Montreal, Quebec --- From Columbia to Cameron, Israel to the Ivory Coast, on a perfect sunny Saturday, they gathered at Mont Chantecler. Forty newly-arrived Canadians, from thirteen different countries, gathered for their first-ever ski experience in Quebec's Laurentian mountains.
First lesson? How to put on ski boots. Toes go in first, push down with the heel. Oh. You might want to undo the buckles first.
Next: No. You don't need a hat underneath your helmet.
Then: Clicking the ski boot into the binding. While still standing. Not as easy as it looks.
Finally: How to get everyone to walk, glide and keep from falling on their skis. Mostly keep from falling.
No one had ever been to a ski hill before. Almost none of them had mittens or gloves when they arrived. Thanks to Auclair, they did by the time they hit the slopes.
The skiers were brought to the event by the Centre d'appui aux communautés immigrantes (CACI) but it was Mont Chantecler's ski school director, Chris DeZordo who jumped at the opportunity to join with Freestyle Canada in putting this day together for everyone. From the rentals to the cafeteria, and especially the instructors, the entire mountain celebrated the group and made them feel at home. As Jacques Penel, the CACI organizer said, "What surprised me most was the patience and enthusiasm of the instructors." By lunchtime, more then half the group was given the OK to take on the next challenge; Leaving the magic carpet and going up the chairlift!
As Charles AM, one of the instructors noted, "It was great to share our passion with people from so many different cultures. Most of them had never been to a ski hill. I had a blast teaching young kids in the morning, and skiing with their parents or older brothers and sisters in the afternoon. Sharing these first tracks has been an enriching experience for everyone."
Jesse K, one of the volunteers who lent a helping instructional hand agreed. "It was very special to spend a day introducing new Canadians to the magic of skiing, a pastime that we take for granted. By the end of the day, my group of three teens got it: why we wake up early, why its better to leave your gloves on your hands during the chairlift ride (Yes. The mitten was still there on the way down.) and why we put up with (sometimes) uncomfortable ski boots. The only thing they couldn't understand was why we brave the cold." (Editor's note. It was 24 degrees that Saturday)
And the participants? Tomer NM from Israel had nothing but praise for the instructors. He started the day with a crying 5-year-old too afraid to leave daddy's side. Ten minutes later, he was laughing. By lunch he was asking when they were going to ski again. "I don't know what I am going to do during the summer, but I already know that next winter, I'm registering my son for ski lessons, and if you want to find me, I'll be on the slopes as well."
The day wasn't just about skiing. Knowing how to become a "real" Montrealer meant knowing what foods make Montreal, well, Montreal. Dunn's Famous provided their iconic smoked meat, coleslaw and pickles for lunch. Felix and Norton kept everyone's tummies happy with their Menage à Trois cookies. By the requests for seconds and thirds, it was clear, everyone's transition to becoming "in the know" locals was pretty much complete. The only thing missing? Bagels. (Next time.)
Le plus fun : le saut acrobatique que j’ai dû improviser pour descendre à l’arrivée au sommet de la montagne, car je suis restée coincée dans la chaise de la remontée mécanique.
Le plus surprenant : j’étais surprise d’avoir pu descendre de la grande montagne dès ma première expérience de ski
Le meilleur : voir mon fils s’amuser en skiant à l’âge de 3 ans
Le plus surprenant : je me suis bronzé dans une station de ski en buvant de la bière avec les amis
Le 31 mars a été une belle journée d’hiver, une expérience inoubliable dans la station de ski Chantecler. La meilleure chose du jour était de vivre mon initiation à la pratique du ski alpin. Je suis très satisfait du service fourni par les instructeurs et les employés du centre, ils sont très professionnels et très agréables. Le plus amusant de la journée était de voir comment mes amis et moi nous tombions en essayant de skier. J’ai aimé cette expérience… merci beaucoup!