In a controlled freefall, I glide and curve my way over the surface of the mountain, barely touching the ground at times. On the open slopes, with the wind under my outspread arms, I feel like an eagle soaring over the world. Dodging branches and hopping over snow-covered logs in the sleeping forest, I feel like some primeval hunter chasing her prey. Off the beaten paths, I know where to find fresh powder – sometimes two or three feet deep – so light and fluffy that I cannot see my feet beneath me, and I am suddenly in heaven, floating through a cloud. All around me is silence and pure, sparkling white. I am as alive as I can possibly be.
It is no surprise that skiing and snowboarding are gaining popularity all over the world and have mushroomed into multi-billion dollar industries and professional sports. They are not merely sports or hobbies, but activities that bring us back to nature and enliven the spirit.
They can also be an excellent way to worship Allah (SWT). You don’t need to be double-black-diamond to lay back on the snow, gaze out at the horizon and be humbled by the overwhelming presence of Allah (SWT). I personally find in it a feeling of absolute, unparalleled freedom that I have found nowhere else. It can be empowering, as well. As you gradually gain mastery over your legs and begin to feel at ease on the slopes, you feel the joy of hard-earned success that can inspire you to succeed in other parts of your life.
Skiing and Snowboarding are the perfect sport for Muslim women. They are especially great for conscientious sisters, as one needn’t worry about sticking out or seeing haram everywhere you look. Unlike many sports, conforming to the tenents of hijab are the norm rather than the exception. Because of the cold, everyone is covered from head to toe, and the trousers are thick and baggy. Even a niqabi can feel at ease on the slopes with a nice, cozy neck gaiter pulled over her nose!
Winter doesn’t need to be boring for kids – get them on the slopes! Enrolling them in ski lessons will give them a chance to make friends, get some exercise, experience the natural world and make many happy memories. It also makes a perfect family day out or weekend together.
Skiing and Snowboarding as exercise
Skiing and snowboarding are an excellent way to stay in shape. Every day I go snowboarding, I return home with that pleasurable ache in my bones, the sign of a day well-spent. Skiing can improve your coordination, tone and strengthen muscles of the legs, thighs and back and build stamina. It also keeps your heart rate moderately elevated for 15-30 minute runs with rests in between as you ride up the lifts, which is the perfect cardiovascular workout.
How to get started
One thing that can be off-putting to potential skiers and riders is the sheer cost of clothing and equipment. The best thing to do is gradually upgrade as you grow and develop in the sport. Start by getting a decent set of snow trousers, jacket, gloves, helmet and goggles, which you can find used at very reasonable prices, but rent your board/skis and boots for the first few years. When you rent, you will have someone there to custom-fit your equipment for your body type and ability, which is a real blessing, especially if all skis and snowboards look the same to you. As the years progress, and if you decide you want to stick with it, you may want to consider investing in your own set of equipment.
You may be thinking that, as a beginner going a snail’s pace, what’s the worst that could happen? Believe me, bad things can happen. It is only by the mercy of Allah I that I am not paralysed from a spinal injury I received while snowboarding as a teenager. Beware of reckless skiers, wear a helmet at all times, know the limits of your ability and stay out of forbidden areas. These things are marked off for a reason; falling into a snow-covered stream, for example, will give you hypothermia faster than you can say “snow patrol”.
With that said, do not be afraid of falling down. Rather, embrace it as an art. It is only by falling down that we learn to pick ourselves up and do it a little better next time, insha Allah. Everyone will fall in the beginning and come home with a few sore spots here and there, but don’t let it discourage you. Just like when you made those first wobbling steps, after weeks of trying and falling, you were suddenly unstoppable, toddling (and still falling) joyfully into the big, wide world. No matter what your age, you can get the hang of it with a little practice and dedication and, before you know it, you’ll be soaring like an eagle too!
Finally, for all the sisters who live not even remotely near any possibility of going skiing or snowboarding, I want to say that it is my most sincere wish that you may get to experience, some day, the joys of skiing; maybe on a family trip or study abroad or romantic mountain honeymoon. The mountains are beckoning you.
Tara DeLancey Alomari is a part-time writer and full-time mum currently living in South Wales. She grew up in a ski resort town in Colorado, USA, and has been skiing and snowboarding all her life.