Sunday, March 04, 2007

Snow wonder

Picabo Street.

Alberto Tomba.

Bode Miller.


Artists of alpine. Masters of the mogul. Superstars on the slopes.

Bud had his very first lesson today through an adaptive ski program for people with disabilities. I hadn't prepared him very much - we'd talked about it, of course, but I'm not a skier, so I couldn't give him the step-by-step of what he could expect. Luckily, Bud didn't need the preparation; he was a natural.

We were greeted by the two instructors who would be working with Bud for the day. They helped him get fitted for boots, helmet and skis, then we headed to the bunny slope. Bud was comfortable on his skis from the start, and after just a few minutes of sliding on the level ground at the bottom of the slope one of the instructors asked my husband and me if we'd like to take a break. I took his point right away - Bud would be better able to pay attention to their instruction if he wasn't so focused on us. I told Bud that his dad and I were going to find the bathroom and that we'd be back in a little while. To my surprise, Bud was fine with our departure and as we walked away from the slope, he turned back to his instructors to get his lesson underway.

We wandered over to the lodge for coffee, and after about 30 minutes we decided to sneak back to get a view of him, just to make sure that he hadn't gotten worried because we'd been gone so long. As we walked back to the children's area, we saw another staff member from the adaptive ski program walking toward us.

"Are you headed back there?" he asked. I immediately pictured Bud in tears, inconsolable, believing he'd been abandoned.

"Yes," I said.

"Good," he said. "They asked me to come find you so you could see him in action. They said he's doing a great job. Try to stay where he can't see you, okay?"

"Okay," we answered, resisting the urge to break into a run. We got back to the children's area and slipped into a warming hut with a wide window. They were right: Bud was doing a great job. He was riding a little lift to the top of the slope, then gliding gracefully to the bottom. His instructors struck just the right balance of staying close enough to make him feel safe and far enough away to make him feel independent. Each time they ascended the slope they took him a little further up. As he descended, he held out his arms and bobbed his head from side-to-side. Though I was too far away to see his face or hear his voice, I could read his body language clearly: Look at me, he said. I'm flying!

About 90 minutes into his two-hour lesson, his instructors stopped to consult with each other (to determine, I found out later, whether or not to move over to a larger hill.) I watched Bud as the instructors chatted. He faced away from the slope, and his face scanned the group of strangers collected at the bottom of the hill.

"He's looking for us," I said to my husband. "I think he's starting to worry." As if on cue, his instructors turned their attention back to him, and after a brief interaction the three of them headed toward us.

We exited the warming hut and joined them. The instructors had picked up on the same change in Bud's demeanor as I had, and they responded right away. We were scheduled for an afternoon session as well, and they thought that Bud would be ready for a larger incline once he'd had a break. We asked Bud if he'd like to ski again after lunch, and he said that he was tired and ready to go home. We decided not to push it and to end on a positive note, so we all headed back to the office to return Bud's gear and cancel the afternoon session.

As I got Bud unbundled and ready to go, my husband chatted with one of the instructors. Bud had done incredibly well, the instructor said. He'd made more progress than most kids do in their first lesson. "He's going to be a great skier," he said.

We stopped at the lodge for an apr├Ęs-ski chocolate chip cookie, which Bud munched as we headed back to the car.

"Bud," I asked, "Was it a hard day or an easy day?"

"An easy day," he said.

"What was your favorite part?"

"The skiing."

"Do you want to come back another day and ski again?"



Without question: A gold medal day.


kristina said...

A great athlete in the making or, I should rather say, already.

Teal said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome! I am so happy for Bud and for you! Yes, flying, and freedom, too. How cool for Bud to excel from the get-go, and to enjoy a new activity from the get-go. May cool weather and continued snow making come your way this month. Keep us posted on SuperBud's progress.

Jennifer_Z said...

Happy tears for you guys! What a great success.

I will have to remember to incorporate the "hard/easy day" dialoge with my is so obvious and yet I hadn't thought of that specific phrase. I wonder if he will understand it yet.

MOM-NOS said...

Jennifer, you could try labeling days for him yourself for a while so that he can get a sense of what you're talking about - i.e., when he's struggling with something you can say "I think this was a hard day," and when things have been fun, fun, fun, you can say "I think this was an easy day." It might be easier for him to answer the question once he has a real sense of what kinds of things he's feeling when you label each kind of day. It worked for us - and it's great to have language to help me understand how he's feeling on the days when it's not as clear to me.

Sezz said...

I'm crying with joy. How amazing to have such a great opportunity for Bud. The instructors sound like tremendous people and I look forward to hearing more about Buds new talent. Happy Days :-)

kirsten said...

yay, yay!
you guys manage to surround bud with the most supportive team of people - amazing!
i can only hope that we will find people, opportunities like that when our kiddo gets a little older.

gretchen said...

Way to go Bud!!! What a brave boy. I've never ever skied, so maybe he can teach me someday :-)

Lisa said...

Hooray, hooray!! That is the best news I've heard today! Skiing is a wonderful sport, and to find instructors like that, who are willing to read Bud, are heroes. What a triumph. Congratulations!

Mike said...

I feel so good after reading about Bud and his ski adventure. Go Bud!

Also, the instructors sound like just the right type to teach children.

Sarah said...

It's probably not possible to find out more about this particular program without exposing more of your personal info than you'd like. But I am so very interested in learning more, because I would love to find a program like this to teach my own kids someday. Any clues you can drop without compromising yourself? If not, I totally understand!

And thank you for the absolutely wonderful post. You are giving Bud a huge gift.

Mom Embracing Autism said...

Wow, Bud, the ski instructors, and you and your husband all deserve congratulations! Bud for being so brave, the instructors for their careful attention, and to you for giving Bud the opportunity to find something fun to do!

MOM-NOS said...

Sarah, if you e-mail me (momnos at gmail dot com) and let me know where you are, I might be able to locate a program within a reasonable distance. A Google search for "adaptive skiing" might do the same thing. And, serendipity being what it is, Terri Mauro just posted an article about adaptive skiing in Vermont this morning on

mcewen said...

Bingo! Good for you.

Professor said...

Oh wonderful, just wonderful

kyra said...

yipee! i am so proud of bud!

lizziehoop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aka R'acquel said...

Made tears well in my eyes. Congratulations to everyone on a gold medal day.