Learning how to navigate life and the outdoors with a 1-½-inch leg length discrepancy doesn't prevent me from doing much. It just takes determination and special gear.
Thanks to a corrective orthopedic lift on my right shoe, I have even hips and my legs are able take me most places that I want to go. While my childhood didn't include team sports, my outdoor career picked up in my late 20s. With modified hiking boots, I fell in love with the mountains while training for my first backpacking trip. As the summer transitioned to fall and then winter, I realized I had a snowsports-shaped hole in my heart.
Overwhelmed by the complexity of figuring out skiing or snowboarding gear, snowshoeing was a legitimate option. I'm pretty good at walking and don't mind going uphill. I had warm winter boots and knew snowshoes were easy to adjust for a custom fit on my feet.
My first snowshoe trek was along groomed trails on an ideal bluebird day in the Northwest. I had a great time with friends and my rental snowshoes were comfortable. I was excited that I'd finally found a winter activity that allowed me to enjoy the mountains! I purchased a pair of MSR snowshoes and my winter weekends started to include cruising across trails with friends and coworkers. The next year, I started picking harder hikes. I also upgraded to MSR Lightning snowshoes, which are lighter and have a narrower frame.
For the past few winters, I've listened to people talk about how much fun it is to ski. I was still ambivalent. I'd need to go through a lot of effort and sink some cash to figure out gear to even try skiing. My legs are too complicated to just rent gear. To set myself up for success, I'd need to customize gear. It seemed like too much effort.
But one evening, a good friend convinced me over beers at a local bar. "It's an opportunity cost," he said. "If you never try, you'll never know if you'll love it. And what if you missed out on a chance to experience the mountains that way?" And that was it. I committed to trying. Last March, I started figuring out gear so I could be ready for this ski season.
As I type this, I'm sitting in the lodge at Crystal Mountain, anxious and excited while waiting for my first ski lesson. I awkwardly carried my gear up from the car and am watching people navigate the bunny slopes. Much like my first day snowshoeing, it's a beautiful mountain day. Regardless of the outcome of my ski lesson, I'm proud of myself for the months of planning and ski shop professionals who problem-solved to help me figure out a ski kit. Like most personal accomplishments, a long list of family, friends and coworkers have cheered me on during all the planning.
What new thing are you contemplating this year? Excelling at an activity you already love? Starting something brand new? Whatever mental of physical challenge you need to overcome, cheers to trying new things.