My Day at the Outdoor Retailer Show

A friend of ours was attending the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show in Salt Lake City, a 45 minute drive from our house. He asked if he could stay with us while he was in town, since he had flown in from Boulder, CO, and was spending all day meeting potential clients and collecting cards. I had heard of the OR Show, but I had no idea how big it was and my curiosity fueled my fire.

“I should write a blog about it for Deer Valley,” I thought to myself. “I could show all the new ski and snow gear!” Great idea, right?  Hmmm, maybe not.

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I arrived at the show and asked where the ski and snow toys were (rookie mistake) “No, this is the Summer OR Show…the Winter OR show is in February.” I couldn’t play it off…the cat was out of the bag.

All of registration knew I had no clue what I was doing and away I went with a smile.

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First stop, the most comfortable neck pillows in the world. Well, that is what I felt they should be named in the moment but Cocoon works too. They are furry and compact and if I hadn’t felt the need to regain some sort of pride, I would have walked around the rest of the day with this sucker cuddling my neck region. See that little pouch I am holding? That’s how small they are when deflated!

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I turned around from Cocoon and was looking straight at my husband’s pants. Not the actual pair, but his favorite pant company, Kühl. Erik, in true ski racer form, has a little extra muscle in the trunk and these pants give him the much needed freedom to move. He loves them.

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All this OR’ing made me quite hungry so I stopped by the Cliff Bar booth for some before, during, after and on-the-go fueling.

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GSI OUTDOORS Coffee Maker. This could be my favorite gadget. I love coffee. But I really love coffee when I am camping. I don’t know why it tastes better. Maybe it’s the effort it takes to get a perfect cup that makes me appreciate it more. This gadget is sweet, cute and looks like it could pull off a mean cup of joe! Mama like!

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Remember Croakies®? I don’t have to think back that far, as I was in search of them for our whitewater rafting trip last summer. I found them, and I was flooded with memories from my youth. Who didn’t have croakies attached to their fake Vuarnet’s®? Okay, maybe it was just a Northern California thing. But, these belts caught my eye. The colors they are coming up with for men’s socks and belts is blowing my mind. I love it. And guess who makes these babies? That’s right, Croakies®!

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Nothing in life is complete without Zombies. Honestly, I don’t know what company these ladies are representing or what they are selling but I love me some Zombies.

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Naturally, I was feeling tense after hanging out with Zombies and I felt I needed a 10 minute break to loosen up. No wonder it was so difficult to get in to this place! Lot’s of hidden treasures.

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Innova was there with some really cool water toys. They basically featured a blow-up version of almost every water vessel except for a speedboat. Now you are not limited by the size of your car. You can fit a large tandem kayak in your Mini-Cooper®! This absolutely amazed me.

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I had to show you standup paddleboards; they make me happy and they were everywhere. I love everything about these boards and I am loving their beautiful colors. I plan on trying this fun looking sport at Deer Valley very soon.

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I voted Life is good® as best booth; so homey and cute. And, frankly, I think we can’t spread their positive messages enough. Life is good!

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Okay, wait…my favorite, for obvious and biased reasons, was……Speedo®.

They just happened to win “Gear of the Show” with these awesomely elegant flippers. I put my “flippers” into the awarding-winning flippers and it was quite a scene.

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And speaking of flippers, thank you Feetures!® for upping the sock game! My feet are thrilled with your vibrant and exciting take on the under-footwear.

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I stopped by the ChicoBag® booth and asked the obvious question “Are you guys based in Chico, CA?” Instant family. They are based in Chico, which is very close to where I was born and raised. We had a moment and then I took a moment to understand their message. See all those plastic bags, people? The average person uses that many in a year, that’s 500! YIKES! Let’s change our ways!

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Cutest dog at the show. (wonder how he got through registration? Just saying.)

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This product stopped me in my tracks. Yup, those are iPad’s in a fish tank. Loksak’s® are the coolest zip-lock bags for your smart stuff. Phones, tablets, etc. They have got you covered up to a depth of 100 feet. And it still senses your fingertips through the plastic. Lots of technology goes into making these better than the bags you have in your kitchen.

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Kayak’s were king at this show and they came in every size and color. My kids are obsessed with kayaking, and I understand why. They are small enough to handle and big enough to be great, thus the perfect vessel. This is the Wilderness Systems® booth.

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I am sensing a serious shift in wheel size for everyday outdoor gear. People want to pull and lug their stuff onto and through any terrain. Anything from off-road to deep sand, it looks like Wheeleez® has you covered.

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This was by far, my favorite activity at the show. This fella was on the back wall. And, by this point, I was lost so I had no idea where the back wall was located. But it was awesome. I hit so many levitating balls that I created a gallery. I finally caught myself having too much fun and gave up the bat. The ball hangs out at the end of a strong stream of air. This HitZone® was really fun and it costs $350.

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These cute backpacks are from Hook & Tackle®. Guess what the kids will be taking back to school this year?

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I survived and I loved it. My husband scored some new shoes out of the day and his feet have never been happier with his new Cushe® shoes. I can’t wait to go back for the 2015 show, August 5 – 8!

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Don’t be Afraid of the Cold

Brrr, It’s Cold Outside!

I am right there with you.  When it is cold outside, all I want to do is curl up in front of the fire with a warm blanket, someone to snuggle with, a good movie and some popcorn.  Sounds perfect, huh?!  Well, perfect is rare and quite frankly a bit boring.  Besides, there is always time to come back in and enjoy that warm toasty moment.

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As parents we have to lead the charge on this one. If we don’t urge our kids to get outside on winter days, they won’t know what they are missing. Honestly, every time we bring it up, at least one of our two kids will whine for a second about how cold it will be. But we keep pushing forward and work to get the family suited up for the elements. Being prepared can help you achieve a victory.

  1. Be prepared: Make sure you have all of the necessary accessories to keep everyone warm: hat, gloves, snow pants, goggles, hand warmers.
  2. Get outside before making a concrete plan: Sometimes just showing the kids that it’s not really that cold can help motivate them.
  3. Always go to the bathroom before stepping outside: This will allow you to go straight to the slopes when you get to the resort. (Hopefully)
  4. Anything is possible: There are very few “no’s” when embarking on a winter cold outside adventure. Take off your mommy hat and let the kids have fun.

Now, we move onto the plethora of possible activities, which I have stated should be discussed outside.  When kids are in the elements, they see the fun. Standing in the warm house, it is tough for them to cast an educated vote.

  1. Snowy sandcastle anyone?!: This is such a fun and easy activity that quickly turns into exercise.  You will be surprised how much the kids like to mold the snow.
  2. They don’t have to know it is a chore. Some of my best workouts have involved shoveling the walk. In fact, I almost went into labor with Skye because of it.  You can make it fun by creating a contest out of it. Who can collect the “Biggest Pile” of snow?! It’s more fun!
  3. Snow tag or hide and seek. A snow ball fight never ends well, but a snow tag battle can last a bit longer with more room for strategy and fun. Just moving around in snow is harder and therefore burns off more energy.5
  4. Snowman: Building a snowman is such a great family activity. I just learned the proper way this year. You have to start with a small snowball and roll it around in the snow, packing down the new particles of snow that the snowball picks up as you go.  It creates the perfect ball!!! So much fun!
  5. Skiing: If you have the means and the access, skiing is a super fun family adventure that I highly recommend.3

Parents, always pack snacks when heading away from home for snow activities.  The cold weather makes kids SUPER hungry. A few M&Ms can go a long way!

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Have fun and don’t be afraid of the cold!!

10 Tips for a Successful Family Ski Trip

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After seven years as a ski parent, here are my top 10 tips for a successful family ski trip where you not only survive but also thrive on the hill. Ski trips are so much fun, but they can be terrifying to a parent. How old is old enough? What do I really need to do? Or is it worth the money? Here are the lessons I’ve learned though experience as a ski parent and wife as well as tips from my in-laws, who just happen to be the parents of three-time Olympic alpine skier Erik Schlopy (my husband) and NCAA champion Keri Schlopy Crockett (my sis-in-law). Skiing is much different than my native swimming. For example, the biggest difference is the equipment. Equipment is bigger and heavier and way more important in skiing. Just thinking about the task can be daunting, but hopefully with my tips and lessons, it’ll be just a little easier for you.

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From my seven years of carting kids up the hill, here are my 10 Tips:

  1. Choose the mountain that fits your family. Some of the best ski racers were raised on the smallest ski hills, so don’t worry about finding the biggest resort. Oftentimes, smaller resorts are more family friendly & make a smaller dent in your wallet. Our family goes to Deer Valley Resort. It’s 13 minutes from our house and has the best kids trails around in Ruby’s Tail and Bucky’s Backyard.
  2. Weather is by far the most important factor with small children! I realize that you can’t control the weather and that you’ve already paid for your vacation, but be aware of the temperatures and of the wind. If it’s bitter cold or dumping snow, make good decisions so that your kids continue to love skiing. Ski for shorter periods of time, take the shorter runs, and enjoy lots of hot cocoa breaks. In the end, only getting a quarter or half day on the mountain and loving it will be worth more than trying to cram it in and being miserable later.
  3. Patience is KEY! There are lots of things that can quickly get under your skin when you’re managing your family away from home. Here are a few things to consider so you can keep your patience. Don’t set your expectations too high and don’t think it is a failure if you have to cut a day short. Don’t let your kids tell you what they are going to wear with regards to helmet and gloves. Our policy is no helmet/gloves, no skiing. No exceptions. And be prepared to sit in the lodge until they come around. (Trust me, I’ve done this one more than once). It can be frustrating but if you’re prepared and your kids see you mean business, then it’ll go better for everyone
  4. Get lessons. I know lessons are expensive and time consuming, and they keep your children or you away from the family during your “family” vacation, but if it’s your first time out or your first trip in a long time, take the lessons. Everyone has more fun when they’re really enjoying the activities. For example, if your family is planning on being on snow for a week, commit to three consecutive days of lessons. (Note – during peak times you need to reserve lessons WELL in advance!!) After the three days, play it by ear and give the family ski day a try!
  5. Candy/Reward is magic! The last thing you want to do is let getting on all the gear become a super traumatic start to your day, so use a reward. Small little candies or treats that you can carry with you work great. When my kids first started, I would put some in a baggy in one of the zillion pockets on my ski jacket. You’d be amazed how quickly the tears were gone!
  6. Comfort is important. When it comes to ski gear, boots especially, make sure they are comfortable! This can make or break an experience. To ensure you get comfortable gear, rent from someone who knows what they are doing.  If your kid says their foot hurts, trust them, their foot hurts and try a different pair.  When they get better, then you can worry about performance! And whatever you do, DO NOT leave your boots in the car over night! Cold boots are almost impossible to get on! Take your boots out and put them near the heater, warm boots are the best.
  7. Create a list. There is nothing more useful than to make a list of everything you will need and to check it several times. To help, pack each member of the family in a separate bag and check it before and after each day of skiing.  It is amazing how many single gloves I have in my house. It takes a lot of gear and a lot of work to get your family ready to hit the slopes, and if you get up to the hill without a glove or hat, you’re not going back to your hotel to get it because it’s too much trouble. You’ll end up buying an expensive pair of gloves at the resort.
  8. Pack a lunch. Most resorts allow you to bring your own food. Take advantage of this, especially if you are on a budget. You can add to your meal with a hot or cold beverage or dessert. And on that same note, include snacks. Because everyone will be on different runs and finishing up at different times, don’t let the food meltdown of a too hungry kid or mom happen on the hill. Have a snack ready in reserve in one of your jacket pockets to get you or your little one through until the family lunch.
  9. Dress in layers. It may be warm or sunny at the resort, but think about the difference in temperature at the bottom of the hill compared to the top. You can always take layers off, but if you don’t have them to put on, you’re cold and up a creek! Facemask, headliners and neck gators can save you, as can vests and thin fleeces. There are brilliant options for layering. My kids faces and necks get so cold coming down the hill with the wind and the colder temps; we’ve found that sublimation gators/facemask are great. Their thin fabrics cover their head and face and they easily tuck into your clothes and slip on under your helmet.
  10. Reserve your skis in advance. If you are heading to a resort during a major holiday, reserve your skis ahead of time. We didn’t even know this until the Peete family came to visit a few Christmas ago. All the skis in the major shops were reserved in advance. Go online or call to get the family set up with gear! And check to see if your resort will store them overnight for you, it can make your ski life much less stressful.

My experience is you’re going to have good days and bad days on the slopes, so don’t worry if your kids don’t get it right away.  When you start them young, you are setting your family up for some amazing vacations and adventures in the future!  Shred the hill!

 

Our Night with Dierks Bentley and the rest of Park City

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I asked my friend if she wanted to be my date for the Dierks Bentley concert at the Deer Valley Resort Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater. She immediately text me back, “Would love to! I’m getting drunk on a plane…it’s Mardi Gras up in the clouds. Buying drinks for everybody but the pilot, it’s a party.”

I thought, wow, she’s having a fun summer! I told her to have fun on her trip, but to save some fun for our night out. Funny right? She wasn’t actually on a plane getting drunk (I am sure you knew that), she was quoting one of Dierks Bentley’s new songs. I obviously had a lot to learn. And I did, fast.

I walked into a sea of Dierks Bentley fans, “The Congress,” and it was awesome! The venue itself is one of a kind. The Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater at Deer Valley Resort is absolutely majestic. Every concert I have ever been to at this venue has resulted in the entertainer commenting about the fact that they have the perfect seat to take in the amazing view, which is a rare gift from the stage.

249 Deer Valleys Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater

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We had general admission seating tickets, which means you can bring blankets and/or small lawn chairs with you. We pre-ordered a Deer Valley Resort Gourmet Picnic Basket for the full experience. It didn’t take long and we all became one big Dierks Bentley family. The night was gorgeous. The crowd was perfectly clad in cowboy hats and boots. It seemed like everyone knew every word and if they were like me and didn’t, they were still on their feet because Dierks Bentley was THAT GOOD!

Here is our night in pictures.

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The awesome volunteers were ready for a little country! Good vibes from the very beginning.

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My friend Julie and I heading up to find a spot in “The Congress!” And also, a glimpse of the amazing view from the stage.

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Thinking ahead, we ordered a Deer Valley Resort Gourmet Picnic Basket. Order them 24 hours before your concert. They have a few options; vegetarian, beef and salmon. We went with salmon and steak with baguettes, wine, brownies on a stick and more!! Pure awesomeness. It was beyond yummy. You can bring your own food into the venue but it probably won’t be this good. I highly recommend enjoying your concert with a Gourmet Picnic Basket.

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(Brownie on a stick) YES PLEASE! My favorite part of the Gourmet Picnic Basket had to be the salted caramel chocolate brownie pop.

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A little boy let me borrow his cowboy hat. Next time, I’m dressing the part.

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It was such a big event with a HUGE star but it is always local when you are in Park City. I ran into many friends in the crowd.

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I really enjoyed the views of the crowd with a beautiful setting sun. Honestly, it couldn’t have been a more perfect night with regards to weather. I think everyone fed off of that and knew it was going to be special.

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Here is our view before the concert started and everyone got on their feet.

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Fans of every age rocked out all night. Everyone was standing up dancing after the first couple of songs. There was no need for sitting and no reason to! The crowd was rocking the entire time.

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Rock On!

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It didn’t take long before the front was filled with a bunch of beautiful women! And Dierks loved every second of it! It was awesome.

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These girls on the side of the stage knew every word to every one of his songs. I watched the crowd almost as much as I watched the stage!

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He told stories about his guitar and even commented that Park City brought something special out in his comedy…”I’m killing it tonight” he said to his band and he was. He said, “We are Southwest fliers. We like to think we are all preferred!” And then he went straight into “Drunk On A Plane”. The crowd went wild!

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It was such a fun concert that we didn’t want it to end. However, walking to the car we got to see this amazing sunset. This capped the night off perfectly. Have you been to a concert at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater? Share your experience with me in the comments below or on Twitter  and @Deer_Valley.

Family Fun on the NASTAR Course at Deer Valley Resort

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I know a thing or two about competitive fire. Living with an Olympic ski racer in Park City, Utah my kids are growing up on the slopes. I definitely feel like a fish out of water at the start of the NASTAR course, but I love it anyway!

Just picture it: I’m standing at the top of the race course, eyes focused on the first gate and occasionally at the tough competition to my right. I know this girl well. She loves speed and she knows how to work her skis like she is straight off the World Cup circuit. It runs in her family; well at least half of her family. Let’s face it, my almost eight-year-old daughter is better than I am on skis. But I am addicted to the competition. It’s the speed, intensity, terrain, and of course, the final gate and the finish that keep me coming back. NASTAR is ski racing at its amateur best!

Summer Start

Every time I squeeze my size 11 foot into my ski boot, I grimace, and then I smile thinking of making my way to the NASTAR course at Deer Valley Resort. It’s a family affair for us, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. The kids and I can’t wait to get out there and compete. We love being able to measure our improvement and of course just the adrenaline of the race. Of course, we are usually just competing against each other but there is still so much fun in that. Skye and I will joke saying, “You’re goin’ down, circus clown!” And while I try my hardest, she beats me every time. I probably ask my husband how I can get faster about 20 times every run. Mr. three-time Olympic skier just chuckles, knowing that speed is actually NOT my friend and replies, “We can get you there. You gotta get out of the gate faster.” And I’m fairly certain my face lights up at the prospect, and my brain in pure Jim Carey from Dumb and Dumber style says, ”So you’re sayin’ I have a chance!”

My kids LOVE the medals. And don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of my NASTAR silver too, but my true motivation is that desire to just shave a second, or even one-hundredths of a second off my time. It’s scary and exciting and it takes me back to my days in the pool, working on being my personal best. I have such appreciation for the best skiers and their abilities, and it’s fun to PRETEND to be one for 25 seconds. Plus, they announce your name!

Kids Start

So if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, the NA-tional STA-ndard Race, or NASTAR was started in 1968 by Ski Magazine to allow your average recreational skier (like me) to compete against friends and family regardless of when and where they race. You can find a course at over 115 resorts across the country and measure yourself against the best, your little bother, or in my case my son and daughter. There is a pace setter that establishes the course time at each course, and the timing and medals are based off of that. Our course setter at Deer Valley Resort is Heidi Volker. I know her as an Olympian and mom. I asked her a few NASTAR questions that I would like to share.

Summer: Why NASTAR? Why do so many people like it and what does it let you compare?

Heidi: People love NASTAR courses because it allows you to compare yourself to the best in ski racing like, Ted Ligety and AJ Kitt. Ted is racing on the World Cup so AJ Kitt is the national pacesetter and travels around to handicap racecourses. Racing always get you hooked.

Summer: How can a family use NASTAR for fun and growth in their skiing?

Heidi: Families can use NASTAR to compete against each other for bragging rights. This creates healthy and fun competition for your family.

Summer: Does it teach kids the skills of racing and/or more?

Heidi: NASTAR does teach the basics of ski racing. The courses are about a fourth of the regular length of World Cup races.

It’s Official: My Kids are Better Skiers Than I am.

Family Picture

Meet the newest contributor to the Deer Valley blog, Summer Sanders. In 1992 at the Olympic Games, a 19-year-old Summer Sanders won four Olympic medals, bringing home 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. The moment she hung up her Speedo, she embarked on a television career, hosting shows for MTV (Sandblast), the NBA (Inside Stuff), Nickelodeon (Figure It Out), and Fox (The Sports List, Skating with Celebrities), and acting as a correspondent for shows such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show.  She has been a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and the Food Network’s “Guy vs. Rachael Celebrity Cook-Off”. Sanders recently created and hosted “Find Your Fitness” on MSN, where she challenged herself to try new fitness trends for the education and amusement of the audience. A health and fitness realist, Sanders is a working mom who prides herself on living a hands-on active lifestyle and being a “life is perfectly imperfect” motivator. She has two children, Skye (7) and Spider (5), with her husband Olympic skier Erik Schlopy. Follow the Deer Valley blog and keep up with Summer as she blogs about her experiences at Deer Valley.

Group Picture

It is now official, my kids, who are 6 (Spider) and 7 (Skye), are way better skiers than I am. I’ve had a hunch for a few years but after this past weekend, I have proof.  Together, my kids and I took a family ski lesson at Deer Valley, something that I’d wanted to take for a few years but never got around to scheduling. My kids are solid skiers already, but I wanted us to feel good about it as a family and really know where we could go together to enjoy a day on the slopes. Our instructor took us through all the amazing kids runs at Deer Valley, most of which were in the trees, which my kids think are fabulous, and with names like “Oompa Loompa”, “Ruby’s Tail”, “Bucky’s Backyard” and “Quincys Cabin”, you knew it was going to be nothing short of heaven for the them, their mama was another story.

Cabin

Let me be very honest with you. Up to this point, I had never taken the kids skiing by myself. There was way too much room for error in the process for me to stomach it, the gear, the schlepping to and from, and keeping myself from getting lost. It was all a little too much for my swimmer brain to handle.

Our instructor’s name was Lance Swedish, and he was awesome. It took the kids about 25 seconds to warm up to Lance, and then it was game on. I worried for a second whether he could keep up, not only with the kids skiing (they aren’t first timers), but with all of Spider’s questions. He must have asked Lance 20 times how old he was. It’s still a mystery, although we do know he isn’t 100 or 22. We started by skiing down one run so he could assess our skiing abilities. Although I was worried to finally hear that I was at the bottom of the class, I’m happy to report that I did not feel judged in the slightest. After that run, Lance suggested that we all ski without poles just like Spider.  My son doesn’t like them. His reasoning is that you are a much more centered skier without your poles. So he stashed our poles and away we went. I think this is the point when I realized that this “lesson” was more for me than anyone else in our party. Lance even said to me at one point, “Your kids are great skiers, so let’s work on you.” I was both proud of them and cracking up inside because what he said was so true. I was kind of thrilled at the opportunity to get better. I know the longer I wait, the more I’ll fall behind my kids.

Instructor

The day started strong and fast, and we never slowed down. We cruised thru Bucky’s Backyard and his front yard. We skate-skied across a run to reach the super famous Oompa Loompa Land, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince the kids to sing the song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We skied Ruby’s Tail and a few other unnamed spots. I stayed with the kids for most of this adventure, and along the way I picked up some wonderful tips.

  1. Keeping your hands out in front is key for balance.
  2. Bending your knees into a bump actually slows you down.
  3. If you fall you must, without fail, scream “WIPE OUT!”
  4. When jamming out of the trees into the open run, always check to see if someone is coming or have a “look-out person”.
  5. Screaming for no reason is absolutely fine, you’re in the trees, you can say it was someone else.
  6. There is always a hard way and an easy way down.

Yes I did get scared a few times on along the way. I mean speed is my enemy, my nemesis even – although you’d never know it watching my kids zoom by. The bumps and I don’t always get along, I have yet to conquer my fear of tree skiing. A little fear is part of the fun. I did really get a little more than scared at the top of “Toilet Bowl” (It does have another name but once you hear toilet bowl that’s all you remember, that and the fact that the kids kept saying “Mom, you’re gonna get flushed!”)

Fun Ski

I stood at the top while listening to Lance give us instructions and decided I needed to put tip #6 to work. I’m happy to report that there was and easier way down, and after checking with the kids and they were both ready to do it, (Lance also assured me they were strong enough skiers to handle it) I met them at the bottom. I listened to their hootin’ and hollering and giggling until they shot out of the trees with the biggest smiles on their faces. What a fabulous day!

I have shared my day with so many of my local friends, and every time they look at me with this hilarious expression and say either “that is the coolest thing ever, I didn’t know that existed” or “Oh bless your heart.” It was such an awesome three hours full of fun, knowledge, and memories. I think I’m more than prepared to take on the mountain with my kids. I may not quite be able to keep up, but I’m definitely more prepared and confident that we’ll be fine and have a wonderful time. Next up is a powder skiing lessons.