Yes! We skied! Martin skied! We all skied together!
Both 2013 and 2014, we spent winter break in the Florida Keys. This year I decided to try something different. Adrian, who grew up skiing the Andes, loves to ski. Apart from working with his personal trainer, skiing is actually the only sport in which he participates. (He watches soccer, football, tennis, and—because I force him to—ice hockey.) I’ve been hoping to get Martin involved in skiing also, to give him and his father a special activity to do together, and us all an activity to enjoy as a family. Until now, I haven’t had the confidence Martin could ski, with his clumsiness, low muscle tone, and tendency to tire easily. Plus, Martin has such a short attention span. I had hesitations about allowing him to participate in a sport in which even a momentary concentration lapse can spell peril.
Nevertheless, as Martin continues the hard slog toward recovery, we owe it to him to offer new experiences as they become manageable. This September, Martin started skating lessons, in (my) hopes that he will be soon ready to play ice hockey. He was able to learn to skate, and so it was time to give skiing a try. To boot (boo! hiss!), one of Adrian’s colleagues graciously offered us his vacation house in Park City, Utah, which happens to be home to the National Ability Center.
Readers, you know that I don’t market my blog to advertisers and rarely make endorsements. What works for one child may not work for another. For this post, I have to make an exception. I cannot say enough about the National Ability Center, an organization dedicated to bringing outdoor sports to everyone, regardless of physical or other challenges—to “empower individuals of all abilities by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through sport, recreation and educational programs.” We booked Martin for a full week of lessons: three morning lessons, and three full-day lessons.
We arrived Saturday evening, the day after Christmas. Sunday morning was the first time Martin ever wore ski boots.
Monday after lunch, Adrian and I watched Martin ride a chair lift with his instructor. Monday evening, Martin informed me that “once to Utah was enough,” that he did not like skiing, and that he desired never to return. I chalked these sentiments up to his discovering that learning to ski takes some work.
Tuesday afternoon, Adrian and I participated in the lesson, skiing right and left of Martin as an instructor coached him to make turns and alternate high-fiving each of us.
Wednesday afternoon, Adrian and I skied alone with Martin for the first time. We were nervous not having an instructor along, and we probably shouted too many directions, but we made it work. We rode a regular chair lift and came down a green-circle “easy” trail, and then Martin, though he was obviously freezing and had fallen several times, insisted that we make a second run.
Thursday morning, we delivered Martin to his morning lesson late, because of his trouble sleeping the night before (see “We Got Up Late Because Martin Had a Tough Night”). It could have been a disaster day, but it turned out great. Thursday afternoon, Adrian and I ascended to mid-mountain with Martin and his instructor, and all four of us skied together. We made two long runs, and the instructor gave me and Adrian pointers on coaching Martin ourselves.
Friday afternoon, Adrian and I took Martin to mid-mountain and skied a still-green-circle yet nevertheless more challenging trail that we had tested that morning. We let Martin go, with minimal coaching. At times I couldn’t believe my eyes. Martin was wedging (snowplowing), to be sure, but I saw the beginnings of parallel turns and even hockey stops. (The instructors opined that Martin’s skating lessons were an asset.) Martin weaved through other skiers with confidence. He fell rarely and, when he did, picked himself up if he was able. Despite difficult conditions, including 9-degree weather and blistering wind, he wanted to make several runs. We left the mountain, over Martin’s protest, when I became too cold to continue.
Each morning, those six days, Martin worked one-on-one with an NAC instructor, sometimes also with a volunteer assistant. He had various instructors; they shared notes with each other, and followed up with us as possible. Had I not witnessed Martin skiing as I did, I might not even have believed the reports I received: Several instructors praised Martin’s strength. (Low muscle tone does not equate with lack of strength.) Two instructors used the word “athletic.” (Whereupon I jokingly promised Adrian a paternity test—Adrian being admittedly un-athletic.) The Thursday and Friday instructors expressed surprise that this was Martin’s first week skiing. Every morning after the first, the staff greeted Martin like an old friend.
At the NAC I saw so many students with challenges, minor or severe, physical or otherwise. Everyone was treated with respect, and without coddling. Lessons through the NAC were expensive. They were, however, less than individual lessons with a regular Park City instructor, and they included additional volunteer support when necessary, a buddy pass if one of us wanted to ski along, a daily cubby, and overnight storage for Martin’s equipment. Best of all, they got Martin skiing with confidence. Adrian has already planned a donation to the NAC in his charitable giving this year.
Friday evening, Martin informed me that he wants to return to Utah next year, and that he intends to keep skiing, forever.