Youthery! Skiery!

As many of you know, I’m prone to at times go to great lengths to try new things. This is likely because by pushing beyond what I’m comfortable with, I’ve allowed myself to grow. That, or a bad home life. At any rate, I have a particular habit of saying yes to things that I am unfamiliar with, such as ballroom dancing, kayak rolling, public speaking, and the like.

When I was taking a wee respite from work to travel and sail in California, a friend who is a coach with the Tsalteshi Trails Youth Ski Program asked if I could cover her group, the Weasels (all youth ski groups are named from existing trails), for a week.

Ostensibly, this is a terrifying request. I was raised an only child, and don’t really spend much time around children. Being rather new to skiing myself, I didn’t have the slightest idea where to begin.

Of course I said yes.

Because of January’s rain and temperatures nearing 50, the trails were not in the best of shape, but recent cooling and exquisite grooming by Tsalteshi’s crew made it very skiable, if fast and icy.

I showed up with my old classic skis, which proved to be a good move, as some in my group, it seems, haven’t grasped some finer ski etiquette like “Don’t ski over other peoples’ skis.”

Because I had no clue what to do with the group of seven Weasels that attended class that night, I promptly rebranded them “The Wombats” and thought I’d try to gauge where they were at skill-wise before we headed out onto the trail system.
We were all basically in a circle and I asked if they knew how to double pole. In response, instead of indicating affirmative verbally, they all poled hard at once, crashing into me and each other. Most of them ended up in one heap. It was hysterical.

So of course I didn’t learn from this, and I kept trying to explain what I wanted them to do before I had them do it. So I’d start by saying, “We are going to go up this hill…” and they’d all start rushing up it, leaving me yelling, “WAIT! STOP! SIT!”

I finally realized I could get their attention by yelling “WOMBATS – ASSEMBLE!” in a Thundercats voice.

I thought (a bit naively, it turns out) we’d do a Moose loop or two (about a mile per loop), then see how much time was left over for games. Wishful thinking – it took OVER the full hour to do one Moose in those conditions. It was absurdly slick, so any hill (even the Angle hill was impassable) was really difficult to get up. I ended up towing most up the last big hill.

The ice on the trails meant that the only skiable area was right down the middle. Of course, most of them had no idea what was good or bad snow, so I had to keep saying things like, “Stay in the sugar!” Or they’d go down a hill, fail to turn, and skid off into the hinterlands. I laughed so hard.

One kid in particular didn’t seem too keen on my Moose lesson plan, as he was apprehensive about being in the woods. Mindful of this, as soon as we started in, he began complaining, to which I responded, “We’re not in the woods – we’re on the trail!” I stuck to my semantics, and he did great the whole time, except for when he couldn’t turn in time and went sailing off into the actual woods. I gave him huge props after. He did wonderfully.

An hour and ten minutes into our hour long lesson, our team of six Wombats looked like they’d survived a war when we finally stumbled out of the woods. I’m sure they all slept well that night.

I ended up subbing a few more times for the Weasel/Wombat group, and begin to even learn their names, instead of calling them by prominent clothing article, i.e. “Orange Poofy” and “Green Hoody.”

I began to see how my love of skiing evolved from the little triumphs at the beginning, to pushing myself physically later. The Wombats were in the beginning stages of skiing, where learning simple things like slowing down and turning were tremendous accomplishments. And I was right there with them, learning and enjoying most every moment.

I had a brilliant time helping the group learn, and feel once again that by doing something outside of my comfort zone, I was able to challenge myself, grow, and learn important lessons; like the best way to get kids’ attentions is to say everything in your best Thundercats voice.

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