Growing up, I was surrounded by kids in schools who talked about skiing and going to places with snow. I vividly remember coming back from winter break and sitting in a high school geometry course and having all of my tablemates tell me about their visit to Mammoth over the winter vacation.
I didn’t grow up visiting ski resorts but remembered hearing about them and wondering not only what Mammoth was like…but also what snow was like. As a young first-generation Latina from Southern California, snow was not part of my reality. I do remember making it to Santa’s Village in San Bernardino in the early 80’s and seeing some snow used to decorate the place.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I had that one “outdoors friend” who encouraged me to take a trip to Tahoe because she knew someone who could get us discounted tickets to go skiing. I was a working adult who could now afford the ticket to go skiing and to see the snow. So I did.
My trip to Tahoe changed my relationship with the outdoors. I took ski lessons the first half of the morning and skied the rest of the day. I didn’t pick up skiing easily and struggled quite a bit. Nonetheless, it put a genuine smile on my face. I loved being on the mountain and challenging myself to get down while gliding through the snow. I liked the snow and learned how much I liked skiing on powder. In addition to the physical joy it brought to me, it also allowed me to temporarily put aside all other worries, concerns, and distractions and simply focus on the skis, the mountain, and me.
That first experience has led to many others. I must admit that while I’m still not the best of skiers, I continue to enjoy skiing as much as I did day one – that hasn’t changed one bit. That experience also motivated me to try other outdoor experiences. So when that one “outdoor friend” invited me to Yosemite, I was happy to say yes to my very first visit to the national park.
My current professional and community commitments keep me very busy and I don’t get to ski as often as I would like (which could explain why my skills as a skier have plateaued). I do however think about what it means to give people the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a meaningful way for the first time. In my role as a School Board Member, I have been thoughtful about what it means to have students live minutes from the beach yet not ever have the opportunity to visit the ocean and hesitate going into the water because they don’t know how to swim. Or, how for some students in the school district, their sixth grade science camp experience is the first and perhaps only camping experience they will ever have.
Skiing changed my relationship with the outdoors and helped me think differently about outdoor experiences. While I may not ski as much as I’d like and still think about the costs associated with the activity, I don’t hesitate to find ways in my life or the life of others to experience the outdoors.
Monique Limón is a School Board Member for Santa Barbara Unified School District. In this capacity, she is part of a governing body that serves over 15,500 students.