Don’t they look cute? All bundled up? These little Michelin men, with gigantic heads, their faces disappearing behind goggles and neck warmers? All in their orange vests with their names on it. All struggling to hold on to their skis, cradling it awkwardly like a very skinny baby. All dreamy and talking about the most random things, not bothered that they might be walking into the adults that are coming their way. That’s what people see.
“How old are they?” is a question I frequently get. Sometimes people ask the kids directly. Then they just stick their mitten up into the air with a proud face, not realising the blank look on the adult is because they have no clue how many fingers are hiding underneath those mitts. I am proud when I’m cruising around the mountain with my four year-old Valley kids. But those kids aren’t even my youngest skiers.
On other days I have my group of three year-olds. They are not nearly ready for the mountain, but just managed to make their pizzas and stop, a thing I thought would never happen. Working with them is challenging. They are super young and therefore dreamy and all over the place. I can’t get them to stay in a line and when they are focused on waving to one of our fake flowers, an exercise to help them turn, they forget that they are skiing. The little guys require a lot of patience.
These same little guys say the funniest things though. One week they keep singing ‘Call me on my cell phone’ and another one of them suddenly shouts ‘Luke, I am your father’. One kid keeps calling me a ski bum. You get to know a lot about what’s going on at their houses this way. Houses to which I’ve been invited dozens of times by my little friends. “Andrea, do you want to come over to my house later?”
In a few weeks I’ll be taking this group up the mountain as well. It will be a struggle. There will be tears, possibly mine, and their little legs will cave in. I’ll be hiking up the hill to pick them up, sweating and secretly cursing. You’ll hear me shouting all over the mountain. “Good job, keep going.” “Get up! Get up!” “Park your cars, behind and below!” “Stay in the line guys.” But in the end, no matter what happens or how much you shout, these guys depend on you. And when I see five smiling faces behind me, I know what I am doing it for.