par·a·dox
noun
  1. a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
The safest way to ski is counter to human intuition, so it becomes a struggle for those of us who are newer skiers. We need to embrace what appears to be danger, and launch our bodies downhill.

Let's pause here for a second and picture the situation. We are on our skis, ready to start a run. Downhill from us is a slope that could accelerate us toward an out-of-control slide and injury, or worse. We know that. Our brain knows that. We are new, or relatively new, to skiing, so we still don't feel confident enough on skis. However, behind us, is what we perceive as safety: the hill. Land. Something to hold on to, and avoid sliding. So we fall back to the hill, away from downhill.

Now, you may wonder: how can it be that leaning downhill is safer? The answer is quite simple. It allows us to distribute pressure effectively along our skis and use the skis to control our speed, or even stop when needed. This is where instruction is so important. A ski instructor will teach us different techniques, such as using our edges to hockey stop, shave some speed, or, in favorable situations, control our speed by choosing a turn shape consistent with the speeds we are comfortable skiing.

In contrast, when we stay away from the downhill direction, we fall into what instructors call the "back seat.” The problem is that at that point, two things happen. The skis tend to shoot ahead fast, and then we have no way to turn them. With our body weight in the back, we can't edge skis for a clean (carved) turn, and we can't really steer them, either. The skis are now in the driver's seat.

Now, this is something that happens often, to most of us. However, the less we make the mistake, the faster we can progress into safe, fun skiing, and the more the mountain will open up to us.

Which brings the next question: what can we do, besides taking lessons?

I submit that the best we can do is to avoid terrain that is beyond our current capabilities. Cutting to the chase: we ski because we want to go around the mountain; ideally, we'll be able to go everywhere. But here is an unfortunate catch-22. If we slide down a trail that is too advanced for us, we'll fall into the back seat and acquire bad habits that will take a lot of training to eradicate. I know that well, as I am fighting with that myself.

Very early in my skiing path as an adult learner, I started to go to relatively steep runs. I probably felt that I needed to prove something by skiing on advanced slopes. Long story short, I wasn't skiing them — I was coming down them in a really ugly way. It wasn't enjoyable. But, even more regrettable, I acquired movement patterns that I am still working to get rid of.

My hope is that you are a little smarter than I was, so here are my two cents. Go out there, and have fun, but move to a more difficult run only when the current run feels almost too easy. You should be able to take that run, under control, at any speed that pleases you, with any turn shape you desire. Then you move on, and the next difficulty level should be close enough to the current one that you are still under control, but with some caution. Oh, and take lessons. Doing these two things will go a long way in enabling you to ski the whole mountain much sooner than if you try to rush it.