Thursday, January 28, 2010

Elise learns to snowplow!

I promised to update this blog when Elise finally started to snowplow, and that time has finally arrived! Today was likely our seventh trip to the Blackcomb base area to "ski" and I was starting to have serious doubts that she'd pick up the skill, but perseverance finally paid off...for both of us.

What a professional ski instructor could have likely accomplished in an afternoon, took me close to one month, but today I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The "light" I'm referring to is our family skiing in the mountains together, enjoying the fresh winter air and excitement that goes with this invigorating sport.

The Details
Although Elise had been making very small, incremental steps towards learning to snowplow, today was a big leap forward. We made our way up to Blackcomb mid-morning and were greeted by glorious sunshine. It wasn't cold, the day was just perfect for being outside. After a small incident in the parking lot where I literally bowled Elise over onto the pavement (she crept up behind me while I was rushing around the van), we made our way up to the Blackcomb base area. We rode up the Magic Chair, which she loves, and made our way over to the Magic Carpet lift.

The carpet is like a conveyor belt on the snow and can be seen in the background of the video at the bottom of the page. To warm up, I carried Elise partway up the slope and let her slide down the gentle incline. She immediately started to try her snowplow and was successful! After a number of short runs, we boarded the carpet and rode to the top. She was able to ski most of the way down without me rescuing her. She was visibly pleased with herself and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face (insert more proud father comments here).

The day wasn't without incident. There were a few falls, some tears and a bit of whining about cold hands, but overall the experience was very positive. To relieve the pressure, we stopped for a break to make snowmen and throw snowballs before skiing all the way down under the Magic Chair to the lodge. A brief lunch and hot chocolate got us fueled up for one more ride up the Magic Chair and a final run. I provided Smarties as rewards for reaching various landmark goals on the way down but, truth be told, I also did a fair amount of skiing with her in my arms to give her a break from the stress and fatigue of trying so hard.

So, the leash is gone and she's on her way. The video may not look like much, but for a snow-phobic 3-year-old, this was a big accomplishment. Learning to ski, much like climbing, is quite scary - my hat's off to you today Elise.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


It's been almost three weeks since we got back from California and settling back in to life's necessary routines has been tough. Pam is back at work 3-4 days per week and Elise has two days of preschool. Pam has a tough class, but seems to be getting into the rhythm of things and Elise is enjoying her days with the other kids. She was nervous at first, but there was never any drama and the second week went quite well.

On Wednesdays, I've been taking Elise skiing to the Blackcomb base area. It's been an enjoyable father-daughter bonding experience, but teaching her to ski has been much harder than I would have anticipated. The problems likely stem from a snow-related "incident" that occurred a couple of years ago. Upon returning from our sunny European fall vacation, we found Squamish blanketed in fresh snow and decided to get Elise outside for a nice sledding session with her friends. This was her first contact with snow and it ended with a high-speed face plant into the powder, and a lot of tears. After two months in sunny Spain, this was a rude slap in the face, quite literally. Since that outing, she's not demonstrated a real fondness for the white stuff, and since Pam and I don't really recreate much in the snow, exposure to the cold and ice has been minimal.

Bundled up in the lodge...

History aside, she's been doing quite well at Blackcomb. She really enjoys riding the lifts (a carpet ride and a triple chair) and is getting less fearful of contacting the snow, although she still refuses to touch it with her bare hands. I've been using a leash system, which allows me to snowplow behind her and control her speed. I put her climbing harness over her ski suit and attach a thin climbing rope to her hips. This has worked quite well, except it's already turning into a crutch, both physically and mentally - she's not able to slow down on her own and is terrified of what might happen when I take it off. We regressed to the bunny slope yesterday (no leash), but she still wasn't able to learn the snowplow, despite me skiing backwards in front of her and holding her ski tips together. I am seriously considering a proper lesson - I feel as though my efforts are handicapped because I'm her father and she has me emotionally wrapped around her little finger. She might respond very differently to another adult who's an authority figure, but not a parent.

Her favourite part of the day - hot chocolate in the day lodge!

The leash is visible trailing off her hips on the left of the photo.

Regardless, it's fun and I try to keep the mood light. After some stressful leash-free snowplow practice, we stopped and built a snowman and a snow caterpillar (her idea). I put some lichen on the snowman, which looked like a beard, and she declared that the snowman was definitely Grandpa Bourdon! I'm not sure if that's flattering or not...

We will continue our ski outings and I'll be sure to post a message the instant she starts snowplowing on her own. That will be a red letter day.

Enjoy the winter!