19 Jan 2009, 9:50pm
Colorado Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride:
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Family Fun Facilitators

Breaking for a Photo with Lisa, Noah and Sage in Front of a Mountain Lodge Cabin

Breaking for a Photo with Lisa, Noah and Sage in Front of a Mountain Lodge Cabin

“So what do you like best about skiing?”  I asked eight-year old Patrick on one of our many chairlift rides together.  There was a long pause during which time I anticipated the usual response, the one I receive most from kids—something along the line of loving to zip down the slopes really fast.  Patrick gazed out at the snow covered panorama that glittered with white diamonds before us on that chilly, yet sunny, morning.

“I like the views of the mountains,”  he finally replied.  “It’s so beautiful,” he added with all the wonder of having just opened a prettily wrapped Christmas present and finding a treasure inside.  “Back in D.C. where we live there are cars all over the place,” he added.  “It’s so busy.  Here it’s beautiful and quiet.”

I pondered his answer as we sailed over the slopes dotted with skiers of varying ability levels, largely vacationers that all totaled resulted in record-breaking numbers for the mountain this past holiday season.  “It is lovely here, isn’t it?” I replied, thinking about how the awe-inspiring grandeur of our jagged peaks escapes no one, not even children that are typically focused on the thrill of bombing down the hill more than absorbing the beauty of the surrounding area.

It was day eleven of my fifteen-day stint of ski instructing and with each client, big and small, I always found new inspiration, a fresh take on how to help everyone maximize their mountain experience.  I was on private lessons throughout this period, assignments that allowed me to more fully connect with my students which in turn created bonds that brought us all closer together, parents included.  

Sure skiing improved and we even broke through barriers such as being able to carefully work our way down steeper terrain without succumbing to a total meltdown.  (Cheering about those achievements together afterward was always the best!)  But more importantly, relationships were forged; everyone had more fun, a not-so negligent happening that produced a more positive time on the slopes and memories that would surely last a lifetime.

Some of my most vivid memories involve family ski vacations and I know that that’s the case for most of the people that chose to brave the cold and snow, the often tedious adjustments of clothing and gear and challenges such as trying to get your skis into a perfect parallel on a blue run when it feels safer to revert back to a power wedge.  Running about on a sandy beach—clad in nothing but a bathing suit—is far less daunting, yet certainly less rewarding.

I like doing what most ski instructors do best here in Telluride:  working with adults and children as a sort of family fun facilitator.  And in doing this, we take on a variety of roles at different times including coach, mountain adventure leader, big buddy and even surrogate mom, to name a few.  As an enthusiastic instructor, I introduce silly chairlift games, orchestrate drills such as skiing on one ski (to better feel the weight on the outside ski) or just simply cruise down the trail, setting the pace with a variety of turn shapes for all to follow.  

As I write this, Christmas hardly seems like the distant past.  Not only do I feel like I have still not fully recovered from the physical demands imposed by such an all-consuming stretch on the hill (actually that probably won’t happen until April, well after the mountain closes since one busy period seems to roll into another), but also because this year’s memories are more vivid than before.  I had skied with two of my families quite a bit in the past, so this year our time together seemed like more of a reunion than ever before.  The Vingan girls—two of whom I’ve known for six years—came over to my place one day after skiing for a little party replete with hot chocolate and cookies.  It meant a lot to all of us to spend time together off the slopes and for them to catch a glimpse of my life out of my big red ski instructor uniform.  (There was so much giggling and activity that Leo and Clara, my two kitties, hid for hours!)

Cookie Baking with Sage and Noah

Cookie Baking with Sage and Noah

I was also happy to ski with Sage and Noah and their mom, Lisa, again this year since we all share much affection for each other.  When I learned that the children couldn’t come to my place to bake cookies because of their allergy to cats, I transported all the paraphernalia to their digs at Mountain Lodge, a stunning ski in/ski out property here in T-ride.  Their living quarters were outfitted with a complete kitchen that added heaps of homeyness and convenience to the cabin-like feel of their luxurious one-bedroom unit.  (And they couldn’t have been happier about having the warm and sugary smell of cookies permeate their cozy interior well into the next day.)  Here, too, I could tell the kids were happy to spend time with me in this manner and we all were undoubtedly grateful that in these circumstances there was no need for me to repeatedly shout out turn, turn, turn in an effort to get their speed and skiing more under control. 

The Perfect Accompaniment to Hot Chocolate After a Day on the Slopes

The Perfect Accompaniment to Hot Chocolate After a Day on the Slopes

I had many special encounters with new clients as well throughout the holiday period; one with a thirty-something woman marked me in particular.  I taught her to ski during the course of a morning and had her turning confidently down the hill by the end of our lesson.  She was especially thrilled since she told me that her honey, an avid skier, had just proposed to her the night before and he was, of course, very hopeful that she’d embrace skiing.  As I’ve said before, the family that skis together, stays together.  Smart girl.

I sometimes wonder if I’ll see some of these people again.  It’s usually wonderful if I do, but even if I don’t, I know that we’ve experienced something together that will likely leave indelible memories.  Even if it just includes a postcard snapshot that we remarked upon together—like the one I took in with little Patrick—I’m quite confident that people walk away with a more endearing impression of Telluride after we spend time together.  (I would guess this is the case with most of the Telluride Ski and Snowboard School instructors.)  Being a family fun facilitator in Telluride actually comes quite easily to most of us.  How can you not get stoked about these glorious mountains?  And if you’re anything like me, you want to help everyone around you fully embrace their beauty and wonder, too.

Mountain Lodge, 866-368-6867 or 970-369-5000, www.mountainlodgetelluride.com

Telluride Ski and Snowboard School, 970-728-7414, www.tellurideskiresort.com

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