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My First Ski Lesson

December 29, 2009

That’s me during my first ski lesson with my Father. I don’t have any tangible memories from that moment in time, but judging from the background I’m guessing it’s early spring. The buds haven’t quite popped out yet. A small patch of snow hugs the side of the road where the trees lay their shadows. My feet were probably too small for any real ski equipment aside from those tiny red toddler skis. Judging from the huge smile on my face I’m guessing I’m having a great time. And judging from my father’s face he’s feeling an assortment of happiness, caution, and gratification. 

Today, twenty-six years later, I’m in my father’s place. I’m able to give the gift of skiing to others. It’s early season still, but already I fully understand the satisfaction in teaching others. Ever since high school part of me always wanted to teach. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to get into the film industry. I love sharing knowledge with other people, and I love learning. I always thought I might be teaching English or Philosophy, but regardless it’s nice to have some experience as an educator.

My first real thrill from teaching came the other day. I had a class of five students. They were all level one and had never even stepped into a pair of skies before (“never-evers” as we call them). Two of the ladies were from Mexico, and they had never even seen falling snow before. They were in luck. The first day of our class we had huge cotton-like flakes dancing down from the sky. A linen thin layer of clouds kept the sun at just the right intensity to keep us all warm yet weak enough to let the cold ruddy our cheeks. All-in-all a beautiful ski day. It’s so easy to impress clients when you live in such a magnificent place such as Telluride. It’s like being a art historian giving a guide in the Louvre. 

At first I could see the hesitation in my students. The fear of the steep slope was amplified by the slippery wooden planks they had locked onto their feet. Even a slight slope, something that would hardly allow a ball to roll down it, scared them to death. But eventually one by one they slid down. Their stances were reminiscent of a new-born deer, but I was proud of them. They passed the first test. 

Fast forward past an afternoon of work on the “magic carpet” (a walking escalator made for skies/snowboards) and there are my students, wedging down the hill doing turns. I won’t say I was as elated as a father watching his baby take it’s first steps, but it was probably as close as I’ve ever been. It was incredible to see the smiles on my clients faces. And it was an incredible feeling to know that they were having fun using the tools I had given them.

I know I didn’t teach them to read, to think critically, or how to fish. What I gave them was a recreational activity that they’ll have to pay at least $70 a day for. I realize this. But at the same time I felt first hand the incredible sensation of teaching. Giving the gift of knowledge to another human. Whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional, teaching others is so incredibly rewarding. Edith Warton once said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I’ve always tried to live my life as the candle, but this past week I’ve learned first hand how truly rewarding it is to be the mirror.

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