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Psychology of Skiing: From theory to practice at Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado

Published: November 09, 2023

Author: Minh Do

The psychology of skiing is an interterm class which is only two weeks long. It is a little different from a normal class, is very experiential, has a wonderful learning environment, and includes a tremendous amount of fun.

 Psychology of Skiing: From theory to practice at Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado

Engaging in-class lecture

Students spend the first four days here on campus in a typical classroom. The readings of this class are primarily journal articles regarding the science behind sport psychology. Students will read some foundational research conducted by psychologists, trace the evolution of some of these ideas and learn the practice of sports psychology.

Sport psychology is the science concerning cognitive factors that either facilitate or hinder human performance. The mindset component of the course is applicable to any aspect in life. Sport is just an arena in which these ideas come together. Professor Eric Watterson has students visualize what it is like to be standing in skis, practice getting in an athletic stance right in class, and seeing how sport psychology comes into the thought process.

Experiential learning in Colorado

The second week the class heads to Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado for the experiential learning part of the course. Students get to enjoy hot tubs, good food, fellowship, skiing, and snowboarding in a spectacular location. The course completes the experiential learning cycle by having the students complete reflective writing and engage in reflective discussion on what they learned and did.

Keystone is a wonderful place to learn to ski or practice skiing. The facilities at Keystone are great for any level of skiers - from complete beginners to advanced skiers. Typically, students spend the first day in the beginner class, starting to get on their ski skates and gain comfort moving around. At the end of the week, they start to progress significantly and enjoy themselves completely. “As a group, we are very supportive of each other. We lift each other up, sometimes brush the snow off, and encourage each other to keep going”, Professor Watterson shared.

 Psychology of Skiing: From theory to practice at Keystone Ski Resort, Colorado

Take-away from Colorado

The biggest takeaway from the first week’s lectures is the mindset training for when students get on the slopes. This course includes a concept called self-talk, encouraging students to be aware of the running dialogue in their head. Professor Eric talked briefly about it like this: “Your voice talks into yourself, sometimes it criticizes yourself. Do you have a voice in your head telling you are not good enough, you should quit, or why should you try this at all? When you can get control of that voice, you can change the message and be positive about it. So, you can become your own encouragement.” A growth mindset with positive self-talk makes the skier successful on the slopes.

Last but not least, some words from the professor..

“I recommend this class to everybody. Yes, it is under Psychology. No, it does not count toward your major or general education. But the hands-on lessons are extremely useful. There is no prerequisite going into the class, and anybody who enjoys skiing and snowboarding, or maybe just enjoys the winter and being in the snow is totally welcomed to this class. Faculty, staff, students, anyone can go!”

Meet up with your advisor for Registration Clearance and register for Psych of Skiing - PSYC 173.01 this 2024 interterm!

Ready for your next steps?