The Rule of Fun

All too often when kids are being dropped off to their ski lessons, are the sage parental parting words, ‘Make sure you have fun!’ or the succinct, ‘Have fun!’. As if their kids not only have permission, but have an obligation to have said ‘fun’. Or maybe they were destined to forget about having fun because they’re in a lesson. ‘Okay, since you told me to ‘Have fun’, I suppose I better!’ And then, at the end of the lesson, when they pick up the kids the first question is invariably, ‘So, did you have fun?’

Ski lessons can be many things to many people, but a prime motivator for kids, or anyone for that matter, to do anything is that it is ‘Fun’.

‘Fun’ is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as ‘what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically: playful often boisterous action or speech.’ However, ‘fun’ is subjective and there are many definitions of what ‘fun’ is or what may constitute ‘fun’. In the outdoors adventure world a ‘Fun Scale’ has emerged, the lines between the types of fun may be a little fuzzy, here I’ll try to explain.

Type I: This type of fun could be considered your standard, typical fun. Going to the movies or having a couple of drinks with friends, for example. The effort and commitment requirements are low, it is easy to maintain and you wish it would continue. Whilst there are fond memories of having fun, there is no emotional journey and as result, there is little sense of achievement. Participants either don’t need a specific skill set for immediate success or they already have the skills required, though, someones Type 1 might be some else’s Type 2.

We like to try to keep the first time skiing experience as Type I fun as possible. The more positive this experience, the more our guests will come back to invest more effort and become more emotionally involved. This sets them up for Type 2. Skiing with friends on familiar terrain fits Type I fun. As an experienced skier Powder days are definitely Type I fun!

Type II: This type of fun takes more effort and commitment than type I fun. Often, there is a certain mental fortitude required to complete the task at hand and won’t seem like fun at the time.Type II fun is about pushing boundaries, growth and development. There is fun recognised after the fact in the journey, or pursuit, of self-fulfillment.  But the journey is worth it as there is a considerable sense of achievement. In the context of a lesson, doing new things out of their comfort zone.

A child after a lesson a few years ago said to his dad, ‘He made me do things I didn’t want to do and it was really fun!’ (And yes, I did quietly question the wording of his exclamation.) We skied over a little drop where he was scared, at first I had to convince him that he had the ability to do it. Quite a lot of kids were scared at first, but once they’d done it they don’t want to do anything else. Exploring new terrain can be quite challenging in itself at times and once there is some familiarity, confidence can be developed.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”

Another example of Type II fun is when the weather is less than favourable and precipitation is more wet than light, dry and fluffy. The type of weather that mum and dad put the kids into lessons, then proceed to the cafe to stay dry. A specific goal of mine is to bring the kids back at the end of the lesson super keen to have one last run with mum and/or dad, when they’re both dry.

Type III fun is similar to Type II fun. But it takes a lot longer to realise that it was fun, if it was fun at all. Some extreme descriptions I’ve read mention Earnest Shackleton or books by Jon Krakauer as Type III fun. Type III fun could end up in the Patrol Hut, Medical Centre or Hospital, quite possibly on the first day of the season or holidays. The type of ‘fun’ to be avoided.

So, next time you pick the kids up from ski lessons the question isn’t whether or not they had fun. The question is ‘What type of fun did you have?’

References and Further Reading

“Fun.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Viewed on 25/08/17.

Dunfee, R. 2015. ‘The three and a half types of fun, explained’ tetongravity.com Viewed on 25/08/17 https://www.tetongravity.com/story/adventure/the-three-and-a-half-types-of-fun-explained

Wright, C. 2013. ‘Suffering for the Fun of it’ nationalgeographic.com Viewed 25/08/17 http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/26/suffering-for-the-fun-on-it-alex-honnold-and-cedar-wrights-worst-trip-ever/

Cordes, K. 2014. ‘The Fun Scale’ rei.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://www.rei.com/blog/activity/climb/page/2

Cordes, K. 2009. ‘The Fun Scale’ kellycordes.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://kellycordes.com/2009/11/02/the-fun-scale/

Staff Writer. 2016. ‘The Three Types of Fun’ steliasguides.com viewed 25/08/17 http://www.steliasguides.com/tech-tips/the-three-types-of-fun/

Rubin, G. 2013. ‘Consider the three levels of fun: Challenging, Accommodating and Relaxing Fun’ gretchenrubin.com Viewed 25/08/17 https://gretchenrubin.com/2013/04/consider-the-three-levels-of-fun-challenging-accommodating-and-relaxing-fun/

 

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6 Tips for the Start of your Ski Holiday….or Season.

I remember, as a child going on ski holidays, the anticipation of exploring the mountain, thinking that I could just pick up where I left off the year before. I had memories of hurtling down the hill as fast as a could, trying to keep up with my older siblings, or racing them to the bottom. But when we actually got to the skiing bit, my legs seemed like they hadn’t remembered anything from the year before and my coordination was lacking. What was going on?

It was highly frustrating. Of a 5 day holiday, the first 2 days were spent trying to get my legs back. By the middle of the holiday I was back to where I was on the last day of the previous holiday. And then it was the last couple of days that it felt like I actually made any progress. Even though this was the case when I was a recreational skier, these days I’ll have approximately 6-8 weeks off snow between seasons, instead of 358 days between ski holidays and I still take it easy at the start of the season, about 2 weeks, to get my legs back and warm into it.

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Keen on Green to get your legs back

Here are some tips for preventing injuries at the start of your holiday (or season).

1. Start Mellow. If you were skiing Blue runs last year, go to the Green runs. If you were skiing Blacks, go back to Blue. Keeping the terrain easy will help you to focus on what you are doing, rather than where you are going. Skiing with-in your comfort zone also boosts confidence.

2. Start Slow. Yes, you remember beating buddy down the hill last year and you were bought a drink because of it, however that was last year. Going too fast, too soon gives you less response time to avoid objects or people. Also, the faster you go and the more sudden the movement in a way you didn’t intend, poses the risk of tearing a muscle or ligament, amongst other injuries. Slow down, take it easy you have all week (or however long you’re on holiday for). It’s not a race to the Patrol Hut!

3. Keep hydrated. Your muscles will need it. Firstly, they haven’t been used in the same way since last year and you are, more than likely, going to be at a higher altitude than you normally are (unless you are skiing at le Massif, Quebec, at relative sea-level). The combination of lower air pressure and lower humidity means that moisture evaporates from the skin and lungs faster than at lower altitudes. And, it’s been reported that, for some reason, many people do not feel as thirsty in higher altitudes as they should. All great reasons to drink water frequently.

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Skiing at le Massif, Quebec

4. Keep your energy levels up by eating a substantial meal the night before and breakfast each day. Again, the combination of being at altitude, which may slightly increase your metabolism, and physical exercise, in the form of skiing are 2 great reasons to eat without guilt. You need energy to make good judgements and decisions, and to stay alert.

5. Dynamic stretching before, during and after your days skiing. This is really good for keeping warm as well as stretching the main muscles used for skiing. Swinging your legs back and forth, diagonally, and with the arch forward, like kicking a soccer ball, helps to stretch the hip flexor, gluteus, adductor’s & abductors.

6. And remember to call it a day. A lot of injuries are caused by fatigue at the end of the day. And try to avoid the ‘One last run’ syndrome. Your last run should be the one you just did.

If you are thinking of a lesson, I recommend going in the afternoon of your first day. This will ensure that you have enough of your legs back to get the most value. Then for the rest of the time having a lesson in the morning so that you have the afternoon to spend as you wish. Although having said this, a lot of resorts have priced the afternoon cheaper than the morning for this reason. Check the pricing and see what works best for you.

These tips are not a guarantee that you definitely won’t get injured, however, it will be more likely that you will go the distance. Taking it easy at the start of each season has paid dividends for me later on, and I hope it does for you.

What are some of your early holiday warm-up rituals?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!