Snap Shot #56 – Getting Down the Mountain

Skiing with Luke

I’m heading to the snow with my teenage son and am excited. Even he’s been able to ramp up his enthusiasm level – encouraging for someone who just weeks earlier had claimed that he wasn’t interested in skiing with me this year. But circumstances shifted and with the help of a motel with an indoor swimming pool, a sauna and a games room, plus the promise of $50 spending money, he is looking forward to it. It’s been awhile since we’ve last skied together – over four years ago in Japan. After he suffered through a group lesson in another language, we had a private lesson together with an instructor who spoke enough English to improve both of our abilities. My son’s improved so much that he raced off ahead of me. When I caught up with him, he was sprawled out on the snow, motionless. Not a sight any parent wants to witness. I asked him if he could move and he said no. He wasn’t screaming in pain so I took that as a positive sign. So we waited. An Aussie couple caught up with us. The woman had some lollies and, magically, these seemed to revive the nine-year old, who then exercised more caution coming down the mountain. Perhaps that incident contributed to his initial reluctance to ever go skiing again. But we seem past that now. We do a couple of easy runs on Friday Flats, Thredbo’s beginner slope. By the end of the second one, he seems to have enough confidence to head up the mountain with me and ski an area that he managed to cope with about six years earlier. But when we get to the start of the run, he freaks. “It’s too steep!” I’m surprised by the reaction. “No it’s not. You tore this up years ago. You loved it.” This fact does little to bolster his confidence but, reluctantly, he slowly snowplows his way down, kids half his size whipping past him. When we get to the bottom of the run, he wants lunch – anything to delay the next run. Some chicken wings and chips later, we head back up. He’s very nervy. About a quarter of the way down he comes unstuck and falls, one of his skis coming off. He lets fly with a couple of expletives to which I wisely turn a deaf ear. I do my best to keep things calm. “It’s alright mate. That’s just the first time you’ve fallen today.” But this provides no comfort. “This is stupid. I didn’t even want to come here.” We try a couple of times to get his ski back on but it just leads to more frustration. He decides that he’s over it and starts marching down the mountain, carrying his skis while I ski with four poles. At one point he sits down for a rest, fuming. Recalling the magical resuscitative powers of sugar in Japan, I offer him a mini Snickers. “No.” Mmm. Refusing chocolate. Not a good sign. “You made me do this. I told you I didn’t want to. I wanted to stay at Friday Flats. This is too steep. I’m a beach kid – not a snow kid. I’m never skiing again.” I attempt to counter this with a pep talk about how sometimes you need to push through stuff rather than give up when it all seems too hard. But he’s not buying it. Once we’re back at the restaurant area (but still half way up the mountain), I make him a deal. I give him money to buy a hot chocolate. He’s to sit down and drink it while I sneak in a couple of runs on my own. When I’m done, he seems in a better mood. We take the chairlift back down the rest of the way. As we swing between the gum trees, I suggest that we do a couple more runs at Friday Flats, just so he can get his confidence back and not end the day defeated. To my relief, he agrees. And sure enough, by the second run he is going well enough to abandon his snow plow technique. He then waits for me while I get one more run in from the top of the mountain all the way down, enjoying my recently purchased skis. Heading back to the motel, I suggest that if the weather turns the next day like is forecast, that we maybe forget about skiing and return home early. He’s in favour of this plan. He then surprises me by saying that next time (there will be a next time!) he wants to try snowboarding. I reply that this is a great idea and suggest that he learns it next year during his school’s annual five day ski trip. Then once he has the hang of it, we can give it another go – even if we’ll both have different modes of getting down the mountain.