Snow daze

Snow, so much snow!

I was a touch unsure how good the snow was going to be at Mt. Washington last week. I also thought it might be warm, relatively speaking, for skiing and snowboarding. Well, I was wrong about all of that.

There was so much snow, and the first day we got there, it was cold. Minus 3C, but with a windchill into the minus double digits. When our young people jumped out of the minivans, they were still dressed for the coast. Within thirty seconds, bags were being raided to find as much warm clothing as possible. I’m telling the truth when I say one person managed to put on 5 hoodies! Snow dazed!7A056C51-0664-47AD-B6D3-5AE2C7BB7037

It was such fun to be out in the snow with a group wanting to learn to ski and ride. They had boundless energy and enthusiasm – even after the lessons started, and they realized how challenging it can be at first. Two out of fifteen had had a previous lesson, and it showed. These two were carving steady S turns pretty quickly, and some of the others, newbies, weren’t too far behind.F81EB35F-1340-4296-ABFD-0C1707BBD5B2

I’m happy to report my return to snowboarding was a triumph, if measured by how many times I saved myself after catching an edge. No falls, but plenty of wobbles. Danger is my middle name. Or is it safety?F607A3F1-6958-4852-A8DF-BA74D332DA1A

The tube park was a big hit. Safe and speedy fun for creaky kids of all ages, the young ones had a blast, and I had a go or two, enduring gentle mocking for not wanting to be spun around as I was sent on my way.9C3F06AF-3A6A-427D-8011-455B9751614A

If you’re ever on Vancouver Island in the winter, and you’re missing some alpine action, I can highly recommend Mt. Washington. It’s a quiet hill, even when they said it was a busy day, compared to other places, and very well run, with friendly and helpful staff from the rental shop all the way to the lifts. As well as the downhill action, you can also choose to xc ski or snowshoe on what looked to be well maintained trails.

5EF5914F-6AFB-4E36-B82E-47A08500ECF7
I’ll be sitting back and resting up this weekend…

Since returning, on a high and in a snow daze, I’ve been asked by students over and over “when can we go again?” I think we’re working on that…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“I fell over!”

Teacher: Goodness! Are you alright? What happened?

Student: I fell over!

Teacher: But your arm is okay? Yes? Tell me the story!

Student: Well, I was going down the hill, and then I fell over!

We took a group of grade 5/6 students to WinSport, formerly Canada Olympic Park, at the west edge of Calgary. What an opportunity! Cold and sunny, not too windy, so what’s not to like? Three days of ski or snowboard instruction – why, that’s almost as good as three days in a classroom with Mr. PlaidCamper…

image-1
Cold and sunny, and you can see the mountains from the top of this “mountain”!

The rest of my week has been spent writing report cards, so the post is from the mouths of students. I started off with the tale of the broken arm – that’s what we thought when Ski Patrol radioed in and said there’d been an accident. Fortunately, ice , sympathy and time revealed no more than soreness and what I hoped would be quite the tale. We’ll do some work on embellishment and tall stories next week in class, because what you read above is the story D told me – he fell over.

image
Paying attention

Let’s try another one:

Student: When I was living in Nigeria, I had a dream about playing in snow. Today I will try snowboarding. God has given me a gift from my dream.

Teacher: That’s lovely, J – but do you think you could push your foot a little harder into your boot?

Student: I think I need smaller feet, Mr. PC.

Teacher: An interesting idea J, but perhaps we’ll try the next boot size up first?

J did get a larger size up, and he did spend three days learning to snowboard. Or three days playing in the snow. His first Canadian winter, and he’s embracing it!

How about P, who has ASD and loves Star Wars:

Student: Can I keep the boots? I’m like a stormtrooper on a snowboard. When I go home, I’m making lego Darth Vader on skis.

Teacher: Would Darth prefer snowboarding?

Student: No, he skis and Han Solo snowboards.

Fair enough. I’m looking forward to that movie.

image-3
My snowboard at Louise (I’m short on pictures this week)

Here are a few more snippets from students, and I have to say they thoroughly enjoyed their time on the “mountain”!

My butt hurts!

Can I switch to skiing? (After seeing a skier blast by)

Can I switch to snowboarding? (Snowboarder blasted by)

My board is the wrong colour – I need a blue one! (We did establish that colour likely wasn’t the issue, and that getting up and trying again helps…)

My butt hurts!

Can we eat this snow?

Are you really related to Shaun White, Mr. PC? (Not exactly, but there are similarities, don’t you think?)

But Shaun White has hair!

My butt hurts!

Can we come back next week? 

image-2
Maybe they’ll end up here?
image-3
Or here! I hope so…

Oh, how I wish we could be back there next week. Seeing students fall over, flail around a bit, realize they’ll have to pick themselves up, and then do so with a smile and a laugh, really gives me hope. Their character is revealed, and they start to realize that work, effort and play can, sometimes,  be pretty much the same thing.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

A week in the life of old PlaidCamper (and how I’m feeling my age)

Don’t panic, this isn’t turning into FaceBook or anything – but do find something else to do if you read the title and thought “No, he wouldn’t!” because yes, I would.

Not a strong narrative thread, simply how the past week went and why I’m so tired – in a good way.

Image 4
Aiming high – top of the world

Thursday evening and Friday morning: parent/student/teacher interviews! Time well spent, and often invaluable for students and parents, but listening to myself speak for eight hours on educational matters is hard – did I really mean to say that? Was I too honest? What was I saying at the start of this sentence? Are they asleep?

IMG_0366
To the mountains!

Once the Friday interviews wrapped up, it was into the car and out to the mountains for some snowshoeing and snowboarding. A cosy cabin in Field, about twenty minutes from the ski hill, meant an easy early start Saturday for the best of the first turns. Except that only happens if I remember to set the alarm. Old and tired without an alarm means an unexpected lie in. Oh well, must have needed it, and we took a short woodland hike instead through pretty woods above the cabin. Lots of creaking; I think it was the trees.

Sunday, alarm set, and a good early start to Louise! The lift lineups were nonexistent all day, and conditions were pretty pleasant on the slopes given poor snowfall the previous few days and strangely warm weather. Grey and overcast, with the mountains looming and slightly menacing without strong sunlight, but striking anyway. We searched for patches of blue, and found one at the top of the world. It didn’t last, but we weren’t blue with so much mountain to play in.

Image 5
A patch of blue

Back to Calgary Sunday night, and packing hurriedly for two days in Kananaskis country with a group of students. An outdoor challenge camp designed to develop collaborative skills and boost esteem, as well as encourage a love for the mountain environment. And if they have a laugh or two at their teacher failing to keep pace, then all the better…for them at least. Hiking, climbing, clambering, and singing (not me, not the last one, that would be cruel…)

Image 3
Try and keep up…

Tuesday evening, hand over the camp students to a colleague, and back to the city and hurriedly unpack and find clean(ish) clothing for three days of learning to ski/snowboard with grade 5/6 students at Canada Olympic Park. So you’ve had hardly any sleep the previous couple days – those bunks at camp aren’t luxurious or quite full size – but you said you really wanted to go to Kananaskis and be part of the learn to ski program, so stop your whining old boy.

Image 1
I can help here

Have you ever tried to “assist” with teaching snowboarding to forty enthusiastic children? You will laugh, you might cry, you will be nimble and in fear for your life, and you will discover you aren’t as young as you once were. When your most gullible student asks “are you sure you’re 29 years old, Mr. Plaidcamper?”, the game is almost up.

Image 2
Kananaskis! Not much snow, or sun, but we can learn out here…

What a week! I complained (to myself), I laughed (a lot), I pulled new muscles (still have some), I wobbled (in many different ways), and I had a blast. To observe how students love to be outside, love to be challenged, and often don’t even have a (formal?) sense that they’re in a learning environment when it is outdoors, is wonderful. The perseverance and problem solving skills they develop are transferable to other life settings, sometimes explicitly, but often implicitly, and they’ll have an enormous reserve to draw on when faced with necessary adversity later in their learning. It was an exhausting week, (and I couldn’t do it every week), but tired as I am, I suspect it keeps me young at heart. Why, I feel 29(ish)!

Image
A small reward at the end of the week – this evening!

Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.

Snow pictures – happiness and equilibrium

For many of us this past week, our determination to view the world positively has been tested, but perhaps a solution to this problem can be found outdoors.

An outdoor remedy
An outdoor remedy
I’m aiming to be in a happy place mentally and geographically this weekend (do you find the two are inextricably linked, or is that just me?) We will be snowboarding at Louise, our first outing of the new season, and I’ve only been looking forward to this for about six months. The snow pictures this week come from the previous season or two.

Looking for Louise
Looking for Louise (other way – it’s behind you)
I’m likely getting on a bit to be so excited about stepping onto a plank of wood and launching myself down steep snowy slopes, but what can I say? I love it! Don’t go thinking I’m some sort of daredevil riding a snowboard (only in my head), it’s more like a slower version of Driving Miss Daisy, where Miss Daisy is shaking a fist and yelling at me to move over. I get down the mountain…

Happy
Happy
It’s definitely not the adrenaline rush. I find that when I’m on the board, being on the board is all I’m thinking about, if thinking is the right word here. Everything else has to drop away, and there’s the balance, the movement – leaning one way then the other – and all the little adjustments made on the fly as you navigate the terrain. Finding equilibrium. If you’re lucky enough to be first out on a powder day, and the sky is blue and the scenery is sparkling, then so much the better.

IMG_20131123_114331

I smile on a snowboard – it may look like a grimace, but honestly, that is a smile. I love how fellow riders and skiers all appear to be happy. Faces are lit up, stories are shared in lift lineups, and the mood of the day is upbeat. I know there are risks and accidents, and some can be severe, but life is about risk and exploring boundaries (without trampling over your fellows along the way), so enjoy it as best you can while you can. If that means being an elderly(ish) snowboarder, well, off you go!

A bit of a selfish post here, so I’ll keep it brief. A weekend in the mountains riding my board at Louise – fresh air, good company, a cabin at the end of the day – definitely a happy place!

 

Some sort of a daredevil?!
Thanks for reading! Do you find happiness and equilibrium on a snowboard? Maybe somewhere elsewhere? Please feel free to make a comment or share a story, have a happy weekend, and keep your guy ropes secure.

We were both surprised...
We were both surprised…

Is this Canada? Yes it is!

Happy Canada Day! As it is Canada Day, I’m posting a few photos of the True North, and hoping to both break and encourage fond stereotypes of this wonderful country.

This is because sometimes, when I share pictures with friends and family back in Europe, they’ll ask if we are still in Canada? They never doubt pictures of snow covered mountains or mighty forests as being Canadian, but the following one prompted a few questions:

 Is this Canada?

I think it was the hammock, the lovely blue skies, and lush greenery that made some think we were staying on a tropical island! Hawaii was suggested, and I don’t know that I convinced the doubters when I said Tofino, Vancouver Island. If you don’t know Tofino, it’s maybe not what most think of when asked to picture Canada.

I followed up with the following photographs to help my European friends:

 

The Tofino minibus finally convinced them I was being truthful, and still in Canada!

Another reason we’re celebrating Canada Day with even more joy than usual, is because we’ve just been given our notice to appear and swear our oath to become Canadian citizens. Before the end of July, our lengthy journey  to be full participants in our new homeland will be complete! We are so very happy about that. We love where we come from, and enjoyed all the places we’ve called home, and are now really excited to be fully committed to where we currently live and intend to stay. That calls for a more obviously Canadian picture, eh?

  This is Canada (so Canadian!)
  Did someone say citizenship? 

I’ll leave you with a few more photos of our small corner of Canada, and wish you a great day wherever you are!

  This is Canada!
  And this is!

  So is this!

  A little Plaid…

  A big moose… 

 Essence of Canada!

  Canada Day breakfast

I hope you enjoyed this Canada-fest. Please feel free to comment or share a Canada story. Thanks for reading, and keep your guy ropes secure.