Most skiers consider fear a debilitating factor in ski progression. And there are many different fears involved: fear of heights, fear of speed, fear of falling, fear of failing, fear of fumbling or just looking foolish. But according to Kristen Ulmer it is not a question of getting rid of or conquering these fears but rather of turning them into useful assets and allies.
The 48-year-old former big mountain extreme ski star runs a series of mindset-only camps in Utah every season as well as heli-ski trips to Alaska. Her aim is to enhance a camper’s experience on the slopes through mindset rather than technique tips. “We don’t meditate, nor is it about therapy, it’s about getting to know what’s going on in your unconscious mind, and packs quite a punch,” says Ulmer. Day 1 is all about setting campers free from unconscious patterns that keep them stuck. Next day, different states of consciousness are experienced in order to discover which work best for each camper.
Entitled Ski to Live, the Zen camps are geared to intermediate to expert skiers or telemarkers of either gender, aged 14 and above. They kick off with an evening group session at The Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge at Alta, the camp’s hub. “This is an important first gathering to meet each other and set the tone for the experience,” says Ulmer.
On the Saturday, participants are grouped into similar abilities with their own guides for the first hour or so. “This is an opportunity to burn quick laps and explore technical questions,” Ulmer explains. Everyone then congregates at base where Ulmer leads an exploration of Shift: The game of 10,000 Wisdoms. “This game is a faster and more fun way to access where you’re stuck than say, sports therapy or mediation, and can offer a powerful perspective on a camper’s life they never considered before,” she says. The skiers ride the same lifts together, gather at the top and bottom of each run, yet each group will ski different terrain appropriate for their ability with their guide.
After communal lunch there are four different options: skiing with Kristen and exploring your mind further, skiing alone or with friends, going for restorative massages, or off-slope decompression time. A 90-minute facilitated evening event with refreshments is then followed by après ski and story-telling before dinner. “It’s a fun, wild ride and the experience lasts and shifts the way you experience not just skiing, but just about everything,” says Ulmer.
Under contract with Harpers and Collins, Ulmer, who was recognized as the best female big mountain skier for 12 years, is currently writing a book on Fear, entitled “My Love Affair with Fear”. Her approach to fear is diametrically opposed to traditional techniques, and, she says, it works brilliantly to alleviate stress, anxiety, irrational fear and more.