Photo: As punishment for skipping, draw this line on the whiteboard ... 50 times.
There’s more to teen-age life than school. That’s why responsible parents should occasionally write irresponsible notes (“Due to family matters, Sam will not be attending school today”) and let their kids explore more important things. Sometimes, for example, you should help our kids skip school and go powder skiing.
This isn’t always easy. Sometimes the very temperament of a child refuses to recognize a parent’s wisdom. My oldest daughter usually viewed me as a pariah on those occasions when weekday weather had dumped snow and I proposed that the two of us play hooky and go skiing. She’d think it over for all of 10 seconds. “Can’t,” she’d conclude. “If I don’t get my physics homework in, that component of my grade would fall below 100. Then, if I got a C-minus on the final exam, my final grade could slip to an A-minus.”
Photo: What freakish child wouldn't want to skip school for a powder day like this?
Some parents might welcome the devotion that would sacrifice powder for physics. Me? I wondered whether this brainy child had been switched in the hospital at the time of birth and been sent home with Cro-Magnon father. What biologic child of mine would willingly give up the outdoors for that windowless penitentiary on Millerdale Street?
Fate had even more mischief in store for me. With her good grades, Daughter Number 1 was accepted at a top flight private college whose yearly cost equals my annual income. Coupled with our crashing investments, putting her through school has added a decade to my retirement age. Had she listened to me, attended the school of skiing more, studied less I might not be pondering my future as a 70-year-old order taker asking overweight customers whether I can super-size their meal.
Daughter Number 2 is a different kettle. Though mindful of the high bar set by her sister, she is less calculating about the future, more attuned to living in the now. In her, I’ve found a cohort in delinquency willing to seize a powder day.
Photo: "Skipping School? Me? By the way, what are you doing up here?"
Not everyone in the household shares our passion for non-traditional learning. Recently, my wife was speaking out against my third jailbreak in so many weeks, which got me ranting, “Skiing is not only more soul nourishing than a day at that sunless, WASL-obsessed institution, it teaches physical, emotional, spiritual, and social lessons that traditional education ignores.”
My wife rolled her eyes.
Her resistance didn’t stop us—one must expect skepticism along the path to higher truths. Nonetheless, on the drive back from Stevens Pass (where the powder happened to be deepest for this educational foray) that resistance did have Daughter Number 2 pulling out pencil and paper. We listed the higher truths learned on the slopes and discussed how these truths apply to life in general. It’s a good list… but incomplete. More trips to those powder fields of enlightenment are needed for more reflection about life.
Photo: Here' what a classroom should like.
12 Lessons From the School of Skiing (and/or)
What They Don’t Teach You at High School
by Andy and Heather Dappen
While speaking specifically about skiing, these lessons apply to life in general:
- Good springs from Bad. Getting up early, lugging around heavy gear, enduring the cold (the negatives of Yin) is worth the flight (the rewards of Yang).
- Commitment is Necessary or Don’t Live in the Back Seat. To ski well means leaning forward and leading with your head and chest. Push forward into gravity and into the fall line. To sit back on your tails invites failure…and crashes.
- Embrace Falling. To improve, be willing to fall. Paradoxically, the fear of falling makes falling more likely. On steep ground, good skiers maintain proper body position by leaning (falling) down the fall line and letting their skis turn under their center of gravity.
- Solve Old Problems in New Ways. Most people ski bumps by staying in the troughs, which are faster, more confined, bumpier, more difficult routes. It’s easier to ski moguls along a line interconnecting the tops of the bumps.
- The Best is Rarely the Easiest. To find the best turns usually involves work. You may need to hike. You may have to sweat. Your efforts won’t always pay off. But when you find unskied lines, euphoria is possible.
- Accept the Counterintuitive. The natural tendency of skiers is to lean into the hill, sit back on their tails, rotate their shoulders in the direction of travel. Accomplished skiers rise to new skill levels by accepting the counterintuitive: They must lean down the hill, push forward, and keep chest and shoulders oriented down the fall line.
- Few Things are Actually Simple. Skiing appears to be a matter of turning left, turning right, and repeating. But in each turn angulation, weight distribution, edge control, speed, slope angle, and snow consistency all work with or against each other. What appears simple takes years to master.
- Timing is Everything. Skiing teaches you the importance of positioning yourself at the right place at the right time. Visist slopes at the wrong time and you suffer, arrive at the right time and you rejoice. In winter, you find powder by knowing where it will be cold and shady. In spring, you find corn snow by following sun and warmth around the mountain.
- Balance is also Everything. Skiing develops balance on many levels. The need for physical balance is obvious. Less obvious: Skiing maintains emotional balance – who needs chemicals or therapists after a good day of skiing? Survival also depends on balance. It’s not safe to ski everything that looks fun-- the ability to say ‘No’ is a vital skill.
- Looking Ahead Aids the Present. You can’t ski smoothly by focusing solely on the next turn. You must see the next few turns along your line to properly execute the current turn.
- Skill Enlarges the World. The skiing world expands exponentially with competence. You enjoy steeper, deeper, cruddier, or icier conditions with increased mastery. In fact with competence, conditions you once despised are downright fun.
- Focus on Your Path, Not the Obstacles. It’s a huge difference in attitude (positive versus negative) and fluidity to look at where you’re going rather than at the obstacles. To ski the trees well, for example, look at the space between the trees, not the trees themselves.
Photo: An example of Lessons No.1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10 and 11. Especially Number 11.