“Kids, good work today. Get psyched for our competitions tomorrow!” As I finish talking, the last of the kids on the Silvermount Ski Team skied up to the ski rack and removed their gear. I start herding the kids toward the Mount Lion’s Head Chalet, run by my sister Chloe. The chalet has been run by my family for decades, and this year I was appointed the head ski instructor and coach.
I hold the door open for the nine and ten year old team, and we troop down to the lobby where the parental units await. While the team starts walking to the parking lot, a dad named Stephen stops me from returning to the Employee Lounge to warm up before my next session.
“Victoria, just wanted to remind you that Samuel may not compete in the extreme divisions tomorrow, as he is looking and feeling a bit frail lately, isn’t that right, Samuel-?”
Samuel mutters something incomprehensible.
“-and I hope you understand.”
Samuel trails after Stephen, who has now reminded me for the fifth or sixth time of what Samuel may or may not compete in tomorrow. As Stephen keeps on talking, his bushy eyebrows are bunching closer and closer to a unibrow with anxiety over a condition I don’t believe Samuel has. However, it’s not really my place to disagree. Instead, I only say, “I understand that unless the most dire situation occurs, such as an injured teammate, Samuel won’t be competing in the Freestyle, Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Parallel or Combined categories, only the Downhill division? I appreciate your concern, but now I must depart from this lovely conversation-” I’m on a roll.
“Only one more thing,” Stephen cuts me off. “I unfortunately will not be able to make it to the competition tomorrow, so I rely on you to keep him safe. Is that clear?” Stephen proceeds to hand me a long list of all the doctors and pediatricians that Samuel has visited in the last year, plus a lot of medicine bottles, just in case. Given this over-the-top protectiveness, why keep Samuel on the team, since it seems to be so dangerous?
After Stephen departs with his son, I enjoy the three and a half minutes left in the Lounge before going outside to meet my last lesson of the day – a tough crowd of teenagers.
The following morning, I wake up in the family quarters inside the Lion Head Chalet at 7:45 am, and already hear Chloe giving the kitchen staff instructions for the daily menu. It takes me less than ten minutes to rise, shower, and get dressed before reminding Chloe that I’m traveling to Cliffman’s Ski Resort with the Lion’s team. Then I’m grabbing a waffle fresh out of the waffle iron to-go, putting it in a napkin, and getting my ski jacket on. Then I’m out the door, waiting at the Lion Head travel bus stop, at 8:00 am sharp.
I’m surprised that I’m actually the first one at the bus stop but hey, gotta lead by example. After the team has all trickled in and I’ve double checked the head count, we board the bus. As the instructor, I get in last. Understandably, most of the seats are occupied. One seat on the left, somewhere near the middle of the bus, only has one kid in it, so I scoot in.
I realize the guy I’m sitting next to is ten-year-old Samuel, with his trademark brown hair and bangs.
“Victoria, could you hand me a bag?” Samuel looks nauseous, and I remember this is his first competition.
“Of course.” Swiftly, the bag reaches his face in time. I reach over to open a window.
“Are you feeling worried?” I ask. Samuel nods, his eyes shut. The team is getting rowdy. “Everyone take it down a notch, ‘kay?” It gets marginally quieter.
“Hey, it’s gonna be okay, Samuel. Everyone’s nervous during the competitions, but I know you’re going to do fine. During my first contest I skied into a tree. It really can’t be worse than that, can it?”
“Well…” Samuel mutters. Fine, maybe rhetorical questions aren’t the way to go. I quickly think of something that will break the awkward silence.
“I’m going to pass out the rosters and inform everyone of who is in which event. I’ll be right back, okay?” I make my way to the front of the bus, confiscate a deafening portable speaker blasting music the entire team seems to know the lyrics to, and start passing out rosters. As I make my way to the back of the bus, the air seems more charged as soon as everyone sees their name. After the last list is handed out, I make my way to the front of the bus next to the driver and say into the silence.
“Okay, everyone has a list? If something happens to your copy of the list today, come to me for extras, I have more copies. I’m going to read it out loud. Rosa A. and Lola C., you two are on Downhill, and remember those tips I gave you the other day about cutting unnecessary seconds. Jerry L., Lena S., and Peter W., you are on Ski Jumps, remember distance and form. Slalom is going to Benji D. and Luka B… Finally, Samuel P. and Sofia V. are going to compete in Cross Country, remember to be quick with reflexes. Any questions?”
“Just to clarify, Lena and I are not doing the same event?” Sofia asks nervously. I shake my head and both pairs of eyes get huge.
“Since this is y’alls first rodeo, it’s natural for you to be nervous, but please know that I put you in the event I feel you’ll do best in, and that I believe in you. Okay, fifteen minutes until we’re at Cliffman’s Resort!” I slide back in next to Samuel, who is looking relieved, because we both know cross country is his best division.
Samuel exhales as he quietly says, “I’m going to go okay.”