Fall brings the Winter…

It’s Amazing how much snow makes a difference. And not necessarily just snow, but how much snow. Till 9am Wednesday morning, we had 35cms. Not the biggest of dumps, but considering 2 weeks ago weather and conditions reminded me more of a drizzley Vancouver Island in spring, a notable dump. Transforming the mountain, from idyllic mountain hiking, to the pre-season snow, cat-packing and preparing the pistes for skiing and riding.

P1020269

5th November, Needs Snow.

Although there was no snow on the bottom half of the mountain and it felt like an alternate
reality (this was the first time in 10 years I’ve returned there was absolutely no snow at the village), getting an idea of what we ski over was enlightening. The size of the rocks and the sheer amount of snow needed to open the resort was quite a lot more than I had anticipated. I had heard stories, however, it was good to see it with my own eyes. And the transformation has been comforting.

Hiking around the mountain without the amount of snow that I’m accustomed to was, as I said, enlightening. Amongst the rocks, were streams and creeks that were starting to freeze over. When they started to freeze, the water level was higher, leaving an ice-shelf resembling the consistency of molten glass that had set, leaving layers as the water level dropped. Some were thicker than others and the patterns that were left were reminiscent of psychedelic, monochromatic blown glass.

P1020394

Water frozen at different levels as the water subsides

Having such a large dump from relatively minimal coverage means that there is a lot of snow to plough from roads, car parks, drive ways and paths. However, it also means that there’s a back log of piste packing as well. All the creeks, drainage, dips, gullies and any thing else that needs snow packed in it, gets’ snow pushed in to it and smoothed off, like masses of frigid plaster, eventually creating a delicious, consistent, groomed surface we’ve grown so accustomed to skiing on. Some resorts do ‘Summer Grooming’, which removes large rocks, logs and other materials which would poke through a shallow snow accumulation so that we can either ski earlier in the season, or on less snow, or both.

P1020481

28th November. Have snow, needs to be groomer packed.

Before the snow fall (when it was relatively green), there seemed to be a lack of confidence as to whether we would open on the week-end, however, the snow during the last week has, hopefully, set the base for the season. The groomers have pushed snow and filled in the creeks, dips, gullies and the pistes will be prepared for the Opening Day tomorrow. And there has been a certain buzz in the Village, as new and returning staff prepare for the up-coming season. As it seems that we are back to the seasonal average of snow, things are looking up! Now that we are open, let’s go for a ski!

Advertisements

Have you heard the one about the….

Over the years, I have earned myself a reputation for telling jokes to the kids at the meeting area. To some the jokes may seem quite droll, however, this is to serve a few functions. To build rapport, earn trust and gain an understanding of our students. One way to Build rapport with anyone is through humour, not too much, not too little and just the right kind. It’s important to create a relaxed and comfortable environment quickly as our students will be more likely to be open to learning. Also, making sure that the delivery of content, being ‘on the same level’ as the kids, is imperative, or they’ll be lost, or worse they’ll never be there to start. Treating them too young, may seem patronising, too old, and the reaction might be ‘I have a Dog!’.

Telling jokes, and having the kids tell jokes back helps gauge where their humour is and usually gives a pretty good indication of where they’re at Cognitively and Emotionally. Some of the jokes I tell at the meeting area are funny (well, that’s what I tell myself), others not so funny, but then this would generally depend on the age of the child. I noticed that I could tell the same joke to a different age group and get a completely different response, may be better, or worse! Whether they get the joke to start with, or genuinely laugh at the jokes, roll their eyes, or vaguely giggle with a ‘knowing glance’, often indicates what ‘level’ they’re on and helps determine how the lesson is approached. And when done accurately, this helps to earn and build trust.

The younger kids (3-4yrs) usually have the most ridiculous, nonsensical jokes. This age tends to react more to visual and physical/slapstick humour. (Price 2007)  Although, sometimes they understand basic word-play and riddles.The most common joke for this age group seems to be the classic ‘Knock knock’ joke. This may be an indictment of their understanding of the world in a very defined way, having not developed language skills, understanding double meanings, amongst other things. Black is black, white is white with very few, if any, shades of grey in between (and certainly not 50!).

On a chair-lift ride with older kids, the 4-year-old might make up a joke that combines the previous 2 jokes they’ve heard, and only tell it so they feel like they are part of the group, which they are, just on a different level. This kind of mixing and matching of components, without knowing the rules, or structure, is an element of ‘Egocentrism’, where the child doesn’t know the rules or how to apply them but thinks they do.

From my experience, By the time kids get a little older, they usually have a pretty good understanding of basic (or in some cases, complex) word play, which requires understanding context, multiple word meanings, contradictions, metaphors and ambiguity. (Stern, 2010) And the older they get the more sophisticated the joke. Or, they’ll rip the joke to pieces. I once got in to an Existential discussion with a 10-year-old after I told the ‘Why did the dinosaur cross the road?’ joke. ‘Chickens are not invented,’ she said, ‘they evolve and roads are invented, but they didn’t exist because there weren’t people then.’ And so it went. Needless to say, once I had this discussion I re-thought my approach!

References

Price, M. 2007 ‘The Joke’s in you’, American Psychologist Assosciation                          Stern, V. 2010  ‘Jokes crack open brain connectivity in Autism’, SFARI (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative), viewed 10 August 2014

Here is a selection of jokes I have heard through the years, by no means is this ALL of them.

If you have any to add, please, feel free to post in the comments, send me an e-mail.

What do you get when you cross an elephant with a fish?
Swimming trunks!
Why did the cow cross the road?
He wanted to go to the moo-vies!
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side!
Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chickens day off!
Why did the dinosaur cross the road?
Chickens weren’t invented then!
Why did the whale cross the ocean?
To get to the other tide!
Why did the chicken cross the park?
To get to the other slide!
Why did the possum cross the road?
He wanted to visit his flat-mate!
What do you call cheese that’s not yours?
Nacho Cheese (Not your cheese)
Have you heard the joke about the pizza?
Nah, I better not. It’s too cheesy
Have you heard the joke about the Nachos?
Nah, I better not. It’s too corny.
Have you heard the joke about the wall?
Nah, better not. You won’t get over it.
Have you heard the joke about the butter?
Nah, better not. You’ll just spread it.
What kind of cheese do you use to disguise a horse?
Mascapone. (Mask-a-pony)
What kind of cheese do you use to coax a bear out of its’ cave?
Camembert. (Come-on-bear)
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror?
Haloumi. (Hello-me)
Why did the toilet roll down the hill?
To get to the bottom!
What’s red and sits in the corner?
A very naughty strawberry!

What’s the laziest mountain in the world?                                                                      Mt Everest!

Spring is Sprung, The Snow’s still here!

Spring has definitely sprung in Queenstown, NZ. The snow on the ski fields through August held up quite well, considering the 3 and a half weeks of Sunshine and Blue skies. Everyone has almost forgotten what a cloud is, there have been so few of them. And, the air was super crisp.

P1020092

Cirrus Clouds 31 August

Now September is here, and the last 2 days have warmed up noticeably. Although the snow was quite firm this morning, by the afternoon it was soft, but not too soft. And yes, it is that time of season when there is that perfect 1-2 hour window of opportunity in the late morning, when it’s in between the firm morning and super-slushy afternoon.

At the start of the season the snow on the beginners area was negligible. Now there is at least 6 feet of snow and it’s still above the carpet. In previous years around this time, this snow has already been started to be pushed to other areas that need it more. So, there’s still plenty of snow to be skied, especially if it firms up each night. (Or re-freezes, which ever way you look at it!) The groomers in the morning are delicious and the off-piste snow is sweet corned goodness.

P1020117

Still plenty of snow. 9 September.

This is a great time to get out in the sun and enjoy the wind-down at the end of the season. Most of the multi-week, local kids programmes have finished and the mountains are open for skiing. Because there are so few people on the slopes, it’s a great time to learn how to ski & board, and if you’re good at one (or, at least like to think so!) it’s good to cross-over and try the other.

P1020119

Beginners Area. Snows great and holding well.

As you can see, there are very few people out there, meaning, for group lessons at least, it’s highly likely that you’ll get a private lesson for the price of a group and if you connect with the instructor, they’ll be available for a private, if you request them. So, you’d better get in quick, snow and weather conditions like this don’t last forever!!

 

Top 7 Tips for First Time Families going on a Ski Holiday

Going on a Ski Holiday can be a fun adventure and with the right planning can be a fabulous Life Changing Experience. Planning a ski holiday starts well before you get to the snow or even where you’ve decided to go. Here’s my Top 7 Tips to do before going on that holiday and bringing your child to Lessons for the first time. (It might even be sage advice for the seasoned veteran.)

1. Involve your child in sport. Organised or not, this has more than one benefit and may include muscle use, socialisation and independence, amongst a multitude of other things. Skiing is a sport after all and active kids get more out of it.

Sports doesn’t necessarily mean organised team sports like Soccer, Rugby, Basketball, Netball etc, although these are all good. It also includes all sorts of other physical activities like Dancing, Ballet, Jazz Ballet, Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Swimming, Running, Horse riding etc. Even the mere encouragement of your child playing on a skateboard, roller blades/skates, rip stick etc. is so much better than doing nothing, as the muscles used in these activities greatly improves your child’s ability to reappropriate these balancing skills. Skiing involves the use of muscles that don’t get used in everyday life and if your child’s muscles aren’t used at all, then the pace of the lesson is considerably slower and the perceived value of the lesson is less. (Working in Canada, it’s interesting to see how quickly kids pick up skiing if they ice skate or play ice hockey. There is a dramatic and noticeable difference between those that do and those that don’t.)

It also aids in the socialisation and independence of your child, allowing them the opportunity to meet other kids and how to behave and interact in group situations. (Private Lessons are great for children in the process of socialisation, 3-6 years old.) This allows your child to get used to the fact that you, their parents, aren’t always going to be around, but will return to pick them up afterwards. This is absolutely critical for the nurture of a positive sense of independence, especially for younger children. Your child can then focus on what’s happening in the lesson, not your absence and be comfortable in the fact you’ll return. Separation anxiety can, in my experience, be evident in children as old as 8, but not that often. And is increasingly more evident in their parents. And no, Nintendo, Wii and PS3 are not sports.

2. Allow a rest day between travelling and skiing. This is especially true if your children are young and skiing for the first time. There are a lot of new things to get accustomed to in their new environment and need time to make these adjustments. These exciting new situations, especially the first life changing experience, may include Snow (whether on the ground, falling from the sky or being blasted out of snow guns), the Mountains, the Elements, the Views. These all conspire to distract the first time Skiing child from the fact they’re in a lesson. (And if you’ve have paid for lessons, and they haven’t done this then familiarisation of the environment becomes part of the lesson. I’ve had frustrated parents assert that my job is to ‘teach them how to ski, not play in the snow.’) If you’re on the yearly ski holiday, still allow for a good nights sleep on arrival and every night of the holiday. Here is a great article on the value of sleep for children.

3. Beat the queues. Use the Rest/acclimatisation day to organise rental equipment, lift tickets and anything else which may take time and might need to queue for in the morning. Doing this the day before you start allows you time to do it and not feel rushed.

4. Feed them a Substantial Breakfast. It may sound pretty basic, but the amount of kids that turn up for lessons without having a substantial breakfast is astounding. Skiing is a high energy sport and learning in an alpine environment can be challenging. Getting things organised and/or done the day before helps the first morning of skiing to be not as hectic as it needs to be and allows time to eat. Coco Pops doesn’t count on their own as the sugar wears off very quickly and is really frustrating for all involved when kids are asking if it’s lunch time 30 minutes in to a 2.5 hour lesson.

5. Leave early as getting to the mountain and lessons could take longer than you think. Even the best laid plans can be thwarted by something minor.

6. Put snacks in your child’s pockets. Keeping warm and energised is one of the keys for learning and having fun. Putting snacks in your child’s pockets for them to eat on the lift ride up helps to maintain energy levels and aids in concentration. Maybe muesli or granola bars for the morning and then something sweet for the afternoon if they are in all day. Be aware, though, that some Children’s Facilities are Nut Free Zones.

7. Pack sunscreen, spare gloves and other equipment like goggles. If possible, have a back-up pair of gloves. Sometimes there is precipitation that resembles rain more than it resembles snow. Putting on cold, wet gloves after lunch is no fun to put back on your hands, nor your child’s.

8. I know I said Top 7 but get lessons to at least learn how to stop. The skills of skiing are counter intuitive and without knowing exactly how to stop – or teaching your children how to stop – you may be a liability on the slopes. Also, a Lesson when exploring new terrain is advisable, as the excitement of going up a new lift to steeper or more challenging terrain sometimes means that what has been learned is quickly forgotten. The last place you want to spend the rest of your new-found holiday is hospital via the Patrol Hut. (Or the psychiatric ward!)

Have fun, stay safe and see you out on the slopes!!