Should we get into snow sports?
People all over the world are mourning actress Natasha Richardson's death. It's difficult to believe that such a beautiful, vibrant, talented actress could be enjoying a holiday with her son one day, and gone the next. And the tragic circumstances of her death - she fell and hit her head on the slopes during a beginning ski lesson - have hit me hard because, coincidentally, we've been wondering whether we ought to give snow sports a shot.
Last weekend we went on our annual trip to Tahoe and Reno. We're not a skiing family, but we always stop by small resorts like Soda Springs to sled and play in the snow. The resort has a great deal for young first-time skiers and their nervous, non-skiing parents: for $20, kids can borrow snow tubes or ski/snowboarding equipment, and they get access to a very gentle bunny slope. There's no formal instruction, but there are always a couple of attendants who help the kids get started and offer tips to their parents to help their children along.
This year kids skipped the snow tubes, and strapped on the snowboards and skis for the first time ever. They had a blast. With typical youthful exuberance, they all declared that it had been the best day of their life and they wanted to keep doing it year after year after year. What's more surprising to me is that they actually did quite well. My twin 5-year old sons seem to have a instinctive feel for shifting their weight along with the snowboard, and my 7-year old did so well — in a couple of hours she learned to change direction and align her skis in "french fry" position, not "pizza" — that the attendant told us she was more than ready to go up the chairlifts and down the green runs.
All this was quite flattering to us doting parents (even though the cynical part of me wonders whether the attendant was just trying to sell us a lesson and lift ticket), and I immediately began indulging in visions of us as a "skiing family", renting a cabin near the slopes and heading out all day. I've always envied the people I see schussing down the slopes without any effort or fear, and I'd love to see my kids take up snow sports and enjoy themselves.
Then reality intruded. I've only skied 5 or 6 times in my life (the last time was about 10 years ago), and my husband has never skiied or snowboarded at all. So what's the point of having our kids learn to ski if we can't ski with them? There's no way I would let them go up and down the slopes by themselves at their age (since they're only 7, 5, and 5, that's going to be true for many years to come). I have hazy memories of feeling panicky while boarding/riding/getting off the chairlifts by myself, and I can't even imagine having to help my children on and off. Which, to my mind, left two options: tell the kids they're going to have to wait until their teenage years to take up snow sports, or Graham and I are going to have to learn along with our kids. Which was all fine, until the news came of Richardson's accident and put a third option on the table: run the hell away from snow sports and take up sailing.Continued on the next page