Don’t Teach Your Children… to Ski
Get real lessons
To start out, let me just ruin the punchline for this post: Get your kids real ski lessons; don’t try to do it yourself. You might be a good skier, but you will struggle trying to share that knowledge with your kids. No, I don’t get a cut of ski lessons sold at any resort. I just had this lesson reinforced this past Saturday.
Plan: daddy, daughter date for a first ski trip.
Friday night, after dinner, I brought up the idea of my taking Beth up to Alta for a quick experience skiing down the tow rope hill. I wasn’t thinking about lessons or anything; just about a quick date with my little girl. (I know better than this. I have preached for years that I wanted my kids to have lessons from a real ski instructor rather than from me. Really, I have.) When I mentioned the idea to her, she was totally excited! This was starting great! We were just a few minutes away from AJ Motion, our local ski rental place. We got to the store at 8:05 and saw that the OPEN sign was still lit; so we went in. We were third in line at that point for renting equipment, so we just loitered about the store for a while. While we loitered, we noticed that the store closed at 8:00. The employee was extremely courteous despite our keeping him almost an hour after closing time.
As we got Beth fit for her skis, Andrew chimed in that he wanted to ski to. So I conferred with Nicole to see if she wanted to make it a family day at Alta. She thought that could be okay, so we added Andrew to the rental. It turns out that the smallest boot they carried was only about one size too large for him, and they had the cutest skis to fit him. How could we say no?
As we were checking out, we added goggles, warm socks, and straps to keep the kids’ ski tips together — all times two. All told we got out of there for under $125. I considered that a success.
We headed home to find where we had put Nicole’s and my ski equipment when we moved into our home this year. I was able to locate everything that we owned. This was good, because AJ Motion had already closed for the night. Plus, I’m cheap and didn’t want to rent what I already own. So, in the house came all of the ski gear to get warmed up and sorted. It turns out that we do have enough equipment to take the whole family skiing — now.
Then, around 11 PM we turned in for the night.
Heading up to Alta
We got an early start on Saturday morning, leaving our house just after 10 AM. Of course, this was after getting two kids and two adults fully dressed for the cold, with multiple layers, ski pants, boots, and our best coats. Do you remember the scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie is getting dressed up to play in the snow? That was our family. It was comical.
Nicole’s first question as we started toward the canyon was if we would get out of the fog. I confirmed that we, indeed, would. Almost as I answered, we broke out of the fog, into the sun. The day had begun successfully. As we continued up the canyon, Andrew said, “I think that I’ll just stay in the boat.” I was stumped. Nicole then clarified to me that he thought we were going water skiing! It then dawned on us both that the only skiing that Andrew had ever known was water skiing. We then explained to him that we weren’t going to the lake, that we were going into the mountains instead. He was okay with that plan, and started getting excited again.
It’s been a few years since I’ve skied Alta. Okay, a lot of years. The last time I was up there was before the new Collins lift was running, and while the rope tow next to the Gold Miner’s Daughter was running. Well, that end of the resort has changed a little bit. I expected the new Collins lift, but I didn’t expect to find the old rope tow out of commission. I thought that would be a perfect place to ski since it was easy access from the parking lot, and close to the lodge for a “potty emergency”. However, it was closed. Fortunately, as we’d not seen anyone going up the hill where the rope tow was supposed to be, Nicole had just sent me to check out if it was running. I was able to quickly return to the car and we headed up to the Albion side of the resort.
We got a pretty good parking spot, despite our late arrival. Everyone was excited to put on their boots and get their skis to the snow. This lasted just long enough for Beth to figure out that she couldn’t carry her skis that whole way, and for Andrew to realize that he wanted to be carried. I ended up carrying four sets of skis while Nicole carried Andrew. Beth tagged along slowly in between us.
Finally we made it to the snow! This presented one remaining problem. There is a pretty steep hill from the parking area down to the lift area. Normally I’d just strap on my skis, and carve down; but the kids would not have made it. Instead we hiked gingerly down the slick snow in our unwieldy ski boots. Beth slid on her bum for part of the way to avoid an uncontrolled slide later. Somehow Nicole and Andrew made it down alive as well. Somehow.
After all of that, it was time to put on our skis.
We were finally getting skiing toward the rope tow. I should probably interrupt here to share a Facebook status update that I posted as we got back into the car at the end of the day.
Since I’ve been skiing since I was eight years old, I’ve forgotten how challenging the first day can be. I thought that we’d just go to the rope tow and my kids would find a natural skill within them to get them through. Boy, was I wrong. I got Andrew up to the rope, planted him firmly against my legs, and started up the hill. He did great. Then we pulled off the rope to come back down. I just held him while we went down the very slight slope with very little turning involved. It worked. However, it was right then that I realized that I had no plan for how to get past this point. None at all. (Don’t you judge me, Earl Hickey.) I had basically come up with that plan.
I figured that if that was my plan I would at least alternate kids. So I got Beth and tried to do the same thing. However, the plan failed before we even got to the rope tow. I realized that we were going to have trouble getting up the incline to the entrance. We struggled up and then the ride up the tow and down the hill was fairly uneventful. In fact it was kind of fun for Beth.
I, however, was beat. I realized that I was going to get really worn out. I had taken two runs down the beginner hill and could barely breathe. I caught my breath and we repeated the cycle with both kids. Everyone was having fun. I think that Nicole even took a solo run to remember how to ski.
There was a small issue or two when I stepped on the kids’ skis while trying to help them get to the tow entrance, pulling the skis off their feet and causing some frustration, but generally rather benign.
Then disaster struck.
Beth had to go to the bathroom. Yup, the bathroom way back by the ticket window, up the hill. Nicole volunteered to take Beth so they could use the girls’ room. (As opposed to my help that would involve the boys’ room.) I took a few more runs with Andrew, and we ate a cookie. Still having fun.
The return from the bathroom was the beginning of the end. Nicole arrived first, carrying Beth’s skis. The report was that Beth was done. I think, in hindsight, that the unspoken report was that Nicole was as well. I grabbed Beth’s skis, and caught up with her walking. I convinced her to put the skis on and try one more run. I still don’t know if that was a good idea or bad. Either way we got one or two more runs in with each of the kids, and even had a parents’ run down the hill.
The kids did soon register their exhaustion and desire to leave. We headed back to the two that would take us up the hill toward the ticket window and the cars. Unfortunately, this tow rope was a smooth mixture of snow and fiber that made it almost impossible to grab. My first trip, with Andrew, was successful. The only problem was trying to hike with him from the end of the rope to the ski rack. I don’t know how we made it. It seemed that every step or stroke of the skis ended with my either overlapping his skis or going backward. Arrgh, the frustration.
I got Andrew to wait by the ski rack so that I could go back to get Beth, who had given up on all effort to save herself. I didn’t realize at this time just how slick the rope was, and my effort to grab hold with Beth ended in a miserable pile of skis and skiers strewn along the path. I was able to gather myself and my daughter and formulate a plan to successfully start up. She rested against my legs, much as we had on the other tow, and I grabbed hold with both hands to attempt to get a grip. This did work and we were able to get up to the plateau near the ski rack. At this time we just took Beth’s skis off so that she could walk with Nicole. “My belly hurts,” was the outcome of the fall we had.
I was now fearing climbing back up the hill to get to the parking lot. However, the one upside of the earlier bathroom run was that Nicole and Beth had learned of an elevator! Huzzah! Salvation! We got the family into the elevator and used a mechanical assist up the hill.
From here it was all over but the crying, as they say. In this case, the crying was literal. We hit meltdown from the kids as dad was going to retrieve the truck. By the time I got back, they were both fighting with Mom to get out of their boots and be gone.
What happened to our wonderful ski day? I have an idea. I know better than this. I have preached against trying to teach my own kids to ski for years. I just wasn’t thinking. Next trip: lessons from a professional. That’s the real lesson from this whole story. Just like I said at the beginning. See, I warned you.
So now, my only remaining issue is how can I get a water skiing teacher for the kids now?