A guest post from John LaPlante, the editor of GraysOnTrays.com, a resource for snowboarding adults. AND, a very brave ski dad!
Since I grew up in a family of non-skiers, I never got to see a ski mom in action. Then in March, I signed up for a parent-and-child ski lesson at Hyland Ski & Snowboard Area, with my five-year old daughter. I thought that it would be a good time for the both of us to do something together.
My wife is one who packs the car in our family, but it was up to me to prepare us for class. I had to pack snacks and a lunch, as well as our ski gear. So I gathered up my ski boots, our helmets, our gloves, our food, and some other items and placed them all into a large plastic bin.
From the Car to The Lodge
When we got to the ski area the first day, I had to think through how I would get Ellie and all our stuff to the second floor of the lodge, where we would start the class. I figured it would take several trips.
First, I carried the bin of stuff, with Ellie in tow, up two flights of stairs from the parking lot to the lodge, and then up two sets of stairs inside the lodge. Then it was back downstairs, outside, and to the adjacent rental shop, which was overrun with a group of 200 children on a school outing.
The Stinky Rental Shop
Though we could bypass the line and go straight to the counter (a perk of being in a class), we could not bypass the shop smell.
As Ellie observed, “It’s stinky in here.”
My worry-meter turned on: If she thinks that skiing is mostly about stinky buildings, will she ever learn to like it?
Next, I had to fill out the rental form. Not having been the clothes-buyer in the family, I wrote down that her shoes were a children’s six. I helped her try on the boots, and … oops! They were painfully small. Turns out she wears a size ten!
The size of their children’s shoes is just another one of those things that ski moms must remember.
We took the boots and skis to the lodge, where we started our dryland activities. I changed Ellie into ski socks, put her boots on, and helped her step into her skis.
As the class continued, Ellie copped the attitude of a teenager, signaling in deeds if not words, “I am SO bored. I already know this stuff.”
We, which is to say, I, got ready to go outside.
It was time to take off her boots, put on her snow pants, put her boots back on, make sure she put on her coat, help her put on her mittens, and secure her helmet. Of course, I also had to put on my coat, mittens, and helmet, and then stomp down the stairs.
Once we were outside, I realized I had left my helmet in the lodge. I wasn’t going to complicate matters by turning around, so I pulled a hat out of my coat pocket.
Being a ski parent can mean forgetting your own stuff while managing your child’s.
The Magic Carpet Ride
I carried her skis to the magic carpet, about 150 yards away from the lodge. We both got on the carpet without incident, but near the top, I feared we would cause a traffic pileup.
I gave Ellie a gentle push on her back to make sure she got off the carpet. I wasn’t ready for the reaction.
“DON’T PUSH ME!”
Great. Let’s start out in a grumpy mood, shall we?
For the rest of our short session outside, I walked behind her, using tethers (attached to her ankles) to control her speed, while an instructor guided her on movements.
Despite it being a near-zero day, it went pretty well.
Dad On Skis
The next two sessions were more challenging, since they involved skiing behind Ellie.
Having my own skis made the pre-class logistics a dance of the clumsy ski boots: Take the bin of stuff to the lodge. Go back to the car for my skis, ditch them outside the lodge, and hope nobody takes them.
Brave another 200 children in the rental shop, head back to the lodge, and carry more stuff upstairs for a dryland review.
The real challenge of this lesson was skiing behind Ellie, tether in hand. Though I’m a decent skier, I couldn’t handle skiing downhill in a permanent wedge, even on the beginner slope. We often stopped, sometimes by crashing.
Ellie, of course, blamed me, making a mockery of my hopes for building fond memories. Thankfully, one of the instructors would occasionally have pity on me and take over the tethers to give me a break.
The Final Lesson
When the third and final lesson came around, I figured I had the getting-gear-around routine figured out. Alas, I forgot to take my ski socks (not such a big deal) and gaiter (a bigger deal) with us when we left home.
We headed to the carpet again, and the task was complicated by a lot of new, soft snow that made it difficult to walk. So I put on my skis, attached Ellie’s harness, and pulled her, ever so slowly, to the carpet.
We became a skijoring team; I became the lead dog, and she was the skier. I had to repeat this routine when we went to the chair lift.
Let’s just say I won’t be winning any races any time soon.
Becoming A Skier
Ellie had never been on a chair lift before, but my anxiety was relieved by the instructors, who helped me load her on the lift, and then help her ski away.
Once again, I was only partly successful in skiing behind Ellie before an instructor took over the reins. The results, though, were more satisfying this time.
On one run, I skied adjacent to the two of them, the instructor counted out the turns they were making: “20, 21, 22 … you made 27 turns!”
Yes! Ellie was becoming a skier!
The day got better after that. We came inside for lunch, hot chocolate, a story time, and a goodbye-song.
Except Ellie wanted to go back out after lunch, which was fine. Daddy Horse went back to work as we headed to the chair lift. We skied down the hill with only one or two crashes.
At our last top on the hill, Ellie said, “I’m tired, I want to go home.”
I praised her for her good judgment, and I started my attempt to skate ski back up a slight incline to the lodge.
Ellie, acting once again as a premature teenager, chimed in with advice on how I should ski, and I contemplated the next edition of the dance of the clumsy ski boots.
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Thanks John! We ski moms always appreciate it when a dad walk in our clumsy ski boots.
John R. LaPlante is a freelance writer and Midwest president of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association. He is the editor of GraysOnTrays.com, a resource for adults who are interested in snowboarding.
He is also the Saint Paul Snowboarding Examiner, and has written for outlets such as West Suburban Living. When he’s not on a snowboard, you may find him on downhill or Nordic skis, or riding his mountain bike.
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