Letters from Whistler – Part 4

Today I finished the last ski class; and I am happy that I have no bones broken and no apparent injuries. I can even say that I have enjoyed the sessions, in particular the last one.

Su has been very supportive throughout. She completed 12 full days of ski classes and must have covered numerous runs of various levels of difficulties and complexities. She said that she had made some real improvements in her skills and confidence this time round, which has helped her enjoy this holiday to the full.

Yesterday, she took leave to track me down on my easy runs and even accompanied me in part. Today, we arranged to meet each other at the top of Whistler Mountain after classes so that we could ride the Peak-2-Peak gondola together to Blackcomb Mountain and back. The weather was almost perfect; the views were spectacular; and we both enjoyed the ride very much, taking pictures all the way and at the top of both mountains.

I had a particularly sympathetic instructor today. She had seen me ski a couple of times before, including once when I was assigned to her halfway because I could not catch up with the rest of the class to which I had been assigned earlier. On learning that it was my last day in Whistler and that I had planned to meet Su after class, she arranged the day as such so that I had the maximum exposure to pleasant skiing. For example, she put me on three different ski-chair rides two of which I had never ridden before because most other instructors would consider that I had yet to attain the skill level required to ride them. The result was that I had a great day: not only had I learned a lot in one single day, I had also experienced some real skiing pleasure. I have begun to appreciate that recreational skiing generally would not cause any physical strain on the skier if carried out properly and with skills. The skillful skier relies on physics in general and the law of gravity in particular to perform the visually graceful maneuvers with very little to no physical efforts. Of course, he needs to have the right equipment and the skill to use them correctly. The ski boot is a good example. It took me until the seventh lesson to realize that my ski boots were too tight. I had it changed and suddenly I could walk faster and even run slowly.

There are proper ways to put on ski boots and even ski pants; and there are routines which skiers would benefit if they follow them. Su told me that even in the advanced classes, the instructor would go back to the basics at the beginning of every class to remind students of the basics.

At the ski school in Whistler, one can either sign up for ski classes at a particular level or one can go for private lessons, with the latter option being more expensive. However, it might not be so in the long run; and let me explain. With ski classes, the learner not only has no control over who to teach him, he also has no control on who would be in the class. It follows that the average instructor would need time to test the skill level of each student at the beginning of each class and to go over old grounds. Private lessons on the other hand are conducted one-on-one and pre-arranged so that both instructor and student know one another. In particular, the instructor understands exactly the learner’s skill level and learning pattern, and the learner would normally has seen the instructor in action and is comfortable with his teaching styles and methods.

It was thus that I had not progressed too much up to my seventh lesson, primarily because I had a different coach and different classmates each day. This had not bothered me too much because I was only interested in learning the basics and had no intention to go very far.

When circumstances put me to ski with more advanced students, I found that I had to work much harder to catch up and it was then I began to review my situation. Fortuitously, there were not enough students today, and the instructor sought special approval to teach me one-on-one, on grounds that it was my last day at Whistler this season and so on. The result was that I made substantial progress and had derived so much pleasure during the day. Little wonder why educationalists would champion small classes learning.

Su and I had a great holiday in the past few weeks, even though we had not taken too many photos, primarily because we did not do too much sightseeing. It is getting late; and tomorrow I return home. I hope to talk to you later.

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