Intellectually I always know, but my first lineup on the Monday of Presidents’ Week reminded me of the visceral pleasure of teaching people to ski. My job is simply delightful.
It was a beautiful day, and each person who joined my team was in a good, although for some nervous, mood. We introduced ourselves and as I interviewed each new arrival those who were there proceeded to get to know each other. Having explained in the beginning that I am terrible with names, one woman suggested I just go with coat color, and that became the inside joke as each addition managed to be wearing a different color.
This was a Green group, capable of riding the lift and skiing independently on beginner trails. All had expressed some form of ‘needing more control’ as their reason for taking the clinic. Because there were 11 guests, a second coach was assigned to help in case there were a ‘split’ in abilities. One significant factor in a group is the speed at which people are comfortable. Regardless of technical ability, it works best if no one is either constantly waiting for another or feeling pressured to keep up.
As I approached the lift, one of my supervisors brought a 12th member to the team. I rode the chair with her to hear her ‘ski story’ and assess how she would fit in the group. It was her third multiple-day ski trip, and she had taken lessons each time.
The top of Lift 2 at Sunday River has a headwall, a steep descent into Broadway, the most commonly used beginner trail. Most coaches take their Green groups onto the blue trail on skier’s left, Lower Escapade, which has a gentler slope at that point, and return to Broadway below the more daunting entry. I explained to everyone that we would do exactly that. Before even meeting the rest of the group, we lost #12, Silver Coat, as she negotiated onto the intermediate trail. We also lost our backup coach who stayed to help her.
Nine of the group followed me to our stopping point at a relatively even pace, and two were negotiating the trail well, but more slowly, when the cavalry arrived in the form of our adult supervisor and his posse. Another coach stayed with the two slower skiers. The 10 of us had a ball for the rest of the morning.
We disposed of the ‘control’ situation almost immediately, by skiing up the hill to a stop and realizing that is all it takes. We worked, as I have done with almost every skier this season, on learning what balance feels like. It was enlightening to everyone when I had them duck-walk up the hill, close their eyes, lift their poles and feel perfectly comfortable being on a steep incline, backwards. They could analyze how various body parts felt in this position and would be able to search for that feeling as they proceded across the snowy terrain. Most important, they would be able to tell when they were not balanced.
For our second run I took them to Lower Lazy River. Only two had skied on it before. As we stood at the top, I pointed out the first horizon line and described it as a ‘tiny cliff; nothing to really worry about.’ I told them we would be jumping over this cliff and needed to land softly. We practiced crouching down and jumping just enough to clear the snow. I went quite a bit ahead, jumped then bent low as I went over the imaginary line. And, nine people followed me to what they thought was a cliff. It isn’t of course, and everyone commented when they reached me that they couldn’t find the place to jump. We looked back at where the trail changed pitch, and the cliff was once more visible. Nine had not only trusted me, they had each trusted their own ability to control their descent enough to consider jumping.
Blue Jacket had the audacity to ask if it would be possible to try a blue trail. The other eight were game. We ended the lesson skiing Lower Escapade, and everyone passed my personal requirement for going higher on the mountain. The big green trails around the resort all have at least one pitch that is as steep.
It was a delightful beginning to my week home. The culmination, and by far my favorite learner, came on Friday. My main reason for working the times I did this year, along with being available during the company’s busiest times, is teaching my four-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter
She has been on skis, but only briefly, each year since she could walk. But, the younger the child, the more often he must ski to achieve body memory. Had we had more times last year, she would have been a skier, then. I wanted to be sure that I was the instructor who got the job accomplished, not only because she is my granddaughter, but because she is a two-footed skier. By that I mean she moves her feet independently. She walks, she shuffles, she skates on skis. She does not get in one position and slide. It is the reason it has taken longer, but putting a child who inherently moves like this into a wedge, as many instructors do, takes away their strongest skill.
We got the job done in December. Then she and her mother got season’s passes to Nashoba Valley Ski Resort, which is less than a half-hour from their home. They can easily ski for a couple hours after pre-school, and the frequent visits have let her vastly improve her mastery.
During the week before my flight to Boston, I got a call from my daughter saying she hoped I could get Georgie under control. She had been skiing in a nice wedge christie, but, now, had discovered both edges. She was flying around corners, and down the hill! In fact my daughter had paused to watch her that day, and then was unable to catch up. When mother arrived at the bottom, daughter was waiting, laughing with joy.
When I arrived, Georgie and I had a talk. I explained that it worried her mom, and me, when she went fast, because if anything happened, she could get more hurt if she were going faster. I told her there were two things I wanted her to know. Number one, always be in control. Number two, good going! This is payback for all the times I couldn’t catch your mother!
Friday started with more sunshine. Georgie, my daughter, and I were out by 8 to ski a couple hours before I went to lineup. On our first run we went to Whoville where I taught her the protocol for using the terrain park. She stood at the top of the minipipe, arm raised and called out “Dropping in!” Immediate addiction, as she swooped from side to side and tried to find the jump at the very end.
Grandpa joined us for one run, then I went to work and they played a little more before going back to the condo for rest and lunch. When I was through with my group I went back and took care of Georgie and her younger brother while their mom and dad had some skiing together. They weren’t gone long before it was pouring. Which did not shorten their ski time, of course, because once you are wet, you are wet and the skiing is usually fantastic.
When they came in a little after 230, Grandpa, Georgie and I went out for what she decided would be ‘one or two runs.’ We got on the chair for our last run, at least number 6, just after 4. There had been many trips back to the minipipe, and she was very impressed as her Grandpa went over a higher jump, the one that had dumped her mom the first time through. We skied Spectator under the chairlift with its natural minipipe in the second segment as well as many obstacles. (The Rules. 1. Do not hit a pole. 2. Do not hit a tree. 3. Do not fall off the trail.) We also took a trip over to Double Dipper, the first real trail she had skied in December, after we had walked up the hill from the Children Center’s skimobile stop some call ‘All the Way to the Moon.’
It had been clear when we left, and then misty. Eventually, it was full out raining. But, once you are wet, you are wet. And, the snow is lovely when it is raining. We stayed until we really needed to get back if she were to have any pool time. Of course, she was ahead there, because she was already soaked.There really is nothing like skiing in the rain. Especially with a 4-year-old grandchild!