Teaching--or trying--to teach three- , four- and five-year olds and the occasional seven, eight or 11-year-old how to ski gets me totally out of my head and it is EXACTLY what I wanted.
Even though the first four or five times I taught I had to do an anxiety release meditation on my Calm app before heading into work. Because I had no idea WHAT the fuck to do!
My tools? Stickers. Lots of 'em. I gave up on the kleenex. I mean, there is no point. No point at all. A dish scraper for scraping snow off the bottoms of boots. a long strap for towing kids up the hill if they're not ready to take the magic carpet all the way up to the top of the hill, edgie-wedgies, not to help kids with learning how to wedge but to make it easier to drag skis from the gondola to the magic carpet. A big plastic bag.
And a flask of Jim Beam.
Just kidding on that last one!
I start out each class filling out a roster--kid's name, age, color of his or her helmet, jacket and pants. I also take photos (see above) for back up. That's in case of a "free skier.," the euphemism for lost kid. So far, I have held on to all of mine.
There is always at least one kid crying. Big, gulping, full-throated sobs, tears and snot running down their faces. They don't care. They let it ALL out!
I am so jealous. I would LOVE a really solid good cry like that. I am like, kid, just go for it. And after class, can you do a little workshop for the rest of us please?
There's lots of ways to distract them. Stickers. Fairy dust (it's what makes the snow glitter). Throwing snowballs at the coach.Building snowmen, making snow angels.
I even do deep breathing exercises with them! They do it! And sometimes it helps! Hugs. Which I am not sure I am supposed to do but shit, man, some of them want it.
A good game of hokey pokey with a major," stick your butt in, stick your butt out, stick your butt in and you shake it all about" also works and it gets them to feel what it's like to move around in your boots.
One of my supervisors skied past my class during that one and was laughing his head off.
I barely put my skis on. I am doing lots of boot exercises, have everyone ski on just one ski--hey, it's what all ski racers do I tell them. Wanna train like a ski racer? Red Light, Green Light. Simon Says. Train. Fly down the hill like an airplane. Looking for snow monkeys. Looking for snow fairies. Another ski instructor gave me the idea of running in front of kids down hill holding a rubber snake in front of them because then they really WILL keep their eye on me and actually turn their skis without realizing it.
If business is slow I can take an instructor clinic instead of teach. I am getting the best ski instructors I have ever had and unlearning 40 years of bad skiing habits. For the past two seasons, I've been skiing like a chicken shit but now I am back in my element on bumps! I love bumps. They also terrify me. But when my dear friend Sally came, out to visit week before last, we did bumps and she said I was getting it! She and I are PERFECT ski buddies.
This is us waiting at the bus stop to take the bus to Park City Mountain. It is a three-block walk from my house.
I tried practicing coaching on her. I pointed at a mogul field and said, "Now that's the ocean and those are whales! So you go over the spine of one whale and come around and massage the side of the next whale with your ski and ...
Meaning you rotate your skis on the top of the bump with the front and back ends of free and then let the curve of the next bump help you turn your ski into the next turn. I think I have to work on that but since I am still trying to teach kids to do wedge turns, I have plenty of time.
Sally was very patient and a very good sport.
At least I didn't try to get her to do the hokey pokey.
Teaching is often Sysyphean. As in the day it was sleeting which meant that even though the magic carpet was running it was so icy that it just slid under the kids' skis. OMG, it was SO fuckin' hilarious. They just stood there and went nowhere. That's the day I just hauled them up and down the hill and we worked on walking like a penguin uphill. Or walking like a crab. "I"m crabby!" I'd say. And they'd toddle from side to side and sometimes they actually CAN go up hill.
There's lots of "I'm tired!" "Help me!" when they fall down (which is a lot). I do a lot of hot chocolate breaks and water breaks and potty breaks. I curse the parents who put their kids in overalls or one-piece suits. No. No. No. NO! They should make overalls and one piece suits. illegal for anyone under ten.
But then you're back outside and there are those glorious, glorious moments when a kid turns to you and says repeatedly, time after time and happily, "I love skiing. I love skiing! I love skiing!"
Or they successfully slide a few feet and they say with genuine pride, "I'm skiing, I'm skiing!" And they were SO HAPPY!
Those are unbelievable moments. I swear my cholesterol count must go down and my good genes must rev up and my white blood cells become even more effective because in those moments, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins flood through me.
There was the day my group pf Never Evers (as in never ever been on skis) included two sisters, ages three and four. The three year old was doing great then then, bang, melted down into nonstop sobbing.
I did snowballs, stickers, hugs, no dice. Breathing exercises calmed her down but she still kept crying. When I tried to take her in to the support staff so she could color with them, she held on to me and screamed. If her mother wasn't with her, she wanted me, even though she kept crying. We called her dad and a really dear, sweet support staff guy came out and hung out with her so she could see me while I ran up and down the hill with her sister and another four year old, who were ADORABLE!
The lesson was almost over by the time the dad got there so he hung out to watch the big sister. I'd take her and the other kids to do the top of the magic carpet. They couldn't even wedge but if I could get to put ther hands on their knees so they wouldn't fall backwards, and look at certain landmarks, they could actually turn.
"Hands on your knees," I reminded the big sister and she headed down the hill. I held my breath. She got all the way down without falling! "Yes!" I shouted, jumping up and down. "YES!" shouted her dad.
She did it three more times and then they headed off.
I looked skyward into the falling snowflakes. "Thank you, Jesus!" I said.
Then there was the day when another ski instructor brought me nine-year-old Lexi.
"She can ski the lift," he said to me, sotto voce. "But it scares her. So she fell. She said she was hurt. I had to call ski patrol. I had to fill out paper work. I had to have her dad come. The rest of the group is fine. Can you take her?"
"Of COURSE," I said.
He brought Lexi over. She looked at the rest of. the class--they were all four and five.
"I don't know," she said hesitantly. Her instructor looked at me. His eyes were pleading "Help me! Help me!" those eyes said.
"Aw, come with us," I said, "we'll just do a few runs here, you can get back in the groove."
The other instructor gave me a look of gratitude and skied off, pronto. I gave Lexi a new trick for turning. She looked at me with doubt. "It works, I promise you," I said.
And she went down the hill and turned. She looked at me with amazement. "I know! " I said. "I didn't think it would work either!"
She did more runs and kept turning. She looked at me.
"I think I'm ready for a new challenge.."
All of a sudden her original instructor was at my elbow..
"How's she doing?" he asked.
"She's ready for new challenges," I said.
"Perfect!" he said. "Let's go!" he said to Lexi. And to me, he said a fervent, "Thank you SO MUCH!"
That was another good day. Most days are a combination of good and bad. Sometimes I think, "Wow, I wish I would've been a ski instructor before I had kids, I would have been a much better mother!" And then a little later I think, "Man, if I had done this before I had kids, I might not ever have had kids!"
But those moments are really brief.
Well, gotta study my Professional Ski Instructor manual--I am trying for my Level 1 certification next month. Two days at Snowbird. EEEK!