On a skiing holiday with my family in Vernon BC, I witnessed a truly inspirational act. One I know I will draw upon for years to come.
Boarding down a run, I noticed a man on skis motioning enthusiastically to a snowboarder stopped on the hill, between the two a young boy was sitting dejectedly after an obvious wipe out. I stopped near the skier to see what was going on.
The skier was saying to the boarder “come here please, come here please.” With time, the boarder complied and started shuffling up the hill close to the skier and a growing group of people. It seems the young boy was the boarder’s son and he had crashing into the skier, who had been stopped on the hill resting, and the pole of the skier was snapped off cleanly about six inches from its base as a result of the crash.
The skier wasted no time telling the father that by alpine code the person coming down the hill is responsible to stay clear of those below. He also seemed quite upset that the boy had broken his brand new pole. The father at first looked quite defensive and I thought an argument was about to ensue, I could not have been more wrong.
The father inquired that everyone was OK, asking first the skier and then his son if they had any injuries. He then asked the skier his name and told the skier his. He then lowered his voice (to be out of earshot of the son) and said “please play along Peter, I think we have the makings of a great lesson here.” Peter’s tone and attitude changed noticeably as he went along with the father’s next request and explained the alpine safety code to the boy. It seems he was a former ski instructor and he quickly switched to the teaching role, even consoling the boy (who was on the verge of tears) that it was ok, he was not mad at him and just wanted him to understand the rules. The father then asked the boy if he felt he should help pay for the broken pole and the boy responded yes. Peter and the father worked things out and some cash changed hands along with some discussion about coming out of allowance over time. Peter and his entourage left with some kind words to the father about how well he handled the situation and a comment from a woman in the group about “most people would just have kept on going.”
As I left I noticed the father and son sitting side by side with the father’s arm around the boy and some talk going on that looked very kind and consoling. I was moved to tears. A situation changed from what could have been a hot headed debate into a wonderful learning experience for a boy, a reminder that there are good people out there to a skier with a broken pole and an inspiration to an anonymous guy who just stopped to see what was going on (me).
At IBEX we sometimes say “every mistake is an opportunity to show what we are made of” and we have some great customer service stories to make the point. I think I stumbled upon a new example yesterday.