Last week we went from Monday 8 February until Friday 12 February on our basic ski course trip, where we learned the basics of cross country skiing.
Monday we all left together at the university with a bus. We settled in the rooms, mostly divided in our tent groups/university housing groups. After that we went for the first time cross country skiing and there we learned the basics, such as walking with your skis, going up, going down. After Monday the days looked a little bit more the same. During the day we went cross country skiing, where we did a ski tour and learned some new techniques during the day. In the evening we had lectures, for example about first aid, equipment or waxing or we did a leisure activity, like skijumping, sledding and a colourful evening, where every nationality did an act. Friday we made with everyone together a playground in the snow, with some hills, pits and jumps. After a short technique course we went to play on our selfmade playground with a rotation system. To end the day we did a race down the hill and after that we went back home together with the bus.
The most obvious thing I learned are the basics of cross country skiing. In the beginning I found it difficult to learn, because I didn’t have any experience. The only experience I had, was that I did some downhill skiing six years ago. The first day I really tried my best to listen carefully to the explanation about the different techniques to start cross country skiing. It was fun to learn and I quickly realised that cross country skiing was a whole different thing then downhill skiing. The second day was really hard for me. I didn’t get a good hang of the techniques for making a ski tour, so I always ended up at the end of the group, because I fell a lot and couldn’t make a lot of speed. This made me feel frustrated and angry at myself. I didn’t want that the group had to wait for me and I felt that I was the worst person in our group. In the middle of the day I fell bad and hurt my knee. This made that my techniques became even worse then before. We did an adventurous way uphill, where I struggled a lot. When I finally made it to the top of the hill with some help from other students I was exhausted. Tim (our leader/instructor) came to check how we were, because we were a lot behind the group. He told us that there was another hill and I told him honestly that my knee really made all the climbing difficult and that I was in pain. He made the decision to go back down, more to the starting place, where we could practice a little bit technique and I could rest, when I needed so that I didn’t overload myself. He asked if this was okay for me and for the group. I was grateful that we went back down and was also grateful for my group. At this moment I’m also proud of myself that I could say that, but in that moment I really felt like a failure and still wanted to let the others and Tim see that I could practice some techniques with them. Someone from the group came to me and said it was okay to rest now and that I didn’t need to prove anything. These words made me realise after some time that I could have handled the situation better. I have to listen more to the limits of my body and don’t let my mind push me too hard to go over them.
During my struggle I really got to see the group dynamics. There were always people staying with me, even if I was really struggling. They tried to give me tips for my technique and motivated me, that I can do it and that it was okay that I was not the best at cross country skiing. Also when we went down to do a bit of technique training people kept checking if I was okay and said to me that it was okay to rest and take it slow for the rest of the day. I really appreciated that and it made me feel a little bit better. I could open up to them and share my feelings. Our group really accepted and joined the group rules we made in the begging of the course. The norming phase was in full swing. During the day I also noticed all the individuals in the group falling into one of the two common social roles.
The other days I motivated myself to really focus on my technique. After some time I got more the hang of it and felt that I used less energy to move. I also tried to stick to the beginning of the group, so I didn’t start at the end and could always let other people pass me, if I was struggling. I was glad that it went better and could more enjoy the nature and the people around me. There were some beautiful views and it was fun to get to know some people, where I didn’t really already had a connection with. A negative point about this was that I crossed a lot of people during little breaks to come back more in front. I was afraid to be last and hold everything up again. I also felt more comfortable in the beginning or the middle. After I saw other people do the same I realised that this could be annoying for the others, because I gave them a place further back in the group. This was selfish of me. I was also really task orientated. Normally I’m the person who is more socio-emotional orientated, but because I was insecure about my cross country techniques this part of me fell most of the time during a tour away. I really want to improve my skiing so that I feel more secure and can more watch over the group.
During this trip we skied most of the times of the tracks/piste and made our own tracks. I think both have some benefits. The biggest benefit I had on the tracks was that I could easily practice my technique but for the rest I don’t think you learn that much on the tracks. Off the tracks or in the wilderness you learn a lot more at the same time. You have to be more focused on your surroundings. You have to know where you are going, if it’s safe, what your surroundings and the sky looks like (upcoming storm?). You also make your own tracks what gives you a lot of freedom where to go. You can get to a lot of beautiful places or good terrain to practice a specific technique. Also if you fall, you fall most of the time softer because you are in deep powder snow and not on the hard track. During these days I also learned a lot of other theoretical or pratical stuff. For example what which tree is and if they can help you with something or give you an indication about the surroundings. It was also fun to do some navigation ourselves with the maps. I was very proud of myself that I could tell where we were most of the time quit precisely. I hope to improve this skill even more so that I can lead a group.
I also learned a lot more about group dynamics, because I saw it within the group. There were people who were more task-ortientated. They focused on learning the different techniques of cross country skiing and everything around that. Then there were also people who were more socio-emotional orientated. They focused on supporting the group members, for example the people who were a little bit slower or struggled a bit during the day. Some people also had both, but most of the time you saw one of the two take the lead. Because of COVID-19 we were divided in two groups around 12 students and 1 instructor who stayed the same during the whole week. We also had a strong leader (the instructor) all the time with us. I had the feeling that was one of the reasons we didn’t really go during this trip in the four stages of group development. We had a strong leader and we just started norming with the group rules we made in the beginning and then we went over to a kind of performing. I don’t feel like it was a really performing, because we didn’t go trough the forming and storming phase. We just followed our leaderfigure and the group rules we all agreed on and our performing wasn’t that efficient all the time, because we were all beginners of cross country skiing. We worked more individually than in a group. The aspect social loafing I didn’t really see during the trips, because most of the time you had to do an individual effort to set forth. Our instructor also was most of the time in front if we were off the tracks, so we didn’t have to make our own track ourselves (free riding), so this is also some kind of social loafing. But besides the trips and the cross country skiing I saw a bit of social loafing. For example when building the playground Friday, when loading out the skis or when cooking or cleaning. I have the feeling that I know bonded with more people and that the groupcohesion is a little bit better. COVID-19 makes this a lot harder, because we stay most of the time in separate groups so you bond more with your group than with the other groups. That’s why I really enjoyed the moments where we were all mixed, like during the skiwaxing or Thursday evening.
I really like how I this week got to know the concept friluftsliv better because I think using it in my day to day life and in my workfield is a real added value. I learned how to work with and use my surroundings and learned how to see all the beauty and the opportunities the raw nature can give to you. I also think that the raw nature can challenge you psychical and mental and that is a really nice way to get to know yourself better and learn with the different life experiences you get in nature. For example for ‘troubled’ youth and persons with special needs, but also just for myself.