Herding Chipmunks

 Beginners come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages, each with their own fascinating body languages and personalities.  The one's I find the most fun to watch are the little ones, kids around the age of six to eight. 

 Think about the last time you saw an elementary school class of kindergarten children or first graders on a springtime outing .  The teachers had the kids lined up in pairs to aid in keeping track of them and to hopefully keep anyone from wandering off to explore something more interesting than whatever it was they were supposed to be looking at.  Everyone was supposed to stay in line, perhaps even holding hands, and there was a teacher or parent at the front and the rear of the column of curious, energy filled mischievous minds. Some of the kids were quiet and attentive, some were easily distracted or were so busy talking that they seldom heard the teacher's directions, still others would rather be somewhere else and were hard to keep in line, no pun intended. 

 Now  imagine the same group on skis for the first time.  Quite the challenge our instructor is faced with.  You might even call it herding chipmunks!  Still, they are fascinating to watch.  Most only come up to the instructors waist and nearly all are decked out in brightly colored ski outfits, with pink being the girl's favorite by a wide margin this year.  The parents of these youngsters have all wisely provided them with helmets, the majority are wearing ski masks, and all are wearing ski goggles;  some even fit properly!  To complete the picture, each little one is armed with miniature skis that  they are trying to gracefully carry to their designated meeting place. It's not working because the skis have come to life and are doing everything they can to escape the grasp of the little downhillers.  

 So, here's the picture the instructor is greeted with...and they're expected to remember the names of all six of these little people within a matter a minutes.  It would be simple if you could see the kids, but there isn't an exposed face or distinguishing feature on any of them, unless you can differentiate between the different shades of pink .  Somehow the instructor  manages to get all six names down pat faster than I can remember the names of my grandchildren and after a short "Here's what we're doing today" briefing with the kids and a round of hi-fives (Mom and Dad watching from close-by with varying  degrees of apprehension), they attempt to snap into their skis.

This may be the toughest part of the lesson. The natural athlete of the group gets snapped in and is off the get on the Magic Carpet in a flash, but the others aren't so lucky. One little guy manages to get one ski on, but the second one keeps moving down the slope, just out of reach.  Instructor to the rescue...but wait, he's got to get the natural athlete back before he gets away.  Student three, the little girl in the pink outfit, has tripped and is tangled up in the plastic mesh fence that forms the line onto the carpet;  well, it used to!  Instructor to the rescue, but what about the runaway ski and the natural athlete?  Oh boy, got to move quickly!  Student four, the other little girl in the other pink outfit, is trying her hardest  to get into her skis, but she just can't get the boot to click in.  She's getting frustrated and starts looking around for help.   Again, instructor to the rescue...poor guy is starting to feel like a one armed paper hanger!  Student five, the other, other little girl in pink, simply does not want anything to do with the cold weather and skiing and is calling for Mom and Dad.  But Mom and Dad stand their ground and convince little pink outfit number three to get back with the group and have some fun.  I think there was the promise of a special treat mentioned, but I couldn't hear exactly what was said.  At this point student six, a young man  in a pale red outfit  (great, it looks pink!) has managed to get into his skis and is yelling "This way" to the group, pointing towards a chairlift down the hill a little ways, directly in the opposite direction of the carpet they're supposed to be moving towards. Student one has rejoined the group, with a little encouragement from our master of multi-tasking instructor and the rest of the little skiers,  number six has been brought back into the fold;  amazing the sound five little ones can make when they all yell at the same time! 

It took a few minutes, but everyone has finally got their skis on and are now neatly lined up waiting their turn to get on the magic carpet. They appear to be smiling and ready for the next step in their adventure. Everything is under control, but a quick glance at the gently sloping beginner's hill leads me to conclude the fun is just beginning.  Little groups like this one dot the entire slope and from my vantage point it looks like the next lesson students one through  six will get is critical;  turning and stopping,  or in the case of the natural athlete,  running gates!  We'll take a look at the run down the hill another time.  It should be exciting!



Operations Shots