Flip Flops and Silver Linings

Flip Flops and Silver Linings

Written By: Stacey Gerrish, RM Children’s Chair

With resorts closing, Spring arriving and snow melting, it is a great time to put your feet in flip flops, reflect and remember our recent winter season.

Congratulate yourselves on teaching lessons during the midst of a global pandemic, we did it, you did it! And we all did it well. The pandemic caused us to adjust our businesses, to shift how we teach children snow sports, and to adjust how we interact with children and their parents. In reflection, there were both challenges and silver linings. At many resorts children’s programs saw big changes.

  • 3- and 4-year-olds were taught in a 1:1 lesson, a shift from being in a small group.
  • 3- and 4-year-olds no longer met inside, parents dropped them off outside in the snow environment, resulting in far fewer tears and far more giggles.
  • 3- and 4-year-olds had lunch with their family, and they had the choice to be with ski school for a half day or to rejoin lessons after lunch.

These adjustments for 3- and 4-year-olds were huge, and while this may have created more work for the people managing these programs, the shift resulted in gains for the young participants. We saw more 3- and 4-year-olds achieve independence with their skiing skills. Happy child, happy vacation!

Changes applied to five- and six-year-olds as well. 5- and 6-year-olds were in groups of four or less, and they were accompanied on every lift with a staff member. Pre pandemic this age group may have had a group of six to eight and may have ridden a chair lift with a staff member or someone from the general public who may or may not have engaged them in conversation on the ride up. This winter 5- and 6-year-olds ate lunch with their family and had a choice to do a half day or a full day lesson, and as a result they tended to be happier, and we had far fewer complaints by the end of each day. The mid-day pause, while inconvenient for some was restorative for many.

Instructors had a moment in the middle of the day to eat lunch peacefully or take a run for themselves. For some, this adjustment was difficult, missing the time with their students. For many, lunch became a respite. For instructors, there was a common concern going into this winter, how will we build connections with children with our faces covered up? Eye contact became an absolute necessity since our facial expressions were primarily under wraps. Voice inflection, hand and arm gestures took on more meaning, and conversing to build connection became the key. To the surprise of many, connections were strongly formed despite our covered faces!

Another concern for instructors, was around helping young students while maintaining physical distance from them. The result was actually a silver lining. Instructors became clearer and more concise in giving directions, with an understanding that simplicity was key. And it turns out, the physical distance led to independence and autonomy in learning, a huge plus for so many young students.

As you meander into Summer, take time to reflect. And share out the silver linings with your Ski & Snowboard School Management teams. I bet there were changes made for this past winter that have sparked new ideas, and it might be a great idea to make these changes our new normal. Children are resilient beings and if we view change with a positive, silver lining mindset our students will be happier than ever!

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