I've actually been skiing for the past three weeks, and I just realized I hadn't written anything about it yet.
This year, which I think is my 18th season at Sugarbush as an instructor, is going to be different than any other seasons in the past. Back in October, I was sitting in a waiting room at Sloan Kettering, waiting for the CT scan that would tell me if I'd be healthy enough to ski this year, when my phone rang.
It was one of my supervisors from Sugarbush, and I was glad to hear his voice. I told him that I'd been meaning to send him and my other boss an email, letting them know what I hoped to do this coming winter. My goal was to teach younger kids this year. There were two reasons for this. First, it would give me more good experience with younger children, which is helpful for a certification exam I hope to take this season or next. Secondly, in case I struggled at all physically, I thought that skiing with the younger children would be easier.
But, that phone call changed everything. It turned out that one of my supervisors was gone from the mountain and the other was taking over the program where I work. And, he needed an assistant and thought I was the right person for the job.
I told him I needed to finish my day at Sloan Kettering before I answered, but that I was definitely interested.
And so, it happened, and after 17 years just teaching and minding my own business, I'm now a (low level) supervisor. I am essentially in charge of the coaches who teach the youngest kids, so I'm getting my wish to work with the smaller children. But, a lot of the coaching I'm doing is with other instructors, rather than the public.
Two plus weeks ago, I did my own day of required pre-season training on a Saturday. The following day, I got to ski with some friends for the day - something I don't get to do very often.
One plus week ago, I spent the weekend training the instructors who are reporting to me this winter. We have a lot of new instructors, and I was very impressed at how good they all were. Some have taught skiing before at other mountains. Some came through our intern program at Sugarbush. And, others had experience with young children (various outdoor camps, whitewater rafting, being a nanny, etc.). So far, they've all done a great job.
This past weekend, we started teaching our students for the season. As usual, we had some hiccups the first weekend, but nothing too major. It's always a challenge with the younger kids to group them appropriately, and we still need to move a few students to different groups.
But, I was very impressed by the work I saw from my new charges, and I'm very optimistic about the season. I spent the weekend skiing from one group to another, offering tips to the coaches to help with opening weekend issues.
At their young ages, the very first thing we want to work on with the kids is balance. And, balance starts with stance. We want the skiers to be tall in their stance and also forward. It's amazing how much you can change a child's skiing just by getting them to stand up taller. Children who were in wedges constantly suddenly come parallel between turns, even though they may resort to a spontaneous wedge through the turn itself. For the first weekend, that was the majority of what we worked on.
From there, we will move on to other balance drills the next few weeks, as we give each child the chance to get their "ski legs" back. It's important to remember that most of these children are very young, have skied a limited number of days in their lives, and we were seeing them on their first day on skis for the season. It simply takes some time for what they've learned in the past to return. So, the goal is to make some tiny adjustments, and let the little guys get in some mileage.
As we get to the point where balance is no longer an issue, we have all kinds of things to work on. But for now, we are just starting and it's all about the balance.
Hopefully, the forecast is wrong and we won't be skiing in pouring rain this coming Saturday.