Skiing

Bright Sunshiny Skiing at Swain

Mon, 03 March 2008

Sunday was Mason’s final ski lesson for the season. The weather was heading toward perfect all week. A snow storm on Tuesday and Friday gave us 6 inches of fresh powder, while the Saturday temps in the low teens headed toward midday highs of 35 yesterday. With bright sunshine and no wind, there could not have been a better day for skiing ever. We went down as a caravan – the Rzepkowski’s and our friends the White’s as we had done earler in the year.

When we arrived at the mountain, the trails had just been groomed and Mason was psyched to try out his new skills on the real slopes. He started out his 10:15am lesson on the magic carpet, and quickly advanced to the real lift. He was now able to ski Swain completely on his own which was a huge difference from the first time this year.

Mason Magic Carpet Run

While Mason took his lesson, Tricia, Anna and I went up the lift for some skiing together. Anna did very well with the help of an outstretched pole, or some between my legs skiing. Had the magic carpet not been packed with lesson kids, we should have had her ski there all day so that she could learn to stop. I can’t wait till she’s old enough for lessons next year at Powder Mills because I know that she’s going to pick this skiing thing up quick, and be racing by year’s end.

Anna Skis at Swain

When Mason’s lesson ended, his instructor, Ron told me that he just wasn’t able to give Mason any instruction. There was another kid in his class that was over his head and needed to be carried down the hill. Ron offered to give Mason another lesson at noon. So, we went back to the lodge for a break and some lunch and convinced Mason that getting some more one on one ‘professional help’ would be great for him. In fact his second lesson was good for him as Ron told us that Mason made a lot of progress. He also said Mason’s legs were popped out by the end, and he needed a break.

Tricia kept the boys and Anna in the lodge so Andy and I could hit the perfect conditions for some real skiing. We took a couple of GREAT runs, and then somehow I let Andy convince me to do a Nastar race. I’ve never raced in all my years of skiing. All you had to do was pay 5 bucks at the top of the hill and you could ski the course for time. I was definitely nervous and my first run didn’t calm my nerves at all. I fell on the second to last turn which cost me 15 seconds to end up at 45 seconds. We went up the hill again, and on my second run I managed to finish with a turtle-slow time of 35 seconds, but at least I stayed on course. Andy’s best time of the day I think was 29 seconds which awarded him a bronze medal. Racing was really fun, and I could have done it the rest of the day, but alas we wanted to get back to skiing with the kids.

In retrospect the second lesson for Mason wasn’t the best idea because it cut our family time short. Our second run together up to Mile Sweep, Mason skied awesome at the top of the hill. But his legs and mind were so shot, that he melted down somewhere in the middle and wanted me to carry him the rest of the way down the hill. I coaxed him down the rest of the way by holding a pole next to me. That was at the end of this highlights video – a summary of a day of great family fun and great times with great friends.

I hope we might get out one more time skiing this year if our busy schedules allow it. Otherwise, I won’t be sad if this perfect day of skiing is the exclamation point on a terrific 2008 at the slopes.

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The Rope Tow Has Been Conquered

Sun, 10 February 2008

Saturday was Mason’s first ski lesson of 2008. We have him enrolled in a 4 week program at Powder Mills Park where I learned to ski when I was his age. Powder Mills is a small hill in a local park with nothing but a rope tow. The instruction there is first rate though, as the staff from Swain comes down and teaches beginners of all ages and it is VERY reasonably priced. The great news was that Mason had been skiing 2 times (week 1, week 2) at Swain already this year. When we arrived in the morning, we got Mason’s skis and boots that we have rented for all of the session. He immediately wanted me to pull him up the bottom part of the hill for some practice. Before the lesson even started, I knew he would have a great day.


Mason gets warmed up for ski lessons at Powder Mills Park

Mason skied with so much confidence on the bottom part of the hill that the instructors took our little 6 year old straight over to the rope tow. THAT was when the flashbacks really started for me. I remember shimmying over to the rope that was speeding in front of me. We were told to take our leather-palmed mittens and slowly grip the rope. As the rope zipped through trying to set my hands on fire, I can recall finally catching hold. I started to move, first from the shoulder joints where my arms were nearly pulled from the sockets, my upper body that absorbed the shock, then finally the skis from which I was removed and plunked straight on my face. It was with this fond memory as I watched Mason’s first experience. He did SO great!


Mason gets his first taste of the rope tow

After Mason made it to the top of the hill, his instructor named “Hoppy” took him on one run holding onto a stick next to him for stability. The very next run, Mason was skiing on his own for the first time, down terrain that was far steeper than before.

After the last run of the day, we went into the lodge to have hot chocolate to celebrate victory over the rope tow and look forward to next week.

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SkiWeek #2, Mason Completes the Ultimate Challenge

Mon, 28 January 2008

Saturday, we had perfect conditions for another ski trek down to Swain. This time it was just Mason and me plus Andy and Nolan. The day started off a bit dicey as Mason must have thought he could hop right on the hill after only one week of skiing and be able to shuss right down. Well, he got a little frustrated and took off his skis at the top of the hill, refusing to put them back on. We talked about that not ever happening again in a not so patient voice from me. Andy and 5 year old Nolan kept skiing on their merry way. Luckily, they got tired, so we all went into the lodge for some much needed lunch.

Andy and the kids take a ski break by the fire
Andy and the kids take a ski break by the fire.

There, I issued Mason the Ultimate Challenge which was to complete 10 runs on the magic carpet. Mason always responds well to challenges. Sure enough, he made it through 7 runs on the carpet before he got bored with it and the entire ski school that kept blocking our way. He asked me “Dad, if we go up the big lift once, does that count to complete the Ultimate Challenge?”. I said, “Of course.” and we took our first lift ride of the day. We skied down Round Top with Mason to my right holding an outstretched ski pole.

Then he was primed up. We decided to go down lower Robinson, a slightly wider hill, where the snow was just perfect. For the first time, I could tell the light bulb was turning on. Mason, tipped his legs in the snowplow in just the right way to keep his speed under control. Then he found that he could turn his head in the direction he wanted to go, and his body would follow. He’s so perceptive for a little kid. He said “Dad, look how my body follows where me head goes!”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

We were both tired after that run, so we went inside to rest again. It was mostly for mine and Andy’s sake as we both were towing the kids around the bottom of the hill like we were Clydesdales. Then Mason asked to go to Mile Sweep. Wow! From whimpering quitter, to Braveheart in 2 short hours. So, we went up a full chairlift together to the top of the hill for the very first time. How rewarding. Mile Sweep is definitely…well…long. My back was about to break in half after skiing down it doubled over to keep Mason from going too fast. We made it to the bottom, and both celebrated with a picture.

Mason finishes his first run down Mile Sweep
Mason finishes his first run down Mile Sweep

It was a terrific day. The kind I was dreaming about when becoming a Dad. To see my son learn such a challenging skill really is rewarding. He and I both can’t wait to do it again. Thanks to Andy and Nolan for being patient with us, you guys are awesome.

Trails skied at Swain 1/26/2008
The trails we skied at Swain 1/26/2008

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Skiing 101 with the Rzepkowski’s

Sun, 20 January 2008

Saturday was great fun as the kids and us joined Andy and Nolan White over at Swain for some skiing. It was our first time in 2008, so we worked a few kinks out to be sure. Tricia blogged our ski trip so I’ll just touch on my personal highlights.

Mason Made Huge Strides
We’ve got Mason signed up for ski lessons at Powder Mills Park in February. So, I really didn’t want that to be the first time on skis this year. Mason started out very hesitant, expecially when it came to learning the magic carpet. Apparently this was the first time Swain has had one operating, so even the staff was unfamiliar with how to tell kids to ride it. The best tip ended up being to have the kids put their hands on their knees.

Although I’ve skiied since Mason’s age, teaching someone to ski is a whole different enchilada. The magic ticket ended up being Nolan. He is 5 years old, and Andy has taken him out a few more times than Mason has been out. So, when Mason saw that Nolan can ski by himself, and wanted to ride the big lift, Mason’s competitive fire was lit. I got to share Mason’s very first chairlift ride, and it was great to see the wonder in his eyes when we floated up into the air above the ski hill. To get down the hill I either had him ski between my legs, or the better approach, ski beside me using my ski poles as a support bar.

While he won’t ski the big hill by himself yet, Mason was begging to come back for more by the end of the day. You just can’t ask for a better outcome!

Taking 2 Boys on the Lift is a 2 Person Job
Anna, our litle dare devil wanted to go onto the big hill. Andy wanted to impart some skiing wisdom on her because kids never want to learn from their dads. So her first chair ride was with Andy. I thought it would be a great idea to take the two boys up on the lift to join them. Let’s just say lifting two boys onto the seat and getting myself on was not a great idea. It was one of those moments where you realize it was a bad idea, but there was nothing to do but follow through. Luckily the lift operator slowed it down so that I could lift on Nolan, then make a quick pivot to lift on Mason. This whole time I’m flashing back to my favorite guilt trip I lay on my dad for dropping me off the lift when I was a kid. Well, I think now I might just go a little easier on that joshing.

Hmmm…Something is Missing Here…
Tricia also wanted to join us at the top of the big hill. So, after watching the hilarity of me and the 2 boys, she ended up 3 chairs behind. When she got off the lift she couldn’t stop talking about how freaked out she was being up so high in the open air. Because she’s a beginner I thought for sure she was talking about the relative freedom when you put up the safety bar near the last pole. I thought nothing of it. When we were on the way home, we started recapping our day. She kept talking about how unfomfortable she was being out in the open. Then the revelation…She said, “They should really have saftey bars on those things”. I said “They DO have safety bars, didn’t you put it down after you got on?” That’s when the lightbulb went on for both of us:)

I think we’ll all be doing a lot more skiing together this winter. I’ve uploaded some pictures of the ski trip.

Posted in: Life, Skiing | 2 Comments »
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