Mazzuca: Ski rules for life |

Mazzuca: Ski rules for life

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of parties, celebrations, social gatherings with family and friends and, of course, the usual holiday good cheer.

So why is it that for too many people it’s a time of sadness, anxiety and loneliness? Why do so many of us enter the holiday season with great expectations only to realize that on January 2 all we are left with is a holiday hangover?

Perhaps balancing the demands of shopping, family obligations, parties and house guests ” combined with unrealistic expectations, fatigue and financial pressures ” contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed, which can quickly turn into anxiety, stress and depression.

How do we best manage these demands? Perhaps we can take a clue from a typical ski lesson and the precepts of mountain safety.

As a ski instructor, the first thing I do after introducing myself is to let the guest(s) know that priority No. 1 is safety. I then reiterate the reason we’re here: to have fun and enjoy ourselves.

With that in mind, each of us can learn something about making the holidays a little less stressful by drawing some analogies from the Skier’s Responsibility Code. So let’s take each of the seven points that make up the Code to determine how we can apply them to our daily lives:

Responsibility No. 1: Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. The operative word is “control,” and perhaps we can best control our emotions ” or maybe I should say “manage them” ” during the holidays by not creating unrealistic expectations. We should remember to pace ourselves by taking on only those obligations we can realistically handle.

With all of our holiday commitments, it’s vital to prioritize the truly important activities and be honest about what we can and cannot do.

Responsibility No. 2: People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them. While this may seem obvious, the word “avoid” is key here. Regarding the holidays, it’s always best to avoid overindulging, especially with alcohol, which all too frequently leads to feelings of sadness and depression.

Responsibility No. 3: You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above. Perhaps we can “not obstruct” a happy holiday season by resisting the temptation to put all our energy into just one event, i.e., our best friend’s holiday party,

Christmas morning and all the expectations that come with that or that “not-to-be-missed” New Year’s Eve dinner party. Rather, we should spread our holiday cheer from one occasion to the next and live to enjoy the present. This is especially true for those with children living at home.

Responsibility No. 4: Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others. So just how do we yield to others off the mountain? Well, maybe we should give thought to spending time with supportive and caring people, or perhaps by reaching out and trying to make new friends or contact old ones even if you didn’t send them a Christmas card. But most importantly, be sure to make time for yourself by allowing others to share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.

Responsibility No. 5: Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment. Anyone beyond the eighth grade understands that the holidays are rife with runaway emotions; so don’t set yourself up for disappointment by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past. If you are lonely, volunteer some of your holiday time to help others.

Seek out holiday activities that are free ” such as looking at Christmas decorations, going window shopping or just appreciating the winter wonderland we live in. And in case you’ve forgotten, there’s something truly magical about walking through Vail or Beaver Creek villages on a snowy holiday night.

Responsibility No. 6: Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas. While warnings are posted on the mountain, sometimes we encounter emotional warnings during the holidays, such as fatigue, irritability or insomnia.

When these warning signs appear, be sure to allow yourself to experience them and listen to that inner voice by slowing down a bit. Then again, you can be proactive and try something you haven’t done before, or perhaps celebrate the holidays in a different way. There are a ton of non-skiing activities in Vail.

And lastly, Responsibility No. 7: Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely. While this last suggestion may stretch the analogy, it’s nevertheless in our best interests to have the “knowledge and ability” to control our holiday spending.

Over spending can lead to depression when the bills arrive long after the gifts are opened. Extra bills with little budget to pay them leads to further stress and depression.

The holidays are a most special time of year; and spending them in the Vail Valley is truly a privilege. So allow me to close this commentary by saying have fun, enjoy yourself and, most of all, be kind and be safe. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Quote of the Day: “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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