The spirituality of skiing

Sofia Goggia of Italy in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill on January 19, 2018 in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Getty Images)

Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati wrote about “that pure joy you can have only in the mountains”. And as a keen mountain-lover I wonder: do the mountains have a special spiritual gift and can they really influence our spiritual life?

This may sound remarkably apt now due to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics: could they be also a spiritual event? I asked some of the world’s top skiers, who spend their lives among the best mountains on earth, taking advantage of the World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Sofia Goggia, ranked 3 in 2017 World Cup, is very clear: “I am always giving thanks, my heart is full of gratitude, since I think we should not take anything for granted. I am Catholic, even if not very practising since I am always travelling, but I search for beauty everywhere, I always prepare my eyes for beauty. I feel moved by the beauty that surrounds me and I won’t ever get tired of it.”

According to 2016 World Cup winner Lara Gut beauty is important but more important is “education and how I was raised: they taught me to appreciate what is positive, it was not just beauty of places.”

Nicol Delago connects mountains with sense of “freedom”, which is exactly what 2014 and 2015 World Cup winner Anna Veith says: “When I choose to run in a closed slope, going fast in downhill, while the sun arises from the beautiful mountains I feel a sense of freedom”.

The same freedom meets also “happiness” in 2017 5th ranked Federica Brignone’s words: “Being in the mountains gives me all what I need to be free and happy, it makes me think, if I am down it cheers me up through the energy of the mountains and of the sun. This is very spiritual, for me meditation is not standing indoors, but moving outdoors”. Anna Hofer says that “the moutains are a symbol of strength and silence. It is just me and nothing else, no noise”.

It is a very private matter, in fact Lindsey Vonn prefered not to answer my questions. Instead great ’90 downhill skier Kristian Ghedina gets very personal: “My mother died and she is probably watching me from the sky. I crossed myself and I prayed to have her help before the races, but I believe in what I see. In fact I have a primal relationship with my mountains, which I could never leave, and actually mountains are my religion”.

We may then let Saint John Paul II’s words resound: “these mountains arouse in the heart the sense of infinity with the desire to lift the mind to what is sublime”.