I felt a weird sort of anxiety and apprehension tonight; I went skiing for the first time since 2008.

It felt like going on a first date. Why?

For those who have known me since high school or college, my life at that time was defined by skiing. Skiing out west, racing competitively, skiing back country, off trail, taking ski vacations… it was simply a part of what I did.

The last 15 or so years have changed it. Becoming a pastor, getting married, having kids, moving to Iowa (very little skiing), and then moving to Florida (no skiing) all contributed.

Skiing has slowly faded from my identity.It went quickly when I moved to Florida since it simple wasn’t an option. I wasn’t too upset to trade year round summer for new hobbies. Running became my replacement.

(As an aside: this weekend at Beachside, one of our own Beachsiders, Drew, is going to talk about our real identities; suffice it to say that skiing was never meant to be a permanent part of me.)

But skiing never left my mind completely. It sounds odd, but I dream about skiing from time to time. They are always pleasant dreams, and I wake up slightly disappointed to realize I’m not actually skiing.

So here I am in Minnesota for school (pursuing my Doctor in Ministry at Bethel). After getting picked up at the airport last night, we drove past Hyland Hills Ski Area. Seeing it lit up, it occurred to me that I could actually go skiing while here.

It felt like going on a first date. Why?

I could go skiing again. I thought about it all day, and as soon as class ended I headed over. I felt oddly out of place. Whereas I used to feel completely “in” when it came to skiing, and I would silently, usually subconsciously, mock those who obviously weren’t dressed right, had the right skis, knew what they were doing, etc.

Today that would be me. I had to rent skis. I didn’t bring ski pants to Minnesota, of course, so I’d be skiing in jeans. I used to mock that. And gloves? Well, I have my running gloves with me… so those would have to do.

And I was going to Hyland Hills. Anyone from Minnesota knows it is the smallest ski area around, in a state lacking in vertical drops. It wasn’t like I was going to Mammoth Mountain in California.

But I was going skiing.

More than the attire, I was most worried I wouldn’t actually know how to ski anymore. And if I could no longer ski, a certain part of my core identity would be gone.

I rode up the first lift with optimism, knowing I was about to find out. I had my rented skis, with their dull edges, in a length I hadn’t had since the 1980s.

The newer skis, designed with a parabolic shape, are shorter. Whereas my skis at home are 210 CM long, these were 160. That’s just a sizing difference.

And guess what? I can still ski!

A couple turns down the hill, it felt like memory muscle was kicking in. I skied the whole evening and, sad as it may sound, it felt like being in one of those dreams.

But I couldn’t avoid being awkward or conspicuous. On one ride up I was with a couple teen aged guys. I started talking to them, and then tried to ask about the runs on the other side of the ski/snowboard park (with jumps, rails, etc.). I asked “On the other side of the ski park, is there free skiing?” (meaning, “is it just regular hill beyond that”)

They looked at me like I was nuts, and one of them said “It’s free skiing in the park too.” We weren’t even speaking the same language, and I tried to explain what I meant, and, well, we finally figured it out. They looked weirded out.

On another ride up, a ski patrol woman, upon hearing that I was from Florida, and seeing my rentals, explained the good deals they have on lessons, especially “if you’re in town for a while, you can buy the four pack of lessons.” Sigh.

It was a good night. Maybe next winter when I’m back I’ll do it again, but be a little more prepared.