Conquering Collins: How the Long-Term Development pathway helped me learn to ski at 25

As a first-time skier this season, Collins green run on Cypress Mountain has been my ultimate challenge. After taking an hour to ski that run on one of my first attempts, it has both made me nervous and intrigued me ever since.

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting whom I can ski with, and with no plans to take ski lessons, it’s been a challenge I have had to rise to primarily on my own.

In February, I finally made it down the Collins without falling, with confidence, and in reasonable time too.

It’s a moment I am overwhelmingly proud of. And it’s a moment that wouldn’t have been possible without the fundamental skills, confidence and motivation — the physical literacy — I’ve gained  on my journey through the Long-Term Development pathway.

I grew up at the base of Mt. Seymour in North Vancouver — but never stepped onto a pair of skis until this past winter, in my mid-20s. In fact, I’d never been a snow sports person at all.

That said, I grew up playing a variety of sports and doing various activities. My dad, an immigrant to Canada, found his community here through cricket and soccer. He imparted that love of sport (and its community) on both myself and my sister.

As a toddler and getting into the school-age years, my family and I spent a lot of time at parks, at the beach or in the garden, enjoying being active in unstructured play. My sister and I also participated in gymnastics and swimming. From there, we were put into any sport that interested us: soccer (a family tradition, with English parents), track & field, dance, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, among others. We also spent hours biking in our neighbourhood, and playing on the beaches of the Sunshine Coast in the summer.

Throughout those years, we learned to enjoy physical activity in a variety of forms, and to enjoy the challenges they brought. What’s more, we learned how to feel confident trying new activities with the skills we already had. That physical literacy development and love of activity was essential to our transition into the Learn to Train and Train to Train phases, as we focused on soccer and supplemented our training with strength, agility, and quickness developed at Twist Performance.

Today, as I aspire to be Active for Life, I spend my time doing spin classes, working out at the gym, dragon boating, and playing soccer recreationally (pre-COVID). I enjoy finding new activities to try as well, like disc golf this past summer.

And, with the COVID landscape the way it has been throughout the winter, I had the perfect opportunity to try a snow sport. Though I don’t have that background in snow activities, my years of trying and enjoying other sports and honing my fundamental movement skills — object manipulation in field hockey, cutting in soccer, jumping and landing at Twist Performance, the list goes on — made the process of learning to ski more exciting than daunting.

And though I still ski slowly, and have my days of frustration — I get upset if I fall, and feel a pinch of anxiety when I feel my ski slip out below me — it’s that physical literacy foundation and the joy I get from trying new activities that encourages me to head back up that mountain every week.

It’s the skiing community that I encountered as part of my First Involvement that has kept me going back, too.

It’s the evening when I went skiing alone, and the other solo skier on my chairlift offered to watch me ski and give me tips. It’s the days when the lifties would chat with me while I was waiting in line. It’s the day my keys fell out of my pocket on the chairlift, and the family who found them tried to call every store I had a keycard for on my keychain to find me.

And, importantly, skiing has had an incredible, positive impact on my mental health. An evening up Cypress is a welcome relief from a lack of available activities and social opportunities. It’s my main source of enjoyment and stress relief.

So I made it down Collins for the first time in February. After months of going up the mountain alone, or with a friend when I could, but without any coaching. In five months, and with an infrequent ski schedule, I have begun to enjoy a sport I never thought I would before. All thanks to the development of physical literacy, a wealthy Long-Term Development pathway, and enjoyment of activity throughout my life, as well as a helping hand from a global pandemic, to push me onto the ski lift.

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