Saturday March 9, 2013

Friday mornings in our house are pretty chaotic.

"Mom, where are my gloves?"

"Did you put my board in the car?"

"What do I take for snack?"

Yep. It’s officially a winter sports morning.

When my kids started at Academy School, and I heard of "Winter Sports," I was pretty amazed.

I moved to Vermont from the true flat-lands of Illinois. Winter is not fun in Illinois: the wind blows, there are drifts everywhere. In Illinois, snow never, ever stays magically on trees, looking like some sort of a picture-perfect postcard.

In Illinois, I survived winter. We all survived winter.

Oh, sure, occasionally someone talked about snowmobiling or perhaps cross country skiing. But normally, it was too cold with little snow, and no one wanted to go outside any more than was necessary.

When I heard "winter sports," my Illinois-raised thought was quick: what a fantastic idea to encourage a different view of this long season that I have dreaded for most of my life.

The district schools all do Winter Sports a bit differently. Some take all elementary kids, some only older ones; some go for four weeks; some six.

All of them share the same commitment: get students active during the winter months.

Options vary from school to school-and even winter to winter due to natural snowfall. They typically include downhill skiing at Mt. Snow, cross country skiing, ice skating and sledding.


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Some also include circus arts, dancing, skate boarding or winter exploration or winter survival skills.

My first time on downhill skis brings back one, overwhelming memory: sheer terror.

My then-boyfriend-now-husband’s friends were all native Vermonters. They learned to ski during their years of winter sports. They were all competent skiers.

And personally, I think they were all-too-happy to show the true "flatlander" how to ski.

They took me to the highest point of Killington. (The mere mention of this mountain’s name still makes me blanche -- why couldn’t it have something like "livewellington" be its moniker?) They insisted that I "must see the view!"

I kid you not: some 18 years later, I still feel I could have lived my entire life -- and lived it well -- without ever seeing that "wonderful view."

I didn’t even know how to get off the lift. I barely stood up on the skis before I was whisked uphill, my palms sweating just to see the heights were ascending. (My brain had not even begun to process that terrifying premise that "what goes up, must go down.")

And somehow, no one thought to tell me that snow pants were really-really, really, really-important.

For brevity’s sake, I think it is likely best if I sum up my experience to say I have since become a very happy cross country skier. And for about 15 years now, I have left my husband to the mountains.

When it came time for my kids to participate in winter sports, my husband, the skier, enthusiastically signed them up.

Much to my initial amazement (and relief), they have all loved learning to snowboard (our sons) and ski (our daughter).

While I’ve been an ardent supporter of their ski education, I’ve basically helped only with their fundraising. But this year, my husband couldn’t chaperone at Mt. Snow twice. So I was tapped to go.

Guess what? The kids are not sent off the "bunny hill" until they have reached certain proficiencies. The teaching staff at Mt. Snow is caring and positive. We parents and teachers make sure that they are all dressed appropriately (no soaking wet, frozen bodies like mine was!).

And in the six weeks that most schools do their winter sports programs, the kids truly learn.

They learn how to ski. And they learn how to enjoy a winter sport.

I’ve been so impressed (and frankly, bored and cold) that I have even considered getting a pair of skis and following along ...

Maybe!

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the boards for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board (elementary schools).