An idea germinates in a family and grows rapidly until the idea becomes an obsession; then it grows into an undertaking that involves the entire family, and then the extended family. Something like that happened last year when one of my grandkids came up with the idea of skiing. They had never seen their parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles ski. It must have been a friend at school, or maybe the complimentary season pass offered their father as a result of a business negotiation, that sparked their interest. Whatever the cause, the idea caught on and I offered to help them out. My stepfather taught me to ski, and I had taught skiing off and on since I was in high school at Alta, Brighton and Solitude. I taught my own kids to ski when they were young, and I thought it would be fun to teach the grandkids.
One child cannot begin skiing without their siblings also learning as well, and the same goes for cousins. The skiing project grew to include four grandchildren with new skis, pole, boots, helmets, goggles, and clothing. I was in for a busy winter!
The youngest was Eliana, age 4, and her brother Connor, age 7. Then there was their cousins Dylan, age 8, and his sister Deana, age 16.
Eliana is a delightful, artistic type with very strong and definite opinions about appearances. What she wore and what other people wore was her primary interest. She has been known to change her outfit two or three times before going somewhere, where she needs to be dressed up. She picked up skiing quickly, but her main concern was what the other people on the hill were doing and/or wearing. She would constantly point to someone and ask, “Why is she wearing that? “or “Why is he doing that?” Eliana also loved to sing. At age 4, she could sing many children’s songs in tune and on key without missing any of the words, either at home or in front of a full congregation at church.
Connor is a boy with no brothers, two sisters, and 10 cousins. Of the cousins, 8 are girls and 2 are boys. Connor needs to defend his masculinity. He is accustomed to not doing what all the girls around him do. Connor is smart – he is always at the top of his class and somewhat aggressive. His birthday is in August. I have a September birthday and, having suffered all the disadvantages of being one of the youngest in my class, I had encouraged his parents to postpone his enrollment in school so that he would be one of the oldest in his class. Then he would enjoy all the advantages such as coordination and intelligence that come with being almost one year older than his classmates.
Dylan is a tech nerd. He probably would rather have been at home playing Minecraft on his computer, but he agreed to try skiing.
Deana is a dancer. She is tall, slender, attractive, smart and a teenager. She is on the school drill team, and can do things with her body that I could never think of.
I usually skied at Snowbird and had a season pass since ever since I got old enough for the senior rate. We all ended up at Snowbird on the Chickadee hill, which has a gentle slope and is a great place to teach beginners. Normally, I only use the Chickadee lift to get me up to the parking lot at the end of a day of skiing. Also, at the bottom of the hill there is a small area with a short, gentle slope and a conveyor belt about 50 feet long that skiers can step on and take it to the top of the slope. They could easily get to the bottom after attempting one or two turns, get back on the belt, and try again. The best part is that the area is enclosed. I could keep all the kids within shouting distance. As they appeared to master a turn, I could take one or two of them to the Chickadee lift while the others could stay on the belt.
I began with the fundamentals. I began with how to hold the skis, how to put them on, how to walk on level ground in skis, how to fall and how to get up. It was not easy to keep them from going down the hill out of control before they learned how to turn, but I did manage to show them the snowplow and even how to use it to turn. It would have been so nice if they would all stay in a straight line and pay attention while each one attempted a turn.
Being the grandpa, I did not have the control, nor could I demand the discipline, that comes with the authority (and accompanying special parka) of a professional, certified instructor to whom mom and dad paid big dollars. I could not keep them on the top of the hill, let alone in line. Once they thought they could turn, I lost control. Some went their own way, and all I could do is try to direct them to the area with the conveyor belt.
The younger kids picked it up faster than the older kids, probably because they had no fear. Eliana picked it up quickly once she began to pay attention to skiing. The first time I took her on the lift, she got on ok, and I tried to explain what she was to do when it was time to get off at the top. When we reached the off ramp at the top, she was looking over her shoulder and her skis were turned crosswise. She fell and as I tried not to step on her, I could not get out of the chair. I continued in the chair until I hit the bar that stops the lift. When I asked her why she was looking over her shoulder instead of getting of the chair, she replied, “I was looking at people.”
As a dancer, skiing came naturally to Deana. I likened skiing to dancing and taught her to rhythmically move her weight from one ski to the other. She did not like the snowplow, probably because it looked to undignified, so I started her out on parallel turns first thing. On her first trip down the hill, she was doing parallel turns.
Dylan and Deana’s dad was an accomplished skier and was there with us, so when he saw that his kids had caught on to the basics and could ski in control after just a few runs, he took over and skied with them while I was left with the two younger kids, Eliana and Connor.
We spent one or two more days on the Chickadee lift, and then it was time to try the big lifts. Connor had a season pass and Eliana was young enough that a day pass was free. School got out at noon on Fridays, so the next Friday I picked up the kids to go skiing after Connor got out of school.
Eliana could turn when she needed to, but she preferred to just get in the snowplow and continue straight down the hill without turning. Sometimes she scared me when the hill was steep and she reach what I thought were excessive speeds. Connor was even more aggressive and had a hard time waiting for Eliana who would have stopped to smell the flowers if there were any. The first couple of runs Connor waited for Eliana and me, but his patience waned and the second run he was off on his own. We looked for him for a while, but he was nowhere to be found. We had been riding the Mid Gad lift and had been talking about trying the Baby Thunder lift, but I was not sure if Connor had gone there. I wanted to stay on the lift we had been riding in case Connor was looking for us there. I asked the Ski Patrol to help find Connor. After an hour or so, I was sitting on the porch of the lodge talking on the phone to Connor’s mother telling her I had lost her son, when I saw him getting in the lift line of the Mid Gad lift. I immediately ran to catch up with him, and he said he had been skiing on the Baby Thunder lift as we had discussed. I was not surprised that he did not know he had done anything wrong. It was obvious that I could no longer take Connor and Eliana skiing together.
It really worked out better when Eliana went with me on Tuesdays and Connor on Fridays. It was a great bonding experience for us and they learned to love skiing. After just a couple of days on the smaller lifts, I took them on Gad Zoom, the high speed quad lift, and they could ski any of the blue runs just fine. Connor could go as fast as he wanted and on whatever trails he wanted. Eliana skied like she was just loving the experience. She was never in a hurry, and she never stopped singing. She would sing the entire way down the hill. Once in a while she would reach down, without stopping, and pickup some snow to eat.
Connor and Eliana’s parents had signed each of them up for professional lessons later in the season. They were both qualified for the advances classes. As it turned out, Eliana had only one other student in her class and Connor had no other students in his class. Private lessons were a good break for Connor, he and soon advanced to the Black Diamond runs.
This year we all have season passes at Alta since Deana and Dylan’s dad could get an Alta pass for half price and we all wanted to ski together. Connor and Eliana are eager for me to take them skiing regularly this next winter and I am looking forward to it.