By Rachel Walker
Captain Ron is a good storyteller!
So said my almost five-year-old when I picked him up from a lesson at Steamboats renowned ski and snowboard school the week after Christmas. Like many, my family traveled to the mountains for the holidays, and Henry, who can wedge his way down easy blues and harder greens, was keen to take a lesson. My husband and I obliged because we are keen for him and his little brother to become little rippers.
I pressed Henry for more: What did Captain Ron teach him? Where did they ski?
Ickle me, pickle me, tickle me, too, replied Henry, quoting Captain Ron quoting Shel Silverstein.
Fortunately I had the chance to touch base with the good captain, who gave me a more thorough report of the day. The crew had ridden the gondola several times and made their way down the appropriately-named My Way (a green) before graduating to a few of the easier blues on the mountain.
Before I continue, let me give you a little background on myself. Im not a particularly uptight parent. Im more labradoodle than tiger mom, and I believe in letting kids learn new skills at their own pace. So I surprised myself by pressing Captain Ron for more: were they practicing parallel skiing? What was his appraisal of Henrys skill?
His answers were absolutely perfect and the best reminder possible of why its worth the small fortune it costs to take a lesson from a professional. In short, Captain Ron told me Henry was doing just fine, having a blast, and seemed to really enjoy eating snow. When I told him Henry would be back in his class the next day, Captain Ron doled out a homework assignment: 30 minutes in the hot tub, pizza for dinner, and twelve hours of sleep. In other words, keep it fun, simple, and, yep, fun.
Outwardly I smiled, but inwardly I fretted. Was Henry learning anything he couldnt learn with his dad or myself?
I neednt have worried.
Several days later I skied My Way with Henry, and he was keen to show off all he learned in his two lessons. The first thing I noticed was his confidence. Henry dodged into the shortcuts at each switchback, pointed his skis down the steep parts, and made sure to show me the runs every nuance. The second thing I noted was his speed. Henry was skiing faster than ever before, but he was still in control. And finally there was his position. His knees were a little more bent and his stance slightly more athletic. In short, he was more of a skier than hed been when we rolled into town.
And thats the thing about taking a lesson from a professional. Whether youre five or fifty, learning to master the cat tracks or looking for pointers to plunder the powder stashes in the trees, the professional instructors at all of the Colorado resorts have tremendous experience breaking down the essentials into easily digested parts and communicating them in a way that keeps the sport fun.
Let me give you an example. When I was following Henry (post ski school), his speed nearly gave me a heart attack and I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling him to slow down. I doubt Captain Ron had that reaction. Somehow he gave Henry the skills to pick up speed and not knock down any unwitting skiers in his way or hit a tree. Controlled speed is an important building block in skiing, and Henrys progress pushed him that much closer to tackling some of the harder terrain on the mountain. More importantly, Henry loved going fast (not unlike his mom and dad.). That alone made the lessons worth it.
Youve probably heard that January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which means resorts around the state are offering some of the greatest deals on lesson packages youll find all season (click here for the deals offered by Colorado Ski Country USAmember resorts). The goal is to make winter snowsports affordable and accessible.
Whether youre just now thinking about taking up the sport or youre considering enrolling your kids in a multi-day lesson program, take my advice and pony up for some lessons. Not only will you (or your kids or your spouse or your significant other) benefit, you might just get an instructor like Captain Ron. Which is to say that by the lessons end, youll have improved and you might be able to recite a fantastical kids poem. After all, its probably not just Captain Ron whos a good storyteller. Its all the men and women who love skiing and snowboarding and who are really good at teaching people like you and me (and our kids).