For me one of the more impressionable and instructive collections of literature is the Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway.  Hemingway - the quintessential man in full.  His literary doppelganger, Nick Adams, is Hemingway’s youthful self – back from the Great War and an obviously changed man seeking semblance of peace in the Great North Woods of Michigan.  Simple truths, beauty, and revelation spring from Hemingway’s pages.

hemingway   Hemingway - a man in full


This is the 25th year I have traded in the financial markets. From Sunday at 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on the following Friday every week of the year – money flows around the globe in vast, sometimes unimaginable quantities. It does so through decisions being made by people or increasingly by machines designed by people.  After weeks and months in the financial salt mines – it adds up – the pressure, the P&L expectations, the consequences of being wrong, and the decreasing euphoria of being right.  I carry stress with me now as a well-worn character trait as much as a by-product of my chosen profession. Like Nick Adams there are no tears, just attempts to re-fire the synapses of my consciousness and find beauty in the natural world. It’s actually a bold analogue of course to compare what Hemingway went through as an ambulance driver in World War I personified though Nick Adams to my career – but I now strongly identify with connection to the simple pleasures of the world, of truly letting go for a time – and trying hard to find the kid that still resides in me.

Unshackling yourself from a stressful profession takes complete buy-in. If your mind is only half in the moment, stuck in some problem back at work, it is unlikely you can truly de-stress.  I take my frustrations out on the mountain completely and wholly and the mountain reflexively gives of itself and gives me back those years sacrificed through stress back through skiing.  

Mountains - we spend our lives trying to move the virtual mountains that occupy our lives.  When in fact, the vastness, the stone cathedrals, the cirques of snow draped in a diaphanous white carpet below our poised skis lay bare the essential truth: we all are so small, so insignificant, in moments like these.  Oddly, I feel no diminution at those times; on the contrary, I derive energy and possibility coursing through my mind in the moment.

Release – in the truest sense of the world is the ticket to removing stress.  You are out of the office, your family missed a recital – big deal:  the world did not stop because you were not there. A lot of our stresses are real but more than a lot of them are self-imposed. We find ourselves again by skiing with our friends and families, lingering longer on the hill, and even longer at après ski. Insignificance on occasion has it merits – so it is in those moments that all of the worries of your career can be chalked up for what they are – not a lot – it takes a just a push away from the dock to be in the moment of skiing and discard the stress of yesterday.


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