I’ve always taken a kids-first approach to finding my bliss on the hill with my family. I knew my firstborn wouldn’t be happy skiing between my legs as a toddler, for instance, after one outing on plastic skis. So I opted to wait until he was three and a half before getting him going in earnest.
My second born has always had a different agenda. Namely, he wants to do what the Big Guy does. He first saw his brother ski on videotape, following the cookie parade at the end of Ski School. From that moment, he spent months lobbying us for the chance to ski—watching his brother from the porch at Snow Park Lodge was simply fuel for the fire. He couldn’t walk, yet, so it was just funny.
Then, a few moths after he’d taken off—at a sprint—we were sitting on the deck at Snow Park Lodge, watching his brother. The begging started in earnest. “Sethie Ski!!!!!” When I turned my back for a moment, he scampered out to the snow and began to try to click in to the bindings of a pair of skis someone had parked on the snow.
I sighed, and fetched the plastic skis from our garage. My 18 month-old wanted to ski. For that moment, he was satisfied to shuffle back and forth across the snow in front of the deck, declaring victory at the top of his lungs: “Sethie Skiiiiii!” “Sethie Skiiiiiiii!” Sethie Skiiiii like Lancey!!!!”
From that moment, Ski Dad and I learned how to cater to the needs of both kids’ different ski temperaments, different skill levels, and different personalities. It’s not so different from the way I parent off the mountain. And, in fact, keeping that consistency has proven a key to the success for our family’s skiing. It’s tempting, once you click into the bindings to urge your kids to soldier through—and sometimes that pays off. For me, the nuts and bolts of a successful season begins with the gear—it should be well-fitted, comfortable and easy to manage. Any gear compromises—from base layer to outerwear to ski boots—will come back to bite you, since they’ll distract you and your family from enjoying the day, and perhaps make the sport seem less than fun. True story: almost 20 years ago, Ski Dad (then just Ski Fiancee) and I took our dear friends Florida Keys Girl and Guy to ski my home mountain, Pico, in Vermont. Florida Keys Girl borrowed gear from my mom and me. Florida Keys Guy insisted he’d be fine in jeans and a pea coat. Florida Keys Girl, in spite of her near-paralyzing fear of heights, had a blast. Florida Keys Guy, soaked and cold in his ill-conceived apparel, vowed he’d never see another ski hill, except from the lodge. Eventually, he realized that Florida Keys Girl wasn’t giving up the hobby, and we urged him to dress the part and try again. Now, he’s unstoppable.
The other tools in my skiing-success shed? Swedish fish in the cargo pockets of my ski pants (to avert temper tantrums from kids and adults), and lessons for everyone. Everyone’s enrolling in ski school again this year, For the kids’ Sunday Ski Experience lessons. As for me, I’m not only putting last year’s crew from the Women’s Clinic on notice (Game on, Ladies!), but I’m joining Ski Dad in a Mahre Camp. It looked like too much fun NOT to try.
And, yes, we’re going to eat well. After all, I ski for lunch.