I’m afraid of heights.
I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times here on the blog, but I’ve never given it much attention. Now that I’m writing about my skiing adventures in Québec, though, I feel like I have to.
You see, the reason I never went skiing before wasn’t because of my dislike of the cold or a fear of the sport itself, but because of my fear of mountains – or better, how high they are – and the lifts you have to take to get up those mountains. As a kid, I even stayed home from a week-long skiing trip with school because I was just too scared to go.
I was so afraid of heights that when, as a kid, I had to stand on the kitchen table so that my mom could shorten my pants, I would get dizzy.
Conquering fear of heights
I still remember the first time I realized I was afraid of heights. I was about seven or eight and I was on a weekend trip with my parents. We’d planned on visiting a castle, but to get there you had to take a cable car that ran upwards along the hill the castle was based on. The cable car was made entirely out of glass so that you could see through the bottom.
I don’t remember getting in anymore, but I do remember screaming all the way up. I still see myself huddled against my father (or was it my mother?), crying so hard I thought I was going to choke.
I was terrified and it was a fear that stuck with me throughout the years.
My dad has it too, so I kind of blame him ;-)
When we went to see the movie King Kong together we had to sit in the front row because it was so crowded. You know the moment King Kong climbs up on the Empire State Building and the camera looks down to show you how high up he is? We both got nauseous that moment. Not kidding you.
So that’s why I never went skiing. Just the idea of hanging in one of those cable cars along a mountain side… No, I couldn’t take it.
That didn’t change when I met my snowboarding boyfriend. If it were up to him we’d move to the mountains and he’d snowboard all day long. Luckily he didn’t mind keeping his snowboard vacations as “trips with the guys” and so during the first seven years that we’ve been together, I never followed him to the snow.
And then it happened.
An offer I just couldn’t refuse
As a travel blogger I sometimes get invited to places I wouldn’t immediately think of going and just like that we were invited by two ski resorts in Canada to test their slopes and other winter activities like cross-country skiing.
I knew I couldn’t say no to this. This wasn’t a trip to the Swiss Alps, we could be going to Canada!
It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to finally find out why Siemen loved the snow and the mountains as much as he did and, being the good girlfriend that I am, I felt like I couldn’t let that slip.
Already dreaming of conquering Canadian slopes, Siemen wholeheartedly agreed and so that was that. We were going to do winter sports in Canada.
Conquering my fear of heights in the Canadian mountains
I didn’t want to torture myself with some shock therapy, so I planned for us to spend four days in Québec City before we headed to the first ski resort, Mont-Sainte-Anne. That way I could get used to the cold and the snow before tackling the slopes… and my fear of heights.
Luckily, we had such a great time in Quebec that when the time had come to get my rental skiing gear, I was all up for it. Besides, I had a private teacher to myself for an entire hour and surely he wouldn’t take a total newbie like me up to the mountains, right?
Class started where I’d hoped it would start: on the baby slope. It was a piece of almost flat snow terrain, just hilly enough to teach you the very basics of skiing: slowing down and turning.
I slid down and to my own great surprise felt quite calm, in control even. It only took me two runs on the baby slope and my teacher Paul already took me up the children’s slope. Oh yeah!
Getting onto the children’s slope wasn’t hard at all. There was a magic carpet that you just had to slid on with your skis or snowboard and it would take you all the way up the hill (“all the way” being like 100 meters). From there the run down was a bit more hilly, but still very short and not high at all.
We worked on my technique and I learned how to properly zigzag to slow down as I descended the hill. I also learned to place my weight on the right leg and to switch my weight whenever I turned.
This was going great!
A little too great, even, because all of a sudden Paul pointed to the cable cars. “I’m taking you up”, he told me.
What? That hadn’t been the plan! Don’t they have a magic carpet going up the mountain? Like, all the way up?
Could I do this?
I was time for me to face my fears, to get over that fear of heights. Part of me was scared like hell, but another part of me was proud that I’d gotten the hang of skiing so quickly and wanted to move on to learn more.
To my relief, the cable cars were those kinds of bubbles that close entirely and I strategically chose a seat facing up the mountain, so that I wouldn’t have to look into the gaping abyss.
As I felt the cable car being pulled upwards, butterflies started flying around my stomach. I tried to keep the conversation with Paul going, mentioning about ten times how beautiful it was up there.
If only the car wouldn’t stop mid-air.
Luckily, it didn’t.
Fear of heights – me : 0 – 1
Safely on top of the mountain I felt like I’d just conquered the world. Not only had I skied, I’d also taken a cable car! Just a minor detail left: getting down the mountain.
Paul took me along the easiest slope and off we went. I felt like I was going so fast, but of course I was a snail in comparison to the other people there. Still, I managed to get down without falling once.
What a win!
I couldn’t wait to tell Siemen all about this. He’d been off snowboarding the expert slopes while I had my class and while I was happy not to have him look on while I was learning, I kind of felt sorry now that he hadn’t seen me in action.
Fear of heights – me: 0 – 2
There would still be time for that though, as there was another day of skiing planned for me at the Stoneham ski resort. A guide would take us around the mountain, but for my sake we decided to stick to the family slope. There was just one problem: to get to the top of this slope you needed to take a chair lift.
That’s right, no cosy, all closed off cable car, but an open chair lift.
When we waited in line to get on, I started feeling nauseous again. For me, this was something of another level. This was why I’d never gone skiing.
Our guide, Melissa, took my sticks so I wouldn’t have to worry about them while we were up I the air.
Honestly? I don’t think I would’ve even remembered I had sticks if she hadn’t taken them from me. I was too focused on not wanting to be scared.
In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I’d expected that I would’ve frozen completely. That I would’ve gotten hysterical or even that I would’ve refused to get on those chair lifts. Instead, apart from that irrational fear in my stomach, I was pretty fine.
The hardest part was the end, when you have to lift the protective bar that’s in front of you before you reach the lift station to make sure that you’ll get out of the chairs on time.
But the feeling I had afterwards? WOW.
In a few days time, I’d learned to ski, I’d taken a cable car and I’d taken a chairlift. Multiple times even! When I was standing on top of that mountain, the chairlifts behind me, I felt invincible for a moment.
The fight continues
I still need to work on getting over my fear of heights. It’s still there and I know I’ll have to face it again on future travels.
I also know that the ski lifts I took in Québec weren’t located as high above the ground as the ones in France or Italy are (thanks for pointing me to that, honey), but I still felt – no, I still feel – like I’ve accomplished something great.
I can’t promise you that this fear of heights won’t ever stop me from climbing a castle wall or zip-lining in some tropical forest, but I assure you that I from now on I’ll always try. I’ll try and I’ll fight if I feel like the experience is worth.
And in this case? It was so worth it.
Curious what me skiing for the first time looked like? Check out the Youtube video!
Books on how to get over your fear of heights
Where to stay at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham
We spent a few nights at the lovely Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne, right at the foot of the mountain, a well as a few nights at Condos & Hotel Stoneham.
Check availability, prices and reviews for Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne on Booking.com.
Check availability, prices and reviews for Condos & Hotel Stoneham on Booking.com.
Big thanks to Mont-Sainte-Anne for hosting us and giving me the chance to face my fear of heights and skiing. You can be sure I’ll always write honestly about partnerships like this. The links to Booking.com and TripAdvisor are affiliate links. If you book a stay through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!