Trust me, I’m a skier

Peter Brindley @docpgb

In this blog post straight from the heart, Dr. Peter Brindley shares a vital message that "Mental health is like dental health, it needs regular attention and prevention" and why we all should and need to make time for our passions amidst a busy schedule ...

Don’t get me wrong, I am thoroughly excited about visiting Birmingham and London for medical conferences in December 2019 (1,2). I know I am lucky. I am similarly confident that the science will be great, ditto the craic. I often visit the UK before Xmas, it’s just that this year I intend to pack differently. Alongside the laptop and business suit I will be lugging skis, poles and goggles. Not for the gentle slopes of the West Midlands or Greater London mind you, but instead because it is time to take a continental side trip. So, who’s with me: Britain for first rate science, followed by the mighty Alps for mighty fun? State of the Art 2019 , then check out the state of the snow?

I live in Alberta, Canada. This is a gloriously multicultural place, with room to breathe, and gentle foothills that lead to glorious Canadian Rockies. Given my proximity to beautiful, uncluttered and comparatively affordable slopes, a European ski trip may seem bonkers. However, if winter is the emotional nadir that statistics suggest, then despondency sometimes justifies decadence. Others will tell you that the last thing you, or I or we, have time for is a fancy trip. In this case, those well-intentioned ‘others’ are dead wrong: everything in moderation including moderation.


I have organised an annual ski trip for the last decade for a group of (rapidly) aging Canadians. It has continued even as members have conquered cancer, overcome divorce and announced changes to their sexual orientation. Within seconds of being en piste, everyone is the same, nobody regrets being away, and a mental age of 6 is more than sufficient. Moreover, while there is a range in both income and skiing ability, everyone is united in pursuing collective fun. In other words, you really can do this and you categorically should. Sorry for the reality check, but nobody is truly indispensable and your spouse will likely enjoy the quiet.

This year we Crazy Canucks decided to throw caution, and our wallets, to the wind. We headed to Japan, the land of the rising snow. A 12-hour flight and 16-hours of jet-lag was quickly forgotten because the internet was off, and we were nearly snowed in. These would be problems during everyday life, but a ski trip can turn things upside down, and right-side up. Regardless, the so called “Japow” (i.e. a portmanteau of Japan and powder) means you should point yourself downhill, park your dignity, and laugh when you fall over. Pretty good advice in any situation.

I firmly believe that nobody has properly skied unless they have apres-skied. After, uhm, extensive product testing, I can reliably report that Japanese beer, sake and whiskey are all world-class. There is also something cleansing about a proper daily soak. Just be prepared to “fully expose” yourself to the experience. After all, in Japan these were naked, shared and single sex baths. In fact, everything in Japan is a tad different, from the booze to the bathhouses, from the taxis to the toilets. They say you don’t travel to visit a foreign country but rather to return to one. Who knew that skiing was so cultural enriching. Who knew how much we really needed to get away from the everyday.

We returned mentally-refreshed and even more confident that being sensible is overrated. If this blog still seems fanciful then let me be crystal clear. Mental health is like dental health, it needs regular attention and prevention. It also requires the investment of time and a few quid. It can be expensive but it is worth it. I know from professional experience that you and I are far more likely to reminisce on our death beds about that “crazy trip” rather than that especially productive work day. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the cliché of you British is that you are not widely celebrated for your dental health, nor for welcoming advice from foreigners. Therefore, I offer this respectful prescription with full Canadian politeness. Moreover, if you’re unsure how to start then I suggest planning months ahead and blocking off the same week every year. You have heard my opinion, I just want to create time and space to hear yours. I enjoy science from behind a lectern; I just think the conversation is even better on the chair lift.




Peter G Brindley MD FRCPC FRCP Edin FRCP Lond
Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Adjunct Professor, Dosseter Ethics Centre Adjunct Professor, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Attending Physician,
Intensive Care Medicine University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton 2nd Floor, Clinical Sciences Building University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2B7
Phone: (780) 407-8822; Fax: (780) 407-1228