Not everyone has the good fortune to learn to ski, bike, climb or hike as a child. Sometimes it takes an inspirational figure or friend to show the way.
That inspirational figure could be you.
You may be an expert at outdoor sports, but your new friend may be more comfortable shopping than schussing. But just because someone might prefer crocheting to climbing, it doesn’t mean that he or she can’t learn to share (and love) your sport. It could be a housemate, a work colleague, boy or girl friend, or even spouse.
Someone who wants to be by your side on your next adventure, but never had was in the position to learn the necessary skills. But you can change all that. Sharing your love of sport through instruction can be that true gift that keeps on giving.
Remember that everyone experiences things in a different way.
And that the years of experience you have at a given sport actually counts for something. You may not remember how scary a first ski run, downhill trail, route or even ridge traverse might be, but realize that there’s a big difference between novice, intermediate and expert. While you may get a kick out of straight-lining down a steep slope, someone else might delight in slow, sweeping turns with plenty of stops to catch a breath and take photos.
First of all, don’t do it, but if you do, here are the rules:
Realize the responsibility
When you take your friend who is lacking experience out skiing, snowshoeing or riding, don’t forget that your role is primarily as a guide, not anything else. This means you’re responsible for your friend’s safety and well-being. It is easy to fall into the friend routine (where the stronger party wants to put his/her talents and skill in the best light possible, and the student doesn’t want to be a drag on the fun and pushes him/herself beyond a limited skill set—but that’s a dangerous combo.
If you are teaching someone, you’re the guide.
Don’t get frustrated
Learning is doing something over and over again. Mastery is takes time. Even the simple task of walking a log to cross a creek, or traversing a slope may seem as complicated as calculus to a beginner. Rejoice in the fact that you’re doing something together. Enjoy the silliness; the act of learning can be a lot of fun, with plenty of good-natured laughter.
Find out what your friend wants to accomplish in the timeframe you have. Does he or she want to become competent or an expert. Look at both of your expectations. Are you hoping to be climbing, biking, or ski partners, or simply have shared skill-sets that allow you to take a few outings a year together? If expertise is in the picture, consider signing your friend up for a few lessons to support the skills you are developing.
Don’t forget the culture
There’s generally more to a sport than the out and back. There’s the waxing of skis, the packing of provisions, and, afterwards, the celebration. Think about what you love about the activity. Is it hanging out the night before, sorting gear and sharpening skis or crampons? Or perhaps the last uphill push of a hut trip, then settling down for an amazing picnic lunch? Or the post-activity celebratory toast and recounting of adventure.
Focus on food
It’s said an army travels on its stomach. That’s the same with outdoor sports. Replace those stale energy bars that have been squished in the bottom of your pack all season for some thick fresh sandwiches and a thermos of soup.
Tough Love comes later
Remember, taking a friend, partner, sibling, or spouse outdoors is not recreating boot camp. This should be fun. Don’t pick an initial objective that’s scary, dangerous, or miserable. Try for a short, fun outing. Chances are that a successful first venture will lead to a second. And that’s the point.