By Susanne Martin
Fear is something that needs to be respected – listening to it can save you problems and in some cases, it saves your life. This is what Mark Abma, one of British Columbia’s renowned park skiers, told me in an interview earlier this season. He also said that stepping into fear is where he’s able to learn more about himself, about his sport.
To really appreciate this statement, you have to watch footage of Mark flying (you really can’t call it skiing) down a slope. Whether he’s making his way down an impossibly steep cliff, over rocky terrain or through a densely forested gully, you’re bound to hold your breath until he’s safely at the bottom.
To a certain extent, Mark makes his living by frequently venturing into this territory – he calls it the edge between his “comfort zone and a state of fear,” a place that would be firmly located in the fear zone for most mortals – and these explorations have been captured on screen for productions by RedBull Media House, Matchstick Productions, Warren Miller Entertainment and Salomon Freeski TV.
He says his ambition goes beyond entertaining armchair travellers. “I want to ignite that spark of creativity and the desire to go and try that experience.”
For me, I’m content to appreciate Mark’s mastery from the comfort of my armchair. But while I wouldn’t dream of trying to replicate these experiences – even thinking about it makes my back ache – his thoughts about venturing out of the comfort zone really hit home. It is possible to get too comfortable, I believe, to the point where personal growth stagnates.
Of course, we’re drawn to comfort, which might mean we stick to a familiar neighbourhood, surround ourselves with people who tend to agree with us, or choose activities that are familiar and easy to master. This may be a pleasant way to live but does it bring the kind of satisfaction that Mark describes like this: “When you ski that difficult run or go off that jump, that's an incredible high. That experience at the bottom of the run is hard to put into words. I had times when I had so much adrenaline and energy in me that I had to let out a scream”?
Another aspect that Mark believes relates to venturing out of your comfort zone is that it forces you to be “in the moment.
“When you are making those turns, you forget everything else that is going on in your life, whether it’s job, business, finance, all the things you’re usually thinking about. It’s really hard to be completely in the moment these days – that’s really what makes skiing so special for me,” he says.
This state of being is a source of happiness for Mark. He, in turn, has been an inspiration for me – a reminder to venture out of my comfort zone and embrace a challenge, even if it isn’t on a pair of skies.
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