The thing I love the most about skiing is the sense of absolute freedom it gives me – I find myself on the top of a mountain with no need to care where I go. A sense of flow and tranquility fills my body when I descend the mountain and get into a rhythm; I know the skis and their response to the snow, and I know when the skis want to turn, so I follow its lead. In a sense, the skis and I become one. Even though every muscle in my body is being challenged to their uttermost, it feels calm and it feels right. That’s the moment when I’m truly in love with skiing.
My name is Thomas Bjarke Heiberg-Iürgensen and I’m a 25-year-old system developer for a Danish Fintech company. The reason I picked my particular job is because the company I work for has soul. My workplace is not a company for the board, but instead a company for the people who work there. It’s genuine, honest, and open – everyone cares about each other and about the work they produce. On the more personal side of things, I’m a vibrant life-lover who finds beauty in the smaller things and in the people that surround me.
I currently live in Denmark, and I love everything about it here: the latent understanding of humility and empathy, as well as the atmospheric coziness that makes up the core of socializing in Denmark. There’s so much love and joy in Denmark that I find it hard to imagine myself growing old elsewhere!
Outside of my job, I love skiing. It’s practically in my DNA – my father’s premise for marrying my mother was that she would learn to ski! For obvious reasons, this would later lead to a barely-three-year-old-me making the first moves onto the snow alongside my twin brother. Throughout this, the two of us grew very fond of the sensation of skiing, and the annual ski trip became the best week of the year. Our action/adventurous father would always drag us along wherever he reckoned we could make it, which evidently meant that we would find ourselves in everything from neck-deep snow to Le Mur in Avoriaz, which is one of the world’s steepest slopes. Since then, my interest never seized and I’ve taken every single opportunity to go skiing.
My friends and co-workers (the ski instructor ones) are what inspire me when comes to skiing. Whenever I go skiing, I always find people that truly love to ski. I try to surround myself with people who ski to have fun and get better; these are the people who motivate you to get better and enjoy skiing more. Some of these are hardened, elderly ski instructors who are 75-years-old, but they ski harder than most 20-year-olds. Other people I ski with are friends who can turn both a flat and a steep incline into a playground.
I used to be a hardcore equipment guy; I wanted all different types of skis and heaps of unnecessary equipment. While I still own thousands of dollars of ski equipment and about five pairs of skis, I’m now a simpler man. I only bring my giant slalom skis, some cheap ski poles, and my vacuum fitted ski boots (without a doubt, my best investment, ski-wise). On top of that, I always wear a helmet and a back protector – both have saved my life more than once, and I’ve seen too many get hurt due to a lack of this equipment. When I ski off-piste in areas with a risk of avalanches, I make sure to bring my ABS airbag and beeper to minimize the risk in case I’m buried by the avalanche.
Skiing is a very physically-intensive and counter-intuitive sport. Physical fitness matters a lot when you have to work the forces that apply to your body, especially when you’re moving down a near friction-free incline at 60mph with 6 feet long knives mounted to your feet. This means that in order to be a good skier, you need to have a strong body, from your legs up to your shoulders – strong arms are just bells and whistles.
While physical fitness matters a lot when skiing, this sport is just as much mental; there’s nothing intuitive about how you ski. In order to do a right turn, you shift your weight onto your left leg. In order to stay safe on a steep incline, you need to lean your upper body down into the seemingly endless void. If you go too slow, most of your technique stops to function as the centripetal and centrifugal forces become minimal.
Therefore, in order to become a good skier, you need to prepare yourself mentally and technically so that you don’t end up following your primal instincts, but instead follow your technique – this is why a big part of becoming a good skier is solidifying technique with practice and mental agility.
One of the favourite things to experience as a ski instructor is when your students clearly wish the ski lesson wasn’t ending. It’s a massive tribute to see the same love that I have for skiing spark within another person. A similar feeling arises when one of your students, who mentally had given up on learning before even getting started, suddenly start to realize that they are learning. They often never notice this until you literally tell them that they just skied down a slope much steeper and more difficult than the one they refused to ski yesterday. I like to believe that some of these old dogs know that they can, in fact, learn new tricks.
I think that the glacier Saas Fee in Switzerland has been one of my greatest skiing experiences, albeit I did go during the summer. Mornings till noon were spent on the beautiful white glacier, while the afternoon and evenings were spent trotting through the beautiful nature and city. When it comes to new places to visit, I hope to go riding some deep powder in either Las Lenas in Argentina or Hokkaido in Japan.
As for future goals, my most immediate goal is to get more courses done within my Austrian snow sports instructor union. I still haven’t finished my snowboard instructor degree, and I hope to do so within the next year or so.
I’d also like my existing company a little more profitable – I currently have a company that I founded with my good instructor friend. Together with Danish boarding schools, we design and construct a week of skiing with Danish-speaking instructor teams for their students. We then spend many of the first weeks of the year teaching boarding school students together with some of the most amazing ski instructors in Denmark.
I think that skiing has been a benefit to my technological career. The process of growing from a new ski instructor to a confident, experienced ski instructor has matured me as a person and as a part of the workforce. Constantly taking the responsibility of being assertive, giving clear instructions, and taking care of groups of both children and adults have given me resilience, a great sense of confidence, and a huge development of personality. It has also opened doors for me within the start-up world, where I got some of my first jobs and managerial positions – to this day, I still get offered jobs regularly.
In spite of my obvious bias, my advice to anyone interested in skiing is to learn it through an instructor, preferably with a group rather than a private session (especially if you have no prior experience). A good instructor can teach most beginners to be as good as a lifelong skier in five to ten days. And don’t be mistaken by the name “Ski school”, because it’s nothing like going to school – it’s fun, engaging, and empowering.
There is always more than tech. Everyone’s able to live a life without sport and skiing – the same goes for most other joys like tasting a fresh fruit from a tree, laughing till your stomach hurts, reading a captivating book, or terminating noobs in a video game. But to me, all of these joys are what make up the bigger picture.