CALGARY - It’s our second morning at Canada Olympic Park for a private ski lesson and I’m not sure whether my five-year-old son Bennett is excited about stepping into skis again or the prospect of more french fries after his lesson. He enjoyed his time on the hill the previous week, but frigid weather made for a less pleasant experience.
“Today we’re going to keep working on that pizza stance,” instructor Eric Gerstenbuhler tells Bennett when we meet him on the bunny hill. In ski parlance, “pizza stance” is code for the wedge that a beginner’s skis need to make for him to be able to stop. “Are you ready to go skiing Bennett?”
“I’m ready to ski,” Bennett replies. That’s my cue to leave and let Gerstenbuhler work his ski magic with my autistic son.
I return to the hill for the final 30 minutes of Bennett’s lesson to gauge his progress and capture video footage. I watch in awe as Bennett exits the magic carpet alone and follows Gerstenbuhler down the gently-graded run, managing to stay upright and direct himself beneath three coloured arches spaced at intervals along the slope. At the end he stops by himself and his skis are making a - wait for it - pizza! His progress from the previous week is remarkable.
Check out this video of Bennett learning how to ski at COP, courtesy of Tyler Meckelborg.
“Wow!” I say, high-fiving Bennett. “You’re skiing!”
“How about ten more times?” Bennett asks and we all go up the magic carpet together.
“What impresses me is how he can shift his weight to direct his skis toward the arches,” says Gerstenbuhler. “And his wedge is coming along. It’s really starting to click.” Gerstenbuhler is much more hands off this lesson, letting Bennett navigate the slippery slope on his own.
Bennett is able to get himself going by shuffling his skis forward (the “edgie wedgie” — a nifty device that clips onto the tips of Bennett’s skis to keep them together — works wonders to prevent him from doing the splits). And then, away he goes; slow, yes, but he’s doing it by himself.
Gerstenbuhler says all Bennett needs to work on now is mastering his wedge and learning to use it to link turns — skills I hope he’ll work on during his group lesson in Fernie, where we’re going for Part 3 of our Snowseekers Learning to Ski Series.
Lisa Kadane is a Calgary-based Snowseekers correspondent and freelance features writer. Read more of her ski, travel and parenting adventures at www.drink-play-love.com.
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