Life & Learning to Ski

I think Cai is lucky, he has one on one ski lessons with an experienced outdoors person and children’s ski instructor – his dad.

More to the point his progression has been wonderful. First of all we spent a little time with him between my legs, feeling the way they went from side to side, experiencing his edges biting the snow and constantly being reminded of the mantra, “across the hill s-l-o-w, down the hill FAST>>>!” 

Next step was the hula-hoop, Cai inside it with me behind. This gave us a little distance, I helped him learn about rotational turns and his speed was checked. When comfortable with that we moved onto the magic wand, a 3 1/2 foot piece of dowel wrapped in duck tape to create 2 opposing cones and then covered in hockey tape to give it grip. This is a great tool as it is multi purpose, sometimes we ski side by side and I am able to accelerate him round the turns so he feels the forces of carving. It is also also a great safety rail when the chairs are lacking them and a lurk for him to pole on the flats. Along with this are the myriad of games we can play.

Armed with the wand we are able to drop into half pipes and he knows what it feels like to jump – he loves flying. Last year he hit a period when he was a little reticent, so we spent some time on magic carpet, to begin with he wanted the wand, however, after a while I was able to engage him in chase play. By being a crocodile I was able to come up on his outside shoulder and he instinctively turned away from me. By going from side to side we forced his turns and after a while of this he asked to go back on the “flying chairs”. On the way down he stated we were going into the terrain park, I reminded him that I was not willing to use the pole on the big jumps and he told me that was ok. It required commitment to gain the park as they had done a nice job of fencing and berming it off; he skied right in, turned and contoured the hill for a while while looking at the jumps, he then just turned down hill and “pointed them”. I watched him hit the first jump and pump his legs clearing some great air before he landed it and disappeared from sight. I had to skate frantically, wondering what Kimberly was going to say if he got hurt. By the time he hit the second jump his speed was outrageous and there was some hesitation, this time the landing was not so elegant. I came in below worried as only a parent can be to see a smiling face, “its ok dad, I don’t need the rescue rangers”.

That afternoon he overturned and started skiing backwards, he looked at me for a minute to see if I was going to give him the ok before deciding he did not care what I thought because he was enjoying it. He proceeded to do lovely turns all the way into the lift line.

So why is this so great? Well normally we teach a snow plough early in the progression. The call of “pizza, pizza, french fries” is a familiar one to any skiing parent. I struggle with this because we are teaching that control has to be forced. Rather than harnessing natural power, we demonstrate fighting it and all of this has to be unlearned later. If instead we choose our environment wisely, and learn patterns and laws of nature playfully we come away both far wiser and far happier. If having gained suitable understanding we intentionally surrender ourselves to these laws that is when we have optimal experiences.

How much of what you are doing at the moment feels like fighting? Is there a way to feel like you are going with the flow?

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7 thoughts on “Life & Learning to Ski

  1. Hats off to Cai! I went skiing once, fell down on the first run in the middle of the hill, several skiers whizzed past me several times (one even stopped and offered to help me up, I politely refused as I was sure I would regain my courage any second). I sat there until I HAD to get up because the sun was setting and my lift ticket was expiring. As I finally arose the entire crowd cheered as I actually closed my eyes and went down the rest of the way. I never went back.

  2. Dawne-Marie
    What a story! I am sure you have found other pleasurable ways to fill your time – I need to say though that while no activity is right for everyone, skiing is worth another try, especially if you get a good instructor. Good luck.

  3. What a beautiful moment…and captured within your blog. Brilliant. I’m a firm believer in experiential education. Having worked within the juvenile justice system and psychiatric fields, I’ve found nothing matches the power of nature when addressing our fears, self worth and ability to overcome obstacles. I learned to kayak as a result of working with children in a group home. Their willingness to expose their fears inspired me to challenge my own. I was there to support them, and in turn I learned from them. When my boat overturned, I wanted to resist and reach for the air. Yet I remembered what one of the kids told me…”If you don’t panic, you won’t drown”…not very comforting at the time, but it put things in perspective. Although I did not perfect my roll at that moment, I did give it a go. Well worth the effort!
    Your question hits the mark: “What feels like fighting?” While I was fighting for air, I made it difficult for myself. When I worked with “the flow”, I learned to roll my boat and paddle on…
    Thanks for sharing your amazing experience with your son.

  4. I keep trying the slope runs with crud snow messed up by others or my own inefficiencies. I never learned how to ski powder well so I always look for the groomed runs. Always wished I could float down the mountain.

    Your posts are insightful and refreshing. Keep them going and keep sharing. One of these days some of us might learn and apply.


  5. Jen
    From looking at your blog I can tell you are the kind of person that takes a statement like “don’t panic, you won’t drown” and turns it into. “Find your calm place, picture yourself coming out of the cockpit easily – I know you will reach the surface easily and feel proud of your accomplishment.”

    The kid was right – what I find as I age is being positive is “righter”.

    Thanks for the thoughtful and kind comment.


  6. MC Buzz (I love that Mike – you need to ask your students to address you that way.)

    Skiing powder is not a secret – you need to give up control and surrender yourself (to speed). Sit slightly in the backseat – smile – it will help you stay loose. Picture yourself floating, you will have no need to react because you will be in tune with your skis and your body will behave as it needs to.

    This is a good lesson for you Mike – think less – create images of successful outcomes more.

    Peace out

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