Bittersweet Skiing

March 26 – April 9, 2019

I remember Robert, not even three years old at that time, wearing a new, still shining winter suit, standing on the brand new skis, and holding to the tree a few feet from the parking lot and a couple of feet above it.   Jan placed him there and hoped that Robert wouldn’t dare to move  during those few minutes Jan needed to attach skis to Amanda’s boots.  Robert shouldn’t dare to move, as it was the first time he was going skiing. The very first time he was standing in skis on the snow. He shouldn’t.  But he did dare. He went down to another tree and then to another.

I remember Robert wiggling under Jan’s arm as they waited for the ski lift up the Blue Hill Mountain.  I could still hear his loud protests from the distance of 50 or 100 feet.  But as I trudged through the snow to persuade Jan to give up on teaching Robert skiing, they  were already moving up with Robert still expressing his displeasure.

But then, he was hooked. The very next time, he waited silently in line to the lift and moved his little legs eagerly following the skier in front of him.

I remember how easy it was to recognize Jan and Robert going down the Nashoba mountain.  They looked like upside down letter Y with Robert’s head glued to Jan’s leg while Robert’s skis were a feet away from Jan’s.

I remember Robert’s waist  tied to a red leash held  by his father as he moved down the Wachusetts Mountain.   Robert liked being first and going straight down. Faster and faster.

It has to be said that Jan had never given Robert any instruction, They just skied together. It also need to be said, that I don’t remember Robert ever falling, although I was told that it did happen once.

During those early years, Robert was not afraid to go fast with his skies parallel to each other. The slopes were not too steep and the distances were shorter. Robert didn’t feel any need to listen to anybody. Yet somehow he mustered instinctively, I believe, the skill of stopping abruptly.  I remember him going down toward me and the wooden fence behind me.  I was terrified that he would hit himself.  I spread my arms wide attempting to catch him, but a few steps from me, Robert made 180 degree turn and stopped.

The first time Robert was ready to accept skiing instruction was when Jan, Amanda, and Robert ventured by mistake on the steep slope on Cannon Mountain. Robert spread his skis widely and waited to be rescued or given a manageable  advice. Then slowly in wide wedge position he moved down to where his father and sister were waiting.  In this position he skied all the way to the bottom.

Sadly, from that point on, he decided that this is the only way to go.

Robert, Jan and Amanda skied on Snow  and Killington Mountain in Vermont, on Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain and in Water Valley in New Hampshire.  But most often Robert skied on Sunapee Mountain with NESHA instructors.

This year he skied with them 13 full days.  He followed them turning left and right, bouncing up and down on all ski terrain.  He smiled and smiled and smiled and smiled….

He followed Eric, Deirdre, Kathy and Kate.  He listened to Barbara and Bill.  He was turning from one NEHSA volunteer to another as they attempted to work on reducing the wedge and become more attentive and flexible.  During this 13 times he skied with more than 20 volunteer instructors. And Jan followed them.  Often,  he couldn’t keep up, he was more and more behind.

Sometimes the instructors specially made Robert turn from one instructor to another on the opposite side of the trail to give Jan time to catch up.

Once, Jan was so far behind that, after waiting for a while, Robert and his instructors went on the lift without him.  Jan was a little sad but also extremely proud of Robert and …himself.


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