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Something Really Small Changed My Life ...

We moved from San Jose to Truckee, California in 1996 in order to be closer to the ski hill. Our modest law practice was such that we could maintain it mostly at-a-distance. I had learned to ski as an adult. I really liked it. I was still just an intermediate skier, “working on my skiing” based on tips I read in ski magazines and a couple of books and videos. In other words, a complete ski hack. (Photo: mid 80's | Fran, the"Ski Bunny")

One December morning, I had gone skiing by myself. I entered the funitel (gondola) with a large number of men of varying ages. Two were dressed in instructor uniforms. As an avid reader of ski magazines, I noticed that there were some very nice skis being held by many in the funitel. I assumed they were “big dogs” and I was honored to just be in the same funitel. When we arrived, I went one way and the rest went another.

During my morning of skiing, I came to the top of an intermediate hill and stopped. I noticed that same group of men. But instead of showing me the prowess I expected, I saw them performing what, in my low level opinion, were movements that appeared to be what beginners did. I was confused. I stood and watched.

While standing there, one of the men in the ski instructor uniform skied across the hill to me and said, “I was wondering why you left. I thought you were with this group.” I replied, “No. What is this group?” The instructor informed me that this was a group of potential new ski instructors undergoing a hiring clinic. Ah – that explained the rudimentary movements. The instructor suggested I should consider coming out for their next on-hill hiring clinic. I looked at him, perplexed. He hadn’t even seen me ski and if he had, he wouldn’t be making this proposal. Why on earth would he bother to ski across the hill to talk to ME? I smiled and politely said I’d think about it knowing full well it was a ridiculous idea. Nevertheless, when I was done skiing, I sheepishly went to the ski school office and picked up an application for the next on-hill hiring clinic.

When I went home, I told my husband what had occurred. He laughed and said, “they aren’t going to hire you!” I replied, “I know! But I figure I’ll get some free on-hill tips during the clinic so …” So I did it. I showed up.

Based on what I saw even before we hit the hill, I confirmed how ridiculous this was. It had just snowed. Very little of the mountain was open. Now there was powder and I didn’t know how to ski powder. I hoped that we’d just stay on groomers, but that was not going to be the case. When we were on groomers, I was in my comfort zone and I could do some of the rudimentary movements. I made changes when asked. I did my best. Then we headed into powder on what was not very good coverage. After getting skis stuck in bushes, trying vainly to turn in powder, and struggling back up after multiple face plants, I was so relieved when the instructor said we were done. We ended before noon. Fine with me.

A hired list would be posted at 3:00 PM. If our name was on the list, we were hired and we needed to stay for a 4:00 PM meeting. I almost went home – I knew my name wouldn’t be on the list! But I didn’t. I hung around. And at 3:00 PM, I went to the window, embarrassed to even be looking. And, of course … each time I blinked hard or looked at it from a different angle, my name was on the list.

That was in 2000; I was 44 years old.



Looking back, that day was a QUIETLY pivotal day in my life. I say QUIET because the heavens did not open up with thunder. I did not have an epiphany. Nor did I “find my passion.” I didn’t say, “Oh! Here’s an opportunity, I must seize it!” I just showed up, skied, fell a lot, and got hired.

These actions were against everything I had done in my life so far. During most of my life, if I didn’t already think I could accomplish an end goal, I just didn’t do it. Just like when I was 15 years old and my mother ended my lessons because my piano teacher said I would never be a concert pianist. (Blog Post May 1, 2016). My unconscious take away from everything growing up was that if I was not going to achieve the top ranks in something demonstrably “worthy,” there was no point in pursuing it.

I think that my falling into that hiring clinic was a completely unsuspected turning point. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of things that have crossed my path over the years. But unless I knew an achievable end goal, I did nothing about them – perhaps didn’t even see them. Except this time, I did the opposite of what my brain circuits would normally tell me to do. In December of 2000, I did the opposite of what I had done my entire life. I just showed up with zero expectation. It didn’t even occur to me that I was too old. Maybe I was just the right age.

Today, I am a PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) Level 3 certified instructor (highest level). I work at a major resort (part time) and train other instructors. I work alongside some of the most talented in the industry in developing, presenting and coaching a 3-Day Women’s Summit for PSIA, for women instructors, ski patrollers, coaches and other professionals from across the nation. Now, I'm a "big dog" – go figure.

It’s not about the skiing. It’s not even about BIG things. Once in a while, you have to JUST SHOW UP.

(Photographer: Candace Horgan; Skier: Fran Tone | 2016)

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