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 après-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?"
"Do you want to come back another day and ski again?"
Without question: A gold medal day.