Saturday, May 23, 2009

What if you were a bird...

and were afraid of heights.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The darkness
Once a cradle
Now suffocates me.
My thoughts
Once friendly
Now steal in to haunt me.
My skin
Once a comfortable refuge
Now crawls with despair.
My soul
Once round and bright
Now casts shadows from its corners.
Here I lie.
Once more
And wait till dawn?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My First Girl

Beth and Me
October 1990
Centennial Park, Banff, Alberta

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My Girls!

On Friday, 3rd April 2009 a group of teenaged girls from a private school in Manchester, UK arrived at Panorama's doorstep for five days of skiing. I was prepared for the onslaught (or so I thought), as my work schedule included my taking these girls and moulding them into proper skiers.
I had no idea what was in store for me!

I was at my post bright and early Saturday morning - after already completing a five-day stint teaching a group of intermediate level youngsters. The day promised to be clear and sunny, but the snow was hard underfoot, as the temperature had dipped below freezing overnight - not ideal conditions for learning to ski.

There was a large group of chattering girls at the ski school meeting place and my colleagues and I sized them up, wondering who was going to be skiing with whom. I was to be teaching the entry level skiers. After introducing myself, there appeared before me a queue of nineteen high school girls!
Nineteen of them?? That couldn't possibly be right!
After all, these girls had never been on skis before, and I had to teach them all to be proficient enough to tackle the Mile One quad chair before the end of five days!
It was then that I realised I had my work cut out for me...

We began by taking names and I made a point of aplogising ahead of time for not remembering all of them. Although I was able to keep track of my first introduction, Laura, by the fact that she was dressed head to toe in bright pink.
For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, clothing and colour is a major factor when keeping track of and identifying fellow skiers. Most of the time body shape and facial features are indistiquishable beneath thick thermal layers and disguised further by the wearing of mitts, helmets, touques and goggles.
Meanwhile, poor Laura was falling over herself in an attempt to walk with her skis, unused to their cumbersome length and finding herself in prezel-like tangles. Thankfully, she sported an easy-going sense of humour.

I spoke to the girls, "Your challenge over the next few days is to learn to ski. My challenge is to learn and remember all your names!"

We then doffed our skis and I moved on to an explanation and quick demonstration of the use of our equipment. When the time came to step back onto our skis, I was beginning to have fun as I listened to the squeals and exclamations that only a high school girl can deliver! Not to mention that I was quickly becoming endeared by their lilting Manchester accent. Katy's articulation, in particular, reminded me of how The Beatles sounded and I later discovered that Manchester is not far from Liverpool.
I've often wondered how people on an island as small as the UK can have such diverse ways of speaking the same language!

After learning the necessary skills of stopping and speed control, it was time for the girls to ride up the "Red Carpet". This is a lift that runs like a belt up the hill, whereupon the skier stands on the rubber surface and rides it until being deposited at the top - sometimes quite unceremoniously.

There we were. Me and my gaggle of nineteen girls, all of whom had never been on skis, at the top of the beginner hill which, to them, must have felt akin to being perched at the top of Mount Everest.

Then came the difficult part (but I wasn't going to tell them this) - leading the girls down the slope safely and without mishap. It can be demanding simply while one-on-one with a client in a private lesson, let alone with almost two dozen. I was encouraged by the fact that all the girls knew each other, were quite capable of laughing at themselves and were wont to look out for their friends. That helped quite a bit. So did the fact that they all knew their fellow classmate's names and I was able inquire about the girl in burgundy who had just launched herself across the liftline track and used a rocky outcropping in lieu of brakes.
That was Zainab, a slight and quiet girl who, in the stead of physical strength, used her entire trust in me to manage over the five days - bless her heart.

Our next leap was to ride the "Silver Platter" back up the hill so we could make it back down the other side in time for lunch. The platter is another type of surface lift where the rider must keep their skis straight in the track, stand tall and let the lift pull them up the hill via a pole with a flat round seat at the end. The pole is placed between the skier's legs with the round "platter" as a platform to sit against. One more undignified means of getting up the hill.
I have often had to pick up the pieces when taking clients on this lift and I was impressed as everyone made it to the top, over and back down without incident and all in time for lunch!

By the time we regrouped after our midday meal, the sun had swung high into the brilliant blue sky and was warm enough to soften the snow and shine kindly on our faces. We spent the afternoon skiing the platter and the girls practiced their newly-acquired skills. It was so much fun watching them learn and advance from being non-skiers to becoming more comfortable sliding and turning down the gentle slope.
Amid the squeals and laughter, I was quickly learning to become a teenager again!

to be continued...