Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Skiing with kids (sic)

Call me crazy, but in my mind, if you take a day to go skiing, you should, well, go skiing. But I have to pat myself on the back for not getting too wrapped up in that narrow definition when we went for our first ski outing of the season last December.

Rees has a discounted pass to the Colorado resorts (the ski industry gives these passes to 5th and 6th graders precisely for this purpose: it gets their families out with them and gets them addicted to skiing) so we picked a place we’d never been, Breckenridge, rented equipment for Kadin, and set off the next morning. This was for the kids, I reminded myself, not for me. My ski season started in January when the kids were back in school. I’d save my skiing for then.

We didn’t leave late, but we didn’t leave super early either. The woman at the ski rental store suggested leaving at 5am. We opted for about 7, and a little over 2 hrs later we were at the resort. We parked, got dressed for the cold, and headed toward the kiosk. Halfway there I realized in my haste I had left my big gloves on top of the car. I went back, got the gloves, and double checked we had what we wanted with us. I would hate to have to come back to the car again. We got our passes (a fair piece of change, I might add) and headed up the gondola to the lifts. On the gondola we learned there were several stops and several mountains. The first mountain was all intermediate and advanced slopes. So we stayed in and went to the end of the line.

The kids were enjoying the gondola ride and talking it up a bit about how they wanted to ski blue and black runs (intermediate and advanced). Yeah, right. I have learned that as soon as we do a blue slope, it’s the last slope of the day. Rees has only been snowboarding a half-a-dozen times and Kadin had only been on the slopes twice, the last time over 9 months before. We needed to take it easy our first time out this season. Slow and steady and all that…

I checked my trail map and headed toward the lift that looked like it led to the nice, long, green (beginners) run the woman on the gondola had recommended. Once we got to the top, however, I realized that we had, disastrously, taken the wrong chair. Our only options to the bottom were blacks and blues. It was going to be a long run, and not in a good way…

The kids, complementary in personality, are also complementary in skiing style, but not in the way you might think. Rees on his snowboard is all about technique and form, quite cautious and in control. Kadin, on the other hand, is on skis and pretty much just goes down, come hell or high water. Kadin helps Rees go faster and Rees helps reign Kadin in.

Rees knows how to get down difficult terrain, so he was doing okay. Not as well as he wanted to be doing, but under control. Kadin, on the other hand, was hopeless. I could get myself down just fine, but am not skilled enough to do that and carry a 7-year-old as well. I don’t ski backwards, and I wasn’t sure I could hold him and guide him either.

Skiing for kids is just super different than skiing for adults. Some things that adults find hard, kids find easy, and vice versa. My strategy for getting down a slope that feels too steep for me is to (1) ski down in big zig zags or (2) side slip. Snow plow is something the kids learn, and they seem to be good at following leaders, so I told Kadin to snow plow and follow me and started out on a big zig across the slope. No dice. He followed gravity and started heading down and had his first fall. We tried a zag and another zig, but no joy. The tears started. So I tried plan B and showed him how to side slip. This was just completely incomprehensible to him. At this rate, a very long run was ahead of us indeed.

Salvation soon came when a ski patrol guy, “Tony,” came by and asked if we needed help. Boy did we ever. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll get you down the mountain.” My hero!

He introduced himself to Kadin and I went on ahead to find Rees. Rees was having a bit of a hard time, but coping pretty well. Tony showed us the easiest way down and Rees and I went ahead, then stopped and waited. Tony tried a bunch of different techniques, then handed his poles to me so he could carry Kadin, and Rees and I went ahead again.

We started having a really nice run. Rees found his groove and it was sunny and the slopes nearly empty. Ideal, really. After a good bit, we stopped and waited for Tony and Kadin to appear. We waited and waited…

Finally Tony appeared, but no Kadin. He had called in the toboggan, feeling that progress had just been too slow. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a ski patrol guy guiding a toboggan with Kadin riding on top, came down. Kadin was smiling and having a grand old time, so that at least was good. We got to the bottom, thanked Tony and friend profusely, and they directed us to the lift we should have taken.

Once on the green slopes, Kadin did fantastic. Though at almost every moment he looked like he was about to fall, he had not a fall for the rest of the day. His style is both terrifying and hilarious to watch. We did a green run, then Rees said he thought it was time for lunch. Already? I thought. He reasoned that the lift lines were longer now, and they’d be shorter if we ate early and came back when everyone else was at lunch. Couldn’t argue with that.

They love cafeteria food, but for myself, I had brown bagged it. They were having a great time. Kadin even said, “Thanks for a great day, Mom.” A great day? I felt like all we’d done was get to the slope, do one run, and eat bad food. But I realized to them, it was all a much bigger experience. Riding the lifts, riding the gondola, eating soup in a bread bowl, it was all good. To me, these were impediments. But I reminded myself, it was not about me.

After lunch, Rees said he wanted to go back to the car to get his hat. Go back to the car? That was at least half-an-hour and two gondola trips away. Yes, he wanted to go back to the car. It’s not about me, so we went back to the gondola, took it back down, and walked back to the car. By this point, we were quite warm, so we took off some of our outerwear, got Rees’s hat, and went back up the mountain.

Finally, back at the lift, waiting in line again, I suddenly realized a serious problem. “Kadin? Did you leave your coat in the car?” “Yes.” “Was your lift ticket on your coat?” “Oh, I guess it was.”

There was nothing for it but to go back to the car—again—and get it. Two more gondola rides and what felt like another mile of walking in ski boots later, we were back at the lift. Hours had passed.

Had a good run again—finally!—and suddenly the kids were ready to go home. Go home? Already? I still felt as if we had just gotten started. But it was not about me. I talked them into one more run and that was it for the day. Done. Finito. Back to the gondola and back to the car. They sure loved that gondola, I had to remember that!

We stopped at Starbucks on the way home, got stuck in traffic despite leaving early (I blame the long line at Starbucks), and the kids conked out in the car. So for them it was a big day. Was it worth it? I’m not sure. We didn’t do all that much skiing, but in the end they had a great time. There would have been little point in pushing them past their limit. I gave myself a little pat on the back for not getting too wound up about it, reminding myself: it’s not about me. And, oh yeah, I had a great time skiing with friends in January.

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