Andre Ivakin of Lennigrad is a cross-country skier. Tuesday's trip to the slopes of Park City and an introduction to schussing downhill taught the 13-year-old Soviet student a simple lesson of gravity.
"It's easier to fall, but it's easier to move," said Andre of his new sport.Andre won a prestigious English language competition to qualify for a monthlong trip to the United States. He is one of 21 students and 10 adults now visiting through the Olympus-Soviet Exchange Program.
The group has already traveled to Southern California, sight-seeing at America's hits on the tourism charts: Disneyland, Hollywood, Universal Studios. Then there was the swing through Las Vegas, and southern Utah's incomparable canyons. The students, now staying with Salt Lake families, will settle down for some class work, then spend time on the Navajo Indian Reservation.
On Tuesday, Russian-English translations took place on Park City slopes.
Many of the Soviet group had little downhill skiing experience, but their hosts remarked on how quickly they took to the mountain.
No one appeared more enthusiastic about the sport than Sergey Yanutchikovsky, one of the Soviet chaperones and a cross-country skier and self-proclaimed sportsman. Yanutchikovsky is an engineer in Troitsk, a town of 30,000 about 15 miles southwest of Moscow. His company sponsors the student exchange, and members of the group called him "Boss."
As soon as Yanutchikovsky was fitted with rental skis, he was ready to find a hill. After two runs, he was looking for bigger slopes. "Let's go," he called all day during his first downhill ski adventure.
Olympus High started the exchange program with a computer link-up three years ago, and now the program is anchored on monthlong student travel excursions. "This is starting to grow," said Clark Bartley, exchange coordinator.
Bartley said no state school money goes into the program. Students pay much of the cost for their own travel, and the rest of the money comes through donations, a federal grant and the generosity of host families.
In February, Olympus students said goodbye to their own Soviet exchange student, who had attended the school for a semester as an extension of the exchange program. The student was the first allowed by the Soviet government to study for a semester in an American high school without being accompanied by an entourage of chaperones, Bartley said.
Bartley, who teaches four Russian language classes at Olympus, taught for a term in a Soviet high school last year. So he was a familiar face for Sergei Tovkus, 15, a student now half-way through his first trip to America. After all, he had a class from Bartley at home in Troitsk.
David McLean, a sophomore at Olympus High, started taking Russian because it is the language of physicists. David spent Tuesday playing ski guide and translator.
Monica Birth, a senior at Olympus, wore a tank top while skiing to work on her tan as well as her Russian. She traveled to the Soviet Union last year through the Olympus exchange program and called it a mind-broadening, educational experience, she said. "You learn they're the same kind of people as you are."
Many of the Soviet students agreed with Monica's assessment. For 15-year-old Dema Petrov of Leningrad, his taste of America has been capped by his glimpse into family life. These people, he said, are always smiling.
"I like American smiles."