Tag Archives: learning to ski

The boy can ski

You’d think my best memory of Family Day weekend would be the epic Fernie powder. Nope — it was watching Bennett finally link turns as he skied down Meadow, a green run off Deer Chair, following behind Blake with a huge smile on his face. It’s official: the boy can ski.

Bennett is excited and proud to be skiing!

Bennett is excited and proud to be skiing! Photo by Kevin Turner, taken at Fernie.

It’s been a long and slippery road getting Bennett on sticks. We began the journey two years ago, by making him put on ski boots and ride the magic carpet. We knew then that we couldn’t rush him into it; that he had neither the strength nor the co-ordination to master the snow plow wedge, or to steer himself, so we bided our time.

Look ma, no hands!

Bennett rides the Mini Moose at Fernie in 2012.

Last season we enrolled him in two private lessons at Canada Olympic Park, followed by a ski-and-play lesson at Fernie, for a learn-to-ski series I was writing for Snowseekers.ca. He learned about pizzas and French fries, and seemed to enjoy skiing, but he had no focus. After lessons when I tried to ski with him he gazed off in every direction but straight ahead, oblivious to my calls of, “Pizza! Pizza! Bennett, stop!” What’s more, after a couple trips up the magic carpet he would declare, “All done with skiing!”

The snow plow is painful enough with skis -- let's please not do it while parenting.

“Hmmm, what’s that on the ground?” Bennett wonders, looking every which way but straight ahead in 2013.

When your child had a disability it can take a long time for him to learn something that other children master in a day or a week or — as is the case with skiing — a season. Knowing it could take a long time, but committed to the idea of our family being able to ski together one day, we persevered. This year we enrolled Bennett in the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) program that runs over eight weeks at COP and that I wrote about for the Calgary Herald.

For the past six weeks his volunteer instructors have been getting him out, attaching a ski bra (a.k.a. edge-wedgie, which holds his ski tips together and makes it a lot easier for him to make a snow plow) to his skis’ tips and having him do laps on the magic carpet. After each lesson they would report that he was just going straight down with no pizzas, or he wasn’t into it, or he was too cold. When I snuck out to observe him he was in Lala Land, chewing on his mitten and not paying any attention. “What’s the point of this?” I was beginning to wonder. I felt like I was feeding my dream instead of attending to Bennett’s wishes (namely, to warm up and eat potato chips in the lodge).

COP ski lessons with CADS Calgary.

COP ski lessons with CADS Calgary.

But then in Fernie last weekend it all seemed to click. Instead of me skiing backwards down the hill facing Bennett, I turned around and told him to follow me down Elk from the top of the Mighty Moose poma… and he did. I told him to turn when I turned (and I yelled, “Turn!” every time I turned)… and he did. I told him, “Okay, we’re going to ski through those four coloured arches,”… and he followed me through them. He even stopped when I said, “Stop!” without running into me. (He still needs an edgie-wedgie, but I’m okay with that.)

So when Blake suggested we take him up the Deer Chair, I thought, “Why not?” With both of us there we could surely intercept him should he go careening out of control toward the trees, another skier or a chairlift tower. But here’s the thing: he maintained a controlled wedge while following behind Blake. He linked his turns. He stayed focused — it was as though needed a longer, more challenging run to stay on task. He even managed quite a long traverse across the slope back to the base. And the best part? Bennett smiled the whole time. Instead of declaring he was “all done,” he wanted to go up Deer Chair again (in itself an exciting journey) and again and again. Forget that powder waiting up in Currie Bowl — I’d rather ski Deer Trail with Bennett.

All those ski lessons are finally paying off!

When we signed Avery up for ski lessons at Fernie Alpine Resort four years ago, at age three, the day when she could ski with us anywhere on the mountain seemed a long way off. She was so little. Her skis were wee — she couldn’t even put them on by herself. And when she toppled over she was like that old lady from the medical alarm commercial: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

She fell. A lot. The instructor did a lot of heavy lifting that day.

She fell at age three. A lot. The instructor got a workout from heavy lifting that season.

But my husband and I are avid skiers and we want our kids to get involved in “lifesports” — activities they’ll be able to partake in their whole life and also ones we can do together as a family, such as skiing, hiking and swimming. So we persevered. Every ski trip meant some lessons, rewarded with runs on the bunny hill with Mom and Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of her fifth ski season and it’s amazing how good Avery has gotten. I just skied with her in Fernie for two full days and can honestly say we had fun (read: we did not do laps on the Deer chair). Certainly, I have had my fill of the blue run Power Trip off of the slow and freezing Elk chair, but she took me on new-to-me runs like Holo Hike, which passes through two tunnels, and I led her down new-to-her runs such as Sun Up and China Wall, two black diamond pitches in Lizard Bowl.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

In fact, it warmed my heart to watch her follow an 11-year-old boy straight toward the moguls on the south side of China Wall (the middle part had been groomed flat) and then watch her link turns down the bumps without missing a beat. At age seven, kids have no fear. It’s awesome (except when they tuck it down a rather steep and narrow slope and you are the one having heart palpitations). I also felt a glow of pride when skiers riding the chairlift would turn around to watch my pink-helmeted wonder trying to catch air off of little jumps. I am one proud mama.

After skiing, we did what any tired mother-daughter duo would do: hung out by The Griz — the cardboard cut-out version, not the slopeside bar of the same name. Indeed, that’s now the only downside to carving turns with my girl: it limits the apres-ski possibilities.

She is with The Griz!

She is with The Griz!

Come with me on a magic carpet ride

Almost everything I know about magic carpets I learned from the book Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? In the book, which I’ve almost memorized from reading ad nauseum, Elmo gets sucked up into the air by his kite, plummets into a pond and finally gets deposited on a magic carpet that waggles, glides, takes off and rides him to outerspace. 

In other words, magic carpets are pretty cool. So it’s no surprise the nifty little conveyor belts located in learn-to-ski zones at ski areas are called magic carpets. Basically, they are moving walkways that transport ski-wearing toddlers up to the top of the bunny hill. They’re like magic for Aussie instructors, who no longer have to tote crying three-year-olds up the hill for more parent-imposed ski lessons (“Aww, c’mon Billy, quit whingeing and let’s get a move on!). Ask any little kid what he likes about skiing and he’ll tell you, “I got to ride the magic carpet.” 

It's a kind of magic, for kids.

Since Avery learned to ski by doing laps on the magic carpet at Fernie, we decided it was time Bennett got in on the fun, without skis, of course (don’t want to rush things here). We lodged his feet into his ski boots, popped a helmet on his head and tried to cajole him into walking to the bunny hill. Since ski boots weigh as much as concrete blocks, he refused to budge. Blake carried him halfway there and he grudgingly walked the remainder, only because the magic carpet was in sight. Since no one appeared to be supervising, I hopped on the miracle munchkin mover and rode to the top behind Bennett.

Pretty sure a three-person pileup on the magic carpet is frowned upon.

At the top there was a worker sitting on a bench whose job, I gathered, is to make sure no little kids fall off the conveyor belt or get sucked under when they reach the top. He was also in close proximity to a red emergency stop button, just in case there is a kid pileup or some other magic carpet hazard (hard to imagine at a velocity of about three clicks per hour. Yes, it’s as slow as the airport ones).

Look ma, no hands!

Bennett rode up the magic carpet about four times before turning to me and saying, “I want to ride magic carpet, Mommy.” “We’re on the magic carpet honey. Isn’t this fun?” “No, that one,” he said, pointing quite clearly to the three-person chairlift next to the bunny hill. Even Bennett knew he had a way better chance of getting to outerspace on a chairlft.