Saturday, February 15, 2014

I'm teaching my daughter how to ski

About the only ground we didn’t cover in a glorious day of father-daughter bonding was what she wants to be when she grows up.

We didn’t get to that, I think, because I was consumed by the self-epiphany that I had finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

I’m wanna be a ski instructor!

In fact, I guess I already am one. I just didn’t know it.

I hadn’t skied in 20 years. We have friends that used to have a great cozy chalet in Lake Placid, N.Y. We’d go every February. Lake Placid was the site of the winter Olympics in 1932 and, of course, 1980, when it hosted “The Miracle on Ice.”

I’d never been much for winter vacations, preferring to visit Key West, Myrtle Beach and other places that required less, not more, clothing.

But idyllic Lake Placid in winter was a revelation. It’s a wonderful town and I really loved immersing myself in a week of skiing. So much skiing in so little time has a way of making one competent quick.

Still, when Josie, 13, expressed an interest in learning to ski, I was ready to dodge. I figured she’d be better off taking a beginner’s class from a certified instructor than learning from me.

And maybe she would have. We’ll never know.

Because I undertook the task myself after learning an hour-long lesson at Hidden Valley would cost $82.

Eighty-two dollars an hour?

That’s just a bit less than what I earned in all of 2009.

I could have gotten her a golf lesson from a prestigious country club professional for that much. And hitting a golf ball is far more difficult than skiing down a hill. Learning to golf requires touch, hand/eye coordination, concentration, balance, footwork, imagination, etc.

Learning to ski requires a base appreciation for the immutable role gravity plays in our daily lives.

What goes up (on a chair lift), must come down (on its butt).

That’s why after about 10 minutes of primitive instruction, I took her on the four-seat chair lift to the very top of the mountain and basically just gave her a gentle shove.

I think someone making $86 an hour would feel obliged to over-earn his or her money by making a simple undertaking complicated.

We eventually made it down the beginner’s trails clear to what I remember they used to call the “bunny slope.” I don’t think they call it that anymore, leading me to believe someone took offense, either a sensitive beginner or a really literate bunny.

It was useful, but I think what made me such a great teacher was giving her right away the opportunity to embrace the euphoria of overcoming fear that makes skiing so much fun.

She got to ride the chair lift. She got to revel in the splendors of being up at the top of a mountain in a snow storm.

It’s all very exhilarating.

I was very pleased with how quickly I was able to pick it all back up. I’m confident I could have done all the black diamonds with skill and swagger.

But it was not to be.

Nope, as ski instructor I had to toddle along with my little darling. We were never more than 20 feet from one another. We went on all the trails, rode all the lifts and spent about six hours on the slopes. Just the two of us.

Experts swear biological imperatives mean I’ll soon lose my little teenager for the next five or six years. She won’t want anything to do with me. I'm sure at least some degree of that's bound to happen.

But on this day she was all mine.

And she did great.

She learned how to turn by shifting her weight, she learned how to control her speed by pizza-slice snow ploughing, and she learned the euphoric feeling of evading a fall to go faster on snow than she’d ever imagined.

She learned all that in about 30 minutes of casual instruction spread out over one great day.

And I learned something, too.

I learned the best part about being a freebie ski instructor to someone you love is all the soulful stuff you do between when you’re trying to teach someone how to ski.

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