AUBURN – A 40-year-old dad and an 11-year-old daughter learning a tough-to-grasp sport together could mean frustration, falling and emotional fatigue.

But for Drew and Deidre Sachs, trying to snowboard for the first time was all about the journey. And, mind you, these two future snowboarders got it.

While Drew wiped out plenty, he also ended the two-hour class at Lost Valley Ski Area with six smooth turns and this promise to his daughter: ”I can do this, Deed.”

Meanwhile, the team spirit here all came from the 11-year-old, who carved a turn on just her fourth try just like a veteran.

And while Deidre found her center of gravity almost immediately, she never lost sight of her dad’s struggle. She never stopped encouraging her father with a confident ”Good job, Dad.”

Indeed. This dynamic snowboarding bond was well beyond what we expected to find when we partnered with Ski Maine to offer novices the chance to learn a snow sport for free.

The Get a Lift contest was meant to encourage, inspire, even recruit new skiers and snowboarders into winter. Six Maine families won a day at the slopes in the contest, which was held by MaineToday Media (the owner of the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram) in partnership with Ski Maine, a Portland organization that promotes snow sports in the state.

It was the biggest way we could say: Get outside and love winter.

More than 80 novice and experienced snow-sport families entered by completing the sentence: ”Our family wants to go skiing or snowboarding because it’s better than ”

The Sachs family of Freeport was among the six winning families, and was nice enough to let us follow their first skiing/snowboarding experience. The idea was to show a family’s introduction to these winter sports, both the frustrations and victories.

What we found was the joy that’s shared in learning a life sport together.

Drew and Deidre Sachs will only take that journey once. And they both ended it standing tall — which says a lot in snowboarding.

Melanie Sachs, 40, had a similar adventure learning to ski for the first time with 9-year-old Peter.

The New Sharon native, who grew up wanting to ski, only wiped out once — at the end of the lesson, right in front of her husband.

”I haven’t fallen all day. I see you, and I fall for you all over again,” Melanie joked to Drew.

Drew and Deidre Sachs’ snowboard class was equally fun. In our estimation, better than any father-daughter dance.

When a 40-year-old man and his young daughter are sitting in the snow, holding each other’s knees and trying to grasp how to make these weird boards go, it’s teamwork personified.

Drew struggled to grasp the feeling of being centered on this slippery board for an hour, while the tiny new rider with him mastered the concept within four runs.

”He said to close your fists to keep you from hurting your hands. But if you keep them closed, it keeps you balanced,” Deidre said with excitement at Lost Valley snowboard instructor Tad Bettcher’s advice.

For Drew, the basics of snowboarding all came together within two hours, but only after he reached a point of physical fatigue and took off the snowboard to walk for a while.

Then he cinched it back on next to his daughter as they prepared for the bottom of the trail and the last stage of their lesson: linking the turns.

Deidre, small and slight, executed her slow descent with calm focus and some strange inner strength as she put together four basic turns.

But this time it was her father who nailed it, balancing on the edge of his board and swinging his hips into each turn like he’d done it for years.

Mirroring his daughter’s exuberance, Drew stopped and nodded with satisfaction. ”I got it,” he said to her.

When the family reunited at the end of the beginner trail — and the end of their lessons — both parents agreed it was only the beginning of alpine fun for them.

”We both turned 40 this year and we said, ‘This is the year we try new things,’ ” Drew said. ”And lucky for us, we have really fun kids who like to try new things.”

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: dfleming@pressherald.com