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March 31, 2016

Visit Whistler: Whistler Blackcomb Family Private Ski Lessons

Planning our family's trip to Whistler was really fun, and I was extremely excited once we arrived in Whistler, but one thing on my mind kept me a little nervous - ski lessons!

I arranged for half-day Family Private Ski Lessons at Whistler Blackcomb for myself and my three sons.

None of us had skied before, and for me personally - the thought of falling and getting hurt, or simply making a fool of myself, was constantly on my mind.

However, after meeting our instructor, Ben, who is one of over 1,000 instructors at Whistler Blackcomb collectively teaching as many as 250,000 lessons a season (including lessons in 26 different languages), I was immediately put at ease.

His enthusiasm for the sport and the priority on safety was immediately apparent.  After a quick chat, he checked to make sure all of our ski boots and helmets were on properly, and attached Flaik GPS trackers to the boys, just in case one of them wandered off somewhere during the lesson.

We then rode in the Whistler Village Gondola and got out at the first stop.

We picked a spot as our base, and began our lesson.
The area quickly filled with others taking lessons.
During our lesson we pretty much learned the basics - how to put on our skis, how to glide on one ski, how to slide, how to go up a hill, and how to stop by placing our skis in the shape of a pizza.




For the kids, Ben used a lot of visual cues and terms that were engaging and easy for them to understand - "get small like a mouse," "walk like a duck!" - the visual cues really helped me as well! We also came up with a saying to yell whenever someone fell - "Man Down!"
Bend your knees!
Small like a mouse!
Man down!
I admit - being in a private group with my kids, I couldn't resist telling my kids "Listen to Ben!" and "Be respectful!" while repeating his instructions.  But after a while, I realized I was probably impeding the lesson more than helping, so eventually I backed off and let Ben do his magic.

There were periods where my kids were crying or not listening, which made me feel bad for Ben, but he said it's normal - patience is key!

And some treats never hurt!  He would give my boys Fuzzy Peach gummy candies whenever he felt they needed them.

Time and treats are exactly what my youngest needed!
My youngest was ready to give up
At one point he took off his skis and was just not willing to try anything.

He kept seeing my other kids fall, and he didn't want to fall himself.  For a while he just sat on the side and watched, while my kids and I continued with the lesson.

Fortunately, midway through the lesson we took a hot chocolate break.
Hot chocolate break
After sipping hot chocolate, and with a little encouragement, my youngest son later got on his skis, and worked with Ben.  Ben used a special clip attached to the front of his skis to help with the pizza stop.

I was very happy that everyone in our group participated.

There were quite a few falls (I probably had the worst fall - but thank goodness for helmets!), but there were also a lot of laughs, and even though we only had a half day lesson, we all accomplished something.

Ben commented how I was doing well and I needed to work on equally balancing my legs when it came time to stop, and I really just needed to get the fear of falling out of my head.

My oldest son did wonderfully.  He could easily glide down the hill on his own - he just had to work on how to stop as well.

If we had a full day lesson, perhaps we would have made it to the bunny hill with the magic carpet, but because of the vast age, learning, and ability differences, Ben had to work with the kids individually to get them to focus.

I was simply impressed with how wonderful Ben was with each of us, adapting the lesson to each person.

Speaking of adapting - Whistler Blackcomb offers adaptive lessons for those with physical and cognitive disabilities, allowing all guests to enjoy winter recreation.  I had considered adaptive lessons for my oldest son, who has an autism spectrum disorder, but ultimately decided we should experience the family private lesson together.  

I am so glad our family took ski lessons.

Even though we still have a lot to learn, we had a great experience, and that's simply because of Ben!

He was supportive, encouraging, patient, kind, and simply an awesome instructor!


For more information on the types of lessons Whistler Blackcomb offers, click here.

A big mahalo to Whistler Blackcomb for hosting our ski lessons, and to our amazing (and patient!) instructor, Ben. Gratuity was paid on my own.

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