I don’t remember learning how to ski. It’s not because I have been hit in the head so many times, it’s just because I started learning so young. My father first took me to Sydenham Ski Hill at the age of 4. From what I am told, I didn’t immediately take to it. Apparently Dad tried to teach me how to do it himself. He later remarked that it was the first and last time he gave me a lesson at anything (other than life of course).
The following season I was enrolled in Saturday ski lessons at Sydneham Ski Hill through the Kingston YMCA. It was a dinky little hill with 1 tow rope and 1 t-bar. It has since been abandoned, but that’s where I caught the bug. Subsequent seasons saw me enrolled in various ski lesson/programs at Calabogie peaks. I really don’t know how my father was able to afford it, but every winter my father, my sister, and I all had season’s passes. There was rarely a weekend that we weren’t on the slopes. There were quite a few years where we skied both Saturday and Sunday. We left early Saturday morning for Calabogie. After the day was done, we went to stay the night with my Grandparents (mother’s parents). The lived about half the distance from Calabogie to our home. The next morning we were back up early and heading for the slopes.
I did reasonably well as a young racer. I trained in the Nancy Green ski program. I finished first in several Giant Slalom races. In the first year of the juvenile racing program, while training, I took a little too much unexpected air and had a terrible crash. I was 13. I remember not being able to breathe. I also remember a terrible pain in my left knee. That was the first time I tore my ACL. Back then, based on my age, the treatment was a cast from my hip to my ankle. Talk about inconvenient…
The ligament healed (years, and many ACL / meniscus tears later I learned that it didn’t really heal) and the next season I was back on the hill. I never really raced again. I’m not sure if that was my decision or my father’s. I have learned that he made many decisions when I was young because he was afraid I would get hurt. That’s what a good father does I am discovering. Although, sometimes I wish he had put me right back up on that horse. In retrospect, I have skied much more dangerously in my adult life than any race course I would have competed in.
Of course the ski season would not be complete with out a family trip. Usually it was a Christmas vacation trip, although sometimes we did a March break one as well. It was always us with at least one other family. I can remember trips to Mt Tremblant, Mt Orford, Owl’s Head, Loon Mountain, Whiteface and Jay Peak. There nay be others that have slipped my mind. Every trip was amazing. It was a time for us to forget about any other bull shit that was going on in our lives, and just enjoy each other’s company. I only hope that I can offer my children that same experiences that I was given.
December 27, 1990 to January 3, 1991 changed my love for skiing to a downright obsession. I went to Whistler / Blackcomb! Somehow I convinced my friend Chris that he should ask his parents if I could join them on their Christmas holiday to British Columbia. It ended up that me and a friend Mark both got asked to attend. What a trip! I had never seen anything like Whistler, let alone dreamed that I would ever ski any terrain like this. Chris, Andrew (Chris’ brother), Mark, and I were literally lost for words. Our excitement was un-containable! We skied harder that week than I ever thought possible. Even before the return flight had left the tarmac, I had already promised myself that I would ski countless other mountains, that this was only the beginning. There was no way I was going to accept ski hills anymore.
In 1995 I took the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) course at Pakenham ski hill. Of course, I passed. I got my first job as an instructor at Devil’s Elbow near Bethany Ontario. I worked there on weekend while I attended college in Peterborough. It was a good time. I learned a lot and enjoyed the crew there. I didn’t get too many high level lessons as I was the rookie. Every now and then though, I would get one where I didn’t have to snow plough. In the 1996-1997 while working at Devil’s Elbow, I tore my ACL. Wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, but I was out for the rest of the year.
After having surgery, healing up, and graduating college, I decided that I wasn’t ready to be a responsible adult yet. I packed up my stuff and moved to Banff Alberta. I had secured a job at Lake Louise as a Ski Instructor. My dream! It was so much fun. Not just the skiing (totally amazing), but the partying, the life, the people, etc. I was there for 2 seasons, the second being better than the first (if that was possible). I honestly don’t know why I ever returned. I think I felt pressure that I had to become something. I never wanted to left my father down. Even if that meant that I would end up doing something that I hate over something that was always my dream.
Skiing is the thing that I am usually the best at. At least it was when I was growing up. All my friends wanted to ski with me. Now I ski by myself mostly. It’s getting harder to stay interested in the Eastern Canada resorts. Not trying to boast, but really there’s not much of a challenge there for me.