Ski conditions in the northeast are less than optimal given where we are in the winter. Sugarbush has only about 100 inches of snow so far this winter, vs. an average annual snowfall close to 300 inches. Plus, there have been a few rain events that have melted a lot of the snow we have received.
So, I knew that by returning to work this past weekend, I wouldn't be skiing in the trees and I wouldn't be skiing tough moguls, but I would get tested on steep terrain. It was great to be back at the mountain, hanging out with friends and my students again. As I left the locker room on Saturday morning to take some warm-up runs, I told a friend that I just hoped I wouldn't take a fall during the weekend.
I opted to warm up on a very easy run (for me at least) - an intermediate trail that was well groomed. I was skiing by myself, in my ski school uniform, and I somehow managed to cross my ski tips and take a fall. One of my skis popped off (bindings doing their job!), and I stood up unscathed. Emboldened by that, I went to a steep double-black diamond run next. The snow was a bit funky due to a few hours of snowmaking over an icy surface, but I survived the run just fine. I even returned there later with my students.
For the first time all season, all 9 girls in my group showed up on the same day. And, after being gone for three weeks, I spent a lot of Saturday regaining control of the group. Apparently, they didn't behave well at all for the instructors who covered for me. One of those instructors went to my boss on Friday and allegedly said "Please tell me that Damon is returning tomorrow as scheduled." One of the parents later told me that he thinks the kids can "smell fear" in a substitute coach, and they had been kind of rough on the substitutes. Multiple parents told me that the girls were very happy to have me back, which always makes me feel good. One of the toughest parts of the job as an older coach is to truly engage with young students and make sure that not only are they safe and learning, but they are also having fun on a daily basis.
If I take the group for a day, no one gets hurt, and everyone wants to return to ski again the next day, I'm doing a good job. If the kids learn some new skills during the day, it's even better.
I did notice early on Saturday that the group had regressed in a few skill areas since I'd last seen them. I wanted to keep the first day back light and fun, so we had a simple focus for the day, and and tried to apply that focus to both racing and steep terrain.
On Sunday, I spent most of the morning doing some more formal teaching - much more than I do in a typical day. The girls weren't crazy about that strong a teaching focus, but I saw improvements through the morning, and some afternoon racing confirmed that some things had changed.
By Saturday afternoon, I was tired. By Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted. But, I had a great time, we are expecting some snow this week, and I have five days to recover before I do it all again.
It is nice to be getting back to my normal activities, even though I am far from 100% healed. But, it's better every day.