Chill out and hold your nerve

skijd'Kay Gill, of Red Shoes Coaching, is teaching others how to conquer their fear of skiing having solved her own terror of the sport she loved
skijd'Kay Gill, of Red Shoes Coaching, is teaching others how to conquer their fear of skiing having solved her own terror of the sport she loved
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You stand at the top of the piste, frozen not by sub-zero temperatures, but by your own terror.

Fearless children, all helmets and goggles, barely out of nappies hurtle past you like mini kamikaze pilots.

I've done it: Caroline celebrates the completion of a difficult run

I've done it: Caroline celebrates the completion of a difficult run

Elderly couples glide effortlessly around your hunched, trembling form and spiral down the valley in graceful arcs.

Despite your love affair with one of the most exhilarating pursuits on earth, and the charms of your ever-patient ski instructor, you cannot bring yourself to follow in their tracks. The mountain’s white-carpets valleys and crevasses, those snow-capped fir trees studding its sides; once they looked so beautiful, so Christmas card perfect; but at this moment, they now look like your death-trap.

Sheffield mother of three Kay Gill was that woman, brought to a quivering wreck by the key element of the winter holiday she so desperately wanted to be on; the skiing.

“Fear would root me to the spot. I would stand at the top of a run for anything up to 15 minutes. I couldn’t even explain why, or take in anything my husband and children were saying by way of encouragement,” admits the Sheffield mother of three.

But Kay cured herself 11 years ago - she can now ski black runs and go off-piste at any location in the world without a qualm. And what did it was a walk over burning coals.

A fire-walk changed her life so dramatically, she was not only able to conquer her irrational fear of skiing, she was able to take her life in a totally new direction.

She became a life-coach and set up her own business, Red Shoes, teaching individuals how to shape their own destinies, discover their strengths and overcome their weakness.

And this winter, she launched a programme aimed at getting scared skiers back on track.

Skiing with Confidence, a book and MP3 recording of relaxation and visualisation techniques with follow-up phone counselling sessions, has already helped scores of skiers around the world.

“There is often no need to spend more money on lessons to improve your technique,” she says. “The reason you think you can’t ski, or are going to injure yourself, is all in the mind.

“It’s likely all you need to do are some mental exercises before you even leave home.”

Kay learned to ski in 1989 at Sheffield Ski Village, before the family went on their first ski holiday.

“But from the outset I was petrified,” she confesses. “Every night before my weekly lesson on Sheffield’s dry slopes I would lie in bed totally tense, unable to sleep, skiing the dreaded slope in my mind.

“I eventually left the sticky plastic slope in Sheffield for the snow of the French Alps. The environment was stunning, but skiing on real snow was so much faster and my fear stayed with me .

“It was compounded after a bad fall. I injured a knee ligament and was on crutches for weeks.”

Anyone would expect her never to have ventured on a slope again. “But I’d discovered that I loved it, absolutely. In the mountains you are surrounded by absolute peace. When you ski, you focus so entirely on what you’re doing, you forget everything else. And the feeling of flying over snow and ice is utterly invigorating,” she says.

She went on a long string of ski holidays, determined to conquer her fear, yet never managing it. “I enlisted for countless ski school lessons, but never got any better.

“I would get so angry with myself as I stood rooted to the spot while people thundered past me from the ski lifts. I knew I was good enough to join them, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Then she signed up for a self-help course entitled Unleash The Power Within. Sessions built up to a firewalk: “The first step was the hardest. Logic tells you it should hurt, but you’ve been trained to believe you can get across the burning coals without burning your feet.

“I did it, felt victorious and from then on, my head changed the way I used my body.”

The experience led her to become an expert in human behaviour. Now 55, she is a leading life and confidence coach, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner and clinical sports massage therapist. And an excellent skier.

“A spin-off from my own personal growth and learning is that I overcame my fear and nervousness on the ski slopes,” says the woman who went on to gain a dry slope ski teaching qualification and help set up the Sharks Children’s Ski Club at the Sheffield Ski Village, which is still running, 21 years on.

Her son Philip became a member of the British Children’s Ski Team and raced for his country for a season.

Skiing with Confidence, her latest help tool, enables Kay to teach adults and children how forget their fear the way she did.

“Ski fear is a much more common problem than people realise. You can spot the scared skiers from the chair lift – they are stiff, with their tunnel vision focused on the few feet of snow in front of them,” Kay explains.

“My mission now is to help every one of those scared skiers.”

Often, a bad experience in their early skiing days is to blame: “Many of my clients have had a ski accident and are left suffering from nervousness, fear and a severe loss of confidence,” she agrees.

Others have been pushed too hard too fast. Kay, pictured right, said: “I’ve helped numerous people who have spent holiday after holiday playing catch up with people skiing much too fast for them, or were thrown into the deep end by some insensitive nerd before they were ready - and have been frightened ever since.”

Kay’s MP3 recording and book, 107 Stunningly Simple Steps to Overcome your Fear on the Slopes and Transform your Skiing, is £15.99 via Kay’s website, www.skiingwithconfidence.com or by calling 07970 773431.

A version for use on Kindle is £5.42 at www.amazon.co.uk

Mother rediscovered confidence on slopes

Kay ‘cured’ a panic-stricken mother of two frozen with ski fear just before she set off on her family’s trip to the French slopes last month.

Caroline, a 40s mum of two teenagers, lost her ski confidence back in 2007. Having taken her partner and her children skiing for the first time, she took the lead and encouraged them down the easy slopes.

But by the end of the week, everyone else was very confident and tackling things that she found taxing. Suddenly, she was being left behind. A fall off a lift dented her confidence even further. She was afraid of having a bad fall.

But her biggest fear was of being at the top of a run unable to carry on, while everyone else had got to the bottom and were waiting for her. She didn’t want to be holding everyone up and looking foolish.

As well as using the Ski With Confidence tips book and the relaxation/visualisation recording, Caroline, from Nantwich, had a 90-minute telephone coaching call with Kay just before her holiday.

Says Kay: “Before the call I asked Caroline to imagine being on a ski slope that would terrify her and explore her thoughts and feelings, then analyse how she would feel when she imagined herself of a slope she knew she could handle.

“She realised on a “happy slope” there was no inner critic, and started to understand what was happening to her body and her mind when fear overtook her. Awareness is the first stage to change.

“During the phone call we discussed tips on technique, uncovered her limiting beliefs and worked out how to handle her inner critic, the little voice that tells you why you can’t do something. I taught her a neuro linguistic programming technique called Anchoring while helps you to reconnect in your mind to a time when you felt really confident. Squeezing her ski pole grip three times enabled her to get back to that confidence zone.”

Caroline has since been on her family skiing holiday and contacted Kay to say: “I had a fantastic three days and remembered everything you’d said.

“Not only did I enjoy it, I also experienced the massive achievement of skiing down red runs. I’ve attached a photo of me, on a complete high, on a run I was always told was too difficult for me.

“Who’d have thought.”