Slip sliding away at Canada Olympic Park

Bennett Ford, age five, returns to COP for another private lesson and learns his “pizza” – a.k.a. how to stop – in Part 2 of our series


CALGARY, AB – It’s our second morning at Canada Olympic Park for a private ski lesson and I’m not sure whether my five-year-old son Bennett is excited about stepping into skis again or the prospect of more french fries after his lesson. He enjoyed his time on the hill the previous week, but frigid weather made for a less pleasant experience.

“Today we’re going to keep working on that pizza stance,” instructor Eric Gerstenbuhler tells Bennett when we meet him on the bunny hill. In ski parlance, “pizza stance” is code for the wedge that a beginner’s skis need to make for him to be able to stop. “Are you ready to go skiing Bennett?”

“I’m ready to ski,” Bennett replies. That’s my cue to leave and let Gerstenbuhler work his ski magic with my autistic son.

I return to the hill for the final 30 minutes of Bennett’s lesson to gauge his progress and capture video footage. I watch in awe as Bennett exits the magic carpet alone and follows Gerstenbuhler down the gently-graded run, managing to stay upright and direct himself beneath three coloured arches spaced at intervals along the slope. At the end he stops by himself and his skis are making a – wait for it – pizza! His progress from the previous week is remarkable.

Check out this video of Bennett  learning how to ski at COP, courtesy of Tyler Meckelborg.

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“Wow!” I say, high-fiving Bennett. “You’re skiing!”

“How about ten more times?” Bennett asks and we all go up the magic carpet together.

“What impresses me is how he can shift his weight to direct his skis toward the arches,” says Gerstenbuhler. “And his wedge is coming along. It’s really starting to click.” Gerstenbuhler is much more hands off this lesson, letting Bennett navigate the slippery slope on his own.

Bennett is able to get himself going by shuffling his skis forward (the “edgie wedgie” — a nifty device that clips onto the tips of Bennett’s skis to keep them together — works wonders to prevent him from doing the splits). And then, away he goes; slow, yes, but he’s doing it by himself.

Gerstenbuhler says all Bennett needs to work on now is mastering his wedge and learning to use it to link turns — skills I hope he’ll work on during his group lesson in Fernie, where we’re going for Part 3 of our Snowseekers Learning to Ski Series.

Read part one of the SnowSeekers Learning to Ski Series HERE.


Tips for getting your
child skiing

  1. Get him used to a slippery surface, whether that means having him wear ski socks on the linoleum, or getting him on the ice at the local rink.
  2. Get him used to, and excited about, the idea. Talk about it and let him know what to expect on the hill.
  3. An edgie wedgie is priceless. This ski aid will keep ski tips together so the new learner will have an easier time mastering the pizza stance.
  4. Enrol him in a lesson. I have spoken with so many parents who return from a magic carpet outing frustrated with a child who clings to them down the hill. If your child does well in a classroom setting, he is ready to take instruction from a stranger on the ski hill (and you will be amazed with what a trained pro can get your kid to do. Like 25 runs in a row.).


Lisa Kadane is a Calgary-based Snowseekers correspondent and freelance features writer. Read more of her ski, travel and parenting adventures at