My family's uphill battle with downhill skiing
You’re hot then you’re cold, you’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out, you’re up then you’re down
I know Katy Perry wasn’t singing about my love-hate
relationship with the family ski “vacation” but if the anthem fits, then I
should wear it, down-filling and all.
It’s been 10 years since we starting having kids and progressing through the various stages of “skiing together as a family”. I’m using a lot of quotes here to prove a point to my husband and maybe other husbands out there.
Our latest Valentine’s weekend family trip really helped me solidify my position on this: Ski Vacation in an oxymoron when you are an intermediate skier-mom, with 3 up-and-coming skier-wannabes, ages 7, 9 and 11 none of whom are at the same level. Oh, and a kamakaze snow-boarding dad who is in constant denial that he is not a teenager no matter how many times he utters the word, dude. He — being the expert -- is in a constant battle of wills with himself as to how much time he can tolerate skiing the blue runs with me before self-imploding and absolutely needing to ditch me so he can survive to tell another near-avalanche snowboard story. So, skiing for me at the “in-between level” is often a lonely day in the frigid outdoors.
There were times when I was convinced I and “it” – the whole family ski vacation — would get better, or at least more tolerable, as we struggled through the stages:
Stage 1: The easing from couple to family on the slopes stage. Just before the babies came, I began to think, hey, I’m a good enough skier, I’ll try snowboarding instead for awhile. Two months later ... pregnant. Next season, breastfeeding. Then, back to try snowboarding again. Pregnant (again). Next season breastfeeding. Back to … oh, wait. Pregnant again. Please no snickering. Trust me, the instructor wasn’t that cute. Next season… back to.. oh wait, now oldest is in ski school but not the other two. Someone must watch them while hubby skis. Next season, yeah! Two in ski school, but oldest is begging to be with Mommy. Dad can’t handle it because “boarders can’t go that slow and stay in control and help him off the lift." Oh, right. So, back to skis again. Only this time I’m worse than before but we’ve got so many kids we can’t really afford lessons for me. Next season…well, you get the pattern. This is also known as the “carry me and all my gear or I will erupt into a tantrum of such vast proportions that avalanches have been known to commence” stage.
Stage 2: The we can’t really afford it but we need to keep skiing to get better stage. This is where reasonable people would choose another “family time” option. But no, we were the ones who said well, we’ll borrow some stuff, go when it’s cheap and drive back late so we don’t have extra hotel bills. These were the years when I learned that a four-hour Palo Alto to Tahoe drive can actually be accomplished in 5-8 hours with three potty-training children and a testy minivan with transmission troubles in a blizzard. This was after a day of having to purchase new mittens, hat and scarf that we left on the gondola. Yes, the ones we borrowed to save money.
Stage 3: This is the yes, we finally can afford it, mostly, and mostly everyone carries their own gear stage. To tell the truth, we have had a lot of fun at this stage. The occasional sleigh ride at night, snowshoe hiking up a mountain to have dinner in a yurt. And just building snowmen and getting bumps and bruises sledding on plastic garbage can lids as well as legitimate snow sleds followed by lots of hot chocolate and après ski munchies by the crackling fire.
But -- and here’s my long-awaited point — I have found that during these stages one thing was abundantly clear: We spend about a total of one hour a day altogether as a family. And, to selfishly drive my point home: I spend the vast majority of my day completely alone. On the slopes, but alone. Why? Because usually no one skis at my level – the kids are either in ski school, or one is with my husband nowadays because they have surpassed me speedwise. I just won’t push it so hard that I ski beyond my control. My husband tries to keep it together long enough to look at me sweetly and say - Hey, that was a great run. Let’s have lunch and then I’ll take a few runs and meet you back at the base. That’s usually a time lapse of about 90 minutes tops.
And what’s so bad about being on your own in God’s country you might ask? Well, did I mention I’m a Florida girl? And I can’t help but think I’d much rather HE had taken the kids while I stayed home and gotten to a long list of things I’ve been meaning to get out of the way so we could spend more time at home as a family – altogether. Oh, and my keen ability to get completely lost on a well-marked mountain despite visible signage.
Which brings me back to the Last Straw, otherwise know as the Valentine’s Day That Went Way Wrong. We went skiing with another family – hurrah! Someone, a close girlfiend, who actually skies at my level (better than me actually but nice enough to slow down for me) and two husbands who can head down the mountain together as well.
Add one part zero visibility and – bam. She starts down the mountain she’s skied at for years and I promptly take a tumble, look up and she’s vanished. She stops – can’t see a thing because now a real whiteout has moved in. She thinks I’ve passed her and she takes off again to look for me. Iphone coverage sucks (thanks AT&T). Complete whiteout. That was about 1:30. Sometime around 4 p.m. I make it to the bottom, a mile away from where I’m supposed to be and have to catch the Shuttle of Shame back to the original starting point. Wet, frozen icy hair everywhere, I arrive only to find all of them ready to go back to the condos because they’ve been waiting for me for quite a while. Cold nachos, warm beer. But of course they were really worried about me out there.
Despite all this, I really do like skiing on a sunny clear day, gliding down the slopes even pushing myself on the harder blues and every now and then a really easy black. My youngest daughter now skis well enough to go with me. So, who knows, I’m thinking we might be heading into a good stage once more.
That is until later that night, when my husband announces: “I think the kids are ready to try snowboarding, what do you think?
Oh, he knows what I think.
This is an original post for Silicon Valley Moms Blog from Pamela Weiss.