Skiing escapades

As groundhogs predict early spring, I go skiing

 | February 4, 2011

Two days ago, I encountered one other North American tradition—Groundhog Day. Believe it or not, I didn’t really pay attention to what Groundhog Day was about until last night when friends explained to me the story behind the legend.

“If the groundhog sees his shadow and runs back into his burrow, that means there’s going to be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, it means spring is near.”

The skeptical side of me wondered how accurate the groundhog’s prediction really is, but another side of me thought it’s great that traditions like these exist, at least for the entertainment value.

Well, on Groundhog Day two of Canada’s most well known groundhogs, Shubenacadie Sam and Wiarton Willie, both predicted an early spring. After going through -20 C and -17 C weather this week, I certainly hoped those predictions were right.

While I won’t be trading Mark Madryga’s weather reports for Wiarton Willie’s just yet, it seems like the groundhog’s prediction might be accurate this time. It was a gusty day as I went on my ski lesson with Sports School this morning but nevertheless, it was only -4 C.

It’s great to be back on snow. After my recent Ski Sisters experience, I felt I was ready to conquer the mountain. And who to greet me with a smile and a hug but Wulf, a friendly German ski instructor with whom I’ve done a lesson last year and Francesca, a British lady who has an equally delightful demeanour.

Because of the fog, our instructor decided we needed to go down a run with some trees.

“The contrast from the trees will make it easier to see and hopefully there’s better visibility,” Wulf said. Wise advice, I soon found out, as we had excellent visibility while going down Rambler.

The lesson for today was focused on perfecting our turns. Later in the lesson, we worked on upper body and lower body separation.

In creating round turns, Wulf simplified the process by breaking it down into three parts: pressure on the downhill ski at the beginning of the turn, a neutral phase in the middle of the turn and the transfer of pressure back onto the downhill ski to complete the turn.

With the upper body and lower body separation, the goal was to keep the upper body quiet and let the legs do the steering. It took Francesca and I a few tries to keep our upper body relatively stationary and facing downhill. For me, it was akin to learning to play the piano with both hands—sometimes your hands feel like they have a life of their own and can be a bit difficult to control. However, after a few more turns and practice, we heard our instructor saying “Super!” and we knew we did it.

“You can feel it if you did it right,” said Wulf. He was right. Once it clicks, the skiing becomes effortless.

Two trips up the Sundance chair, two runs down Rambler, countless turns and two hours later, our lesson was up.

“This lesson was beautiful!” exclaimed our energetic instructor. Francesca and I agreed; we had fun and we learned something new.

To book a lesson, contact the Sports School at 250-578-5505.

Your Turn:
Scientific studies say groundhog predictions are only accurate 39 per cent of the time. While we have yet to confirm whether Wiarton Willie’s prediction is correct, do you want to see an early spring this year? Why or why not?

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