Raising a ski family isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. When we decided we would become a ski family oh so many years ago, we had no idea how much work it would be, or how much it would change our children’s lives.
When I met Jeff Evans he pretended he could ski. I was raised skiing and assumed everyone knew how and invited him to meet me for a long ski weekend. The neon jacket with the upside down triangle (this was not the 80’s) should have been my first clue. When we reached the top of the lift I unloaded and skied away, I looked back to make sure he was following me – he was face down in the snow. When I asked him about his ski ability he told me, “I thought, how hard can it be?”
I didn’t realize how important being a ski family would be to me until we actually had, well, children. I wanted to raise them in the mountains and to know the love of fresh tracks and the high that comes when you know the next morning is going to be a powder day. I wanted weekends to be family time, not spread out doing 50 different activities, but rather all of us on the hill together.
But first I had to raise a ski husband. We booked a grown ups getaway to Vail and hired a private instructor. If you think teaching your kids to ski is miserable, try teaching a grown man. Why Vail? He grew up working in Colorado in the summers and always loved the area, he didn’t realize that our “couples trip” was actually my subversive plan to create a ski daddy. A private instructor isn’t cheap, but it’s the best way to learn as an adult. You retain a lot of dignity when the only person who sees you fall is someone whom you are paying. Also, they can give you highly personalized instruction so you progress much faster. I’m proud to say that while he’s not ready for any cornice jumping, he is an advanced skier and has been an amazing partner in raising our ski babies.
My best advice for raising a ski family:
- Get the right gear, it’s easy to take short cuts when you think “oh it’s their first time.” But if the boots hurt, their feet are cold and they don’t think they look cool. It’s hard to make them fall in love with the sport.
- Invest in lessons, not just for your kids, but for you too. It’s amazing how much more fun skiing is when you are good at it. Even though I grew up skiing I had never had a professional lesson until that fateful Vail trip. I would not be an expert skier without all the lessons I’ve taken as an adult.
- Bribe, bribe, bribe. The only way I got Wilson to ski school was by leading him to the door feeding him gummy bears as he walked. It looked as ridiculous as it sounds, but it worked. Macie learned to ski based on the promise of chocolate waffles at the base alone.
- Mix the fun with the hard, you can’t have it all one way. Yes, they need to learn to carry their gear and tough it out in bad weather and get up when they fall. But if it’s only a slog, it’s never fun. Throw in days of tubing or trips to fabulous resorts to make sure everyone is having fun. Careful not to make it all easy and fun or when they lose their skis at the top of mogul hill they won’t know what to do.
- Don’t give up when it’s hard. We’ve had our share of tears on the mountain and begging not to go to ski school. We didn’t waver. Skiing isn’t an easy sport, but it’s the best sport (sorry all other sports, you know it’s true).
When we started this adventure of raising ski babies, I never saw it coming to an end. But Macie just skied her last high school ski race. I didn’t realize how sad I would be, when they’re little you can just barely manage to keep their gloves on, their boots tight and their spirits up. Then one day they are racing at 60mph. It took another mother reminding me of how short the time is when your children are at home to convince to me to let her become a ski racer.
At a ski marketing event in New York several years ago I was chatting with a woman named Connie Marshall. She had raised a ski family and we were chatting about the challenges. My daughter had just asked us to put her on a ski team in Vermont. This would mean a huge investment on the part of our family. We would have to drive to Vermont every single weekend, the race team fees are expensive and the logistics daunting. As I was sharing my concerns Connie looked at me and said, “Do you know what I would give to have a 14 year old who wanted to spend every weekend with me?” The truth of her statement was like a knife to the gut.
Being on the race team has changed Macie’s teenage life. Another race dad put it well, “You know where they are on Saturday night and they are too tired to get into trouble.” Her ski team friends are more interested in powder than in boys or beer. Her training in Vermont allowed her to be competitive enough to make the high school team which cuts about 50% of kids who try out. She has become an incredible athlete and competitor. She stands out in the single digit temps in nothing but a sliver of a race suit without complaint, she skis when it’s raining, she skis when she hurts so badly she could cry. It makes me believe she might be a little more ready for the challenges she’ll face when she leaves home this fall.
I recently ran into Connie and was able to tell her the story of the life changing impact she had on our lives. Sometimes it takes another mother and a universal truth. So if you’ve been thinking about skiing, and if you’ve gotten this far in my story, you have. I can’t encourage you enough. It’s the one sport that your entire family does together, and though Macie is moving on to the next chapter of her life, I know she’ll be back to ski with me, and someday she’ll be raising her own ski babies and nothing could make my heart happier. Need more inspiration? Read this story about how another family became a ski family in Vail.
To Connie, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I hope to inspire other moms just as you’ve inspired me.
This post was sponsored by Vail, they want to encourage families to take up skiing and I can’t imagine a better gig to have than to help them.