Gaining the Edge in Ski Racing and in Life

It seems only fitting to talk about ski racing in the wake of the Erik Guay’s amazing silver-medal performance in the World Championships downhill in St. Moritz this past weekend.

As every ski racer knows, it’s the little things that can make the difference — the right wax on your base, the warm up lap to recon the course, the perfect edge on your skis.

Just recently I was brushing my son’s skis before the semi-finals of his skier cross race, removing the excess wax from the base. It’s the last step in prepping your skis, all part of the ritual of racing. I finished my son’s skis and then started brushing another pair, those of his friend turned close competitor. My son was confused; his friend equally perplexed. After thinking about it for a while, he asked with all the innocence of a 10-year-old boy: “Why were you brushing other people’s skis? I thought you wanted me to win.”

Indeed. What an opportunity to teach the concept of competing with grace, of being the best person out there on the mountain rather than the boy with the fastest time.

“Why wouldn’t I brush his skis?” I asked him. “If his dad was there and he brushed his own kids’ skis and not yours, how would that make you feel?”

It prompted a bigger discussion, not just about ski racing and not just about winning and losing.

This, I realized, is about a way of living life. And it was another reminder for me about the way we want to do business.

“When you are older,” I told my son, “no one is going to remember if you came first or second or third or even last in these races; all they’ll remember is how you acted out there on the mountains. Were you the boy who never spoke negatively about his fellow competitors? Were you the guy who was looking out for other kids if they were getting picked on? Were you the one who won with grace and equally, who lost with grace too?”

And it made me realize: I’m having the same conversations at home with my children as I am at work with my senior leadership team. These are universal lessons that apply on the race course at ten years old as in the school yard at eight years old and in business world as an adult.

It’s one of the reasons why I love ski racing; so much of what’s learned out there on the mountains is not about carving harder or shaving off time. It’s about life.

If your mantra is to help people around you with an aim to raise people up rather than tearing them down, I told my son, you will have a happy life. I guarantee it. The same applies in business.

If we’re trying, as leaders within the Gibbons organization, to help everyone around us find success and strive to do better, then we, in turn, are going to find more success as leaders in business. (More on this in my latest post here.)

Arguably, this is not an easy lesson for a 10-year-old to understand. Indeed, it’s no less difficult as you get older and jostle for a position in business in an increasingly competitive world.

But, like that finish line at the bottom of the mountain, it’s something worth striving for nonetheless.


Feature Image: Alpine Canada

Joey Gibbons

He has been throwing great parties in the mountains ever since he was in high school. Now, as CEO of Gibbons, he is showing the world Whistler’s magic. Joey is passionate about his business and about his community, always looking for new ways to fuse the two together. He knows there is no better place to work and play and raise his family.