Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Stabbing monsters and dancing around poles on a perfect Colorado day

"Mama, are you still the 20 year old surfer chick named Tammy?"

Josie grinned up at me, a cheerful little Easter egg in her purple helmet, turquoise jacket, royal blue pants, and bright pink mittens.

We were at the top of the Strawberry Park Express Lift at Beaver Creek, getting ready to take one more run down the mountain before calling it a day.

And it had been an amazing day.

I had the kids for the weekend and the weather in the mountains was forecast to be beautiful, so I decided to take them skiing. They were excited to go, but they wanted me to teach them how to use poles.

I had been reluctant to teach them for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not a ski instructor. Second, I'm their mother. It is a truth universally acknowledged that children learning a new skill should learn from someone other than a parent. They're going to listen better - and have more fun - learning from some 25-year-old stoner named Tristan than from mom or dad.

But they really really really *please mama please* wanted to learn how to use poles, and ski lessons are expensive, and I figured I could give them the basics if they were willing to listen to me and not be all, "OKAY I HEARD YOU I'M DOING IT LEAVE ME ALONE!!" as they careened down the mountain doing the opposite of what I had instructed.

I decided that an alternate persona was in order.

"All right," I told them. "I will get you poles and teach you how to use them."




"But we are going to treat this like a proper lesson. I am your ski instructor and I'm going to teach you what to do, and you are going to listen to me, do you understand? No arguing with me."

"Yes, Mama."

"And in order for it to be a proper ski lesson, I'm not going to be Mama."

"Who are you going to be?" They were intrigued.

"I'm a 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy. I'm spending the winter in Colorado as a ski instructor so I can make money to go surfing in Tahiti this summer."

"If you're a surfer, wouldn't it make more sense to be a snowboarding instructor?" Zeke asked.  They were already buying into the concept.

"Perhaps," I responded. "But I happen to ski as well as snowboard, so this winter I decided to teach skiing."

He shrugged agreeably.

We went to a ski rental place and got some poles for them. Places like that order cheap poles in bulk and include them in a ski rental package, so if you're going in just needing some poles, they will often give them to you for free or for a nominal charge.

The guy said, "sure, 'rent' the poles for the weekend. No problem."

"How much is it?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing, don't worry about it."

"Wow, that's great. Thank you! Do you need my name or contact info?"


"When do you need them back?"


See what I mean?

It turned out the hardest part about skiing with poles was not losing them.

We parked and caught the shuttle bus to the lift. After we got off the bus and were buckling our boots and putting on mittens and such, Zeke said, "OH NO!!"

"What happened?"

"I left my poles on the bus."

"Oh for God's sake, Zeke."

"There's a rental place right there. Let's go get some more."

So we got some more. The guy charged me $5.

Later, Josie dropped one of her poles getting on the lift.  The liftie gave it to a guy on the chair behind us so he could give to us at the top. After having lunch, when we went outside to retrieve our gear, Zeke got confused about which poles were his and almost took the wrong ones.

Chair lift selfie. Miraculously, we all have our poles.
But the lesson itself went swimmingly. Skiingly?

"What's my name?"


"OK, kiddos. Here's what you do..."

And I showed them how to hold their arms out and to use the poles to guide their turns.

"Just kiss the tip of the pole to the snow..."

They followed my line down the hill, giggling and kissing.

"Mwah! Mwah!"

They thought it was hysterical. But they learned to do it properly,

Borrowing a trick from my friend Christin, I explained how to use poles on moguls.

"Pretend the top of the bump is the eye of an evil monster. You need to get around the monster, and in order to kill it, you need to stab it in the eye. So as you're going down, reach forward, stab your pole into the monster's eye, and then ski around it."

Zeke practiced a few times and proceeded to bomb down a black mogul run, woohoo-ing all the way.

"I think I nailed that one," he told me afterwards.

We used a different idea on steep groomers. Josie and I were at the top of a run with a pretty intense pitch, and she was nervous.


Her voice wavered.

"I'm not Mama. I'm Tammy, remember?"

That made her laugh.

"You're going to do fine. Touch the pole to the snow and turn around it. Just dance around the pole. I'll be next to you the whole time, doing the same thing."

She took a deep breath, pointed her skis down the hill, and did exactly what I told her.

By the end of the day, she and Zeke were zipping through the trees, doing little jumps, and shaking their butts with glee as we explored the different parts of the mountain. Zeke even tried some tricks in the terrain park.

Blue skies, perfect temperatures, and beautiful vistas. And for some reason, Josie insisted on holding her poles up over her head like that every time I took her picture.
Finally, they were ready to go home.

"Mama, are you still the 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy?"

"Yep, for a few more minutes," I answered.

"Well, Tammy, you're a good teacher."

"Thanks, chicklet. Let's head on down and you can show me your stuff."

We drove home, tired and happy, ready to call me "Mama" again.

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