Living the Dream! And Words to Warm Any Mother's Heart
Updated: Apr 2
My view Monday morning as I got off the lift for another ski instructor clinic--8 am., before anyone else is on the mountain except the Ski Patrol.
I had to drag myself out of bed--I was still suffering from a bit of a Daylight Savings hangover. But I loved the view as I drove Gav and me to Park City Mountain--she to work, me to my workshop.
We got there, Gav went to have breakfast, I put on my boots, stopped to say “Hi!” to her as I walked to meet my clinic. She was in a restaurant called Harvest having what looked like a fucking delicious poached egg with spinach and Hollandaise. One of her coworkers was there too. And then I walked to the lifts and met Jason, the supervisor who was teaching our clinic, and Francesca, who is Italian, got her all three PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) certifications in one year!!! AND is an Olympian! Not in skiing! Sailing! What is she doing in this clinic? I thought.
We were headed downhill just a few minutes after eight. Four inches of fresh snow, we just did drills . I had asked about one of the five fundamentals of skiing that I sort of understand but don’t quite get.
And that is this: Regulate the magnitude of pressure created through ski/snow interaction.
As I understand it, the snow makes your ski move and this fundamental is all about positioning your ski to make the snow work for you!
“That’s really something that most ski instructors don’t really master until Level 3,” Jason said.
I’m going for my Level 1 next week.
So we practiced feeling the snow through our skis. But first, Jason stopped and looked around. The sun was glowing through a screen of clouds and snow. We were the only ones at the top of the run. There was snow gently falling around us. I had on the right goggles. It was a moment of exquisite perfection. A fleeting moment. Park City has gotten 57 inches of snow in the past seven days, another 16 is predicted to fall in the next four days. Jason is a supervisor and two supervisors had already called in to say they’d be late--delays on I 80 as trucks stop to chain up and traffic moves at a glacial pace. Two of the main arteries into Park City--224 and 248--are equally jammed.
But we beat the rush and had this moment on this mountain to ourselves. And while I savored this magic moment, I also tried to figure out how the hell to let the snow speak to me through my skis, boots, feet, ankles and legs.
Jason gave me the French words he had to learn when he first got certified back in the 1990s. I can’t remember them. But its all about letting your uphill knee bend and your downhill straighten, that your outside leg should be straighter at the belly of the turn, but both legs should be more bent when they’re right under you as you transition into the next turn
Francesca gaves me a tip. “Pretend that there is a glass ceiling above your head,” she says. That’s makes sense. It puts all my focus on my lower body responding to the snow and the mountain.
We tried a combination of a pivot and slide slip . I focus on rotating my femur in my hip to turn my skis. Results are mixed.
“This fall line is pretty unforgiving,” Francesca said, giving me a break.
I laughed. ‘That’s like whenever something you cook doesn’t turn out, ‘Oh, it’s because of the altitude,’” She laughed too.
“This is hard stuff,” Jason said. But he also said I’m starting to get it. Meanwhile, I was still trying to figure out why someone like Francesca was even in this clinic.
“You can soften your turns even more,” Jason said to her. And then I got it. She just wants to keep getting better and better. She’s an Olympian. That’s how she rolls. And she was really generous, offering to send me a link to a document she’s created to all the salient videos and guides that are on the PSIA website. Which, quite frankly, is very cumbersome to navigate. However, it’s main textbook, The Alpine Technical Manual, is beautifully and thoughtfully written.
We only got in a few runs. We had a hard stop at 8:45.
“Let’s have some fun,” said Jason before our last run down. “Show off a little, make everyone a little jealous because here we were already.”
And down we went. Usually I am the last. I am a very cautious skier, I keep hearing my endocrinologist’s words in my head, “Wonderful that you’re skiing! Just don’t break any bones.”
But on this last run down, I was right behind Jason, doing tight turns and totally and completely in control and just full of joy in the moment.
OMG, I am SO glad I’m here.
At the bottom, Francesca and I exchanged numbers so she can text me that document. And then I headed into Cole Sports, where Gav works, to try to demo skis. I wanted to ski exactly what we just skiied and see how the skis Gav’s colleague Rachel--who, along with her dog--spent three nights with us a few weeks ago., had already picked out for me.
I walked in and there was an instructor who had led an earlier clinic--Phillipe. He was marvelous. He’s an ex CEO type from France, said adieu to the business world 15 years ago and moved here with his wife and four kids.
“Is your daughter Gavriela?” he said. “She is wonderful!” He was so enthusiastic that he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the cash register to tell her that he had just told me how wonderful she was.
“You’re her mother?” the two people she was waiting on asked. “She IS wonderful! We came back today because she was so helpful yesterday!”
Now is THAT something to warm the cockles of a mother’s heart? And it wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet!
I headed out with the demo skis, did a run practicing those same drills, trying to internalized that feeling. And then, a couple of black runs with bumps that weren’t too bad were calling me. So I did Widowmaker and Naildriver. And I did “S” turns all the way down.
I left, reluctantly. I had to get my taxes done. I had to keep plugging away at Cured. I had to study for my PSIA test. And I had to update some social media posts for Planned Parenthood
So by 10:15, I was in the Park City Library--it’s just two blocks from the mountain--working away.
But I'd already had a full day of joy.