Kids. Sure, they look innocent, but they'll turn on you. I'm about two hours in to a day skiing with a couple of kids at Echo Mountain Resort, and I'm in trouble. I shot myself in the foot by failing to share my Hershey's Kisses on the chairlift. As I swallow the last of my tasty chocolate morsels, I can feel the morale plummeting. I worry they can smell the my fear...
The idea seemed simple enough: I was going to showcase how easy sking with kids can be at one of Colorado's Gems Ski Areas. While I myself am not a parent, I figure it can't be that hard, right? That's where the ski school at Echo's comes in to the picture. They've got the system nearly perfected, and a huge segment of Colorado's population has made tracks on Echo's slopes at some time in their formative years. I arrive early one Saturday morning and make my way to the rental shop...
The folks in the rental shop are super helpful, making recommendations about what sort of lesson and equipment I should use. They then size me up and provide me with my rentals: two lightly-used children - Jodi and Reece. Renting a kid is a great way to ease in to the ski-parenting world. They kids came with skis, lift tickets, helmets, and smiles. Both are 7th graders at a local school, and spend a lot of time in the mountains. On the chairlift they the give me the rundown on what to watch out for.
"You have to make sure your kids don't hit any trees, but it's tough because skiing in the trees is our favorite. I hope you got the extra insurance on us." says Reece, before adding "Oh, and don't let us get lost." When I ask about life as a rental kid they're both upbeat. "We get to go skiing all the time with new people, it's nice." remarks Jodi. They tell me I'm doing well so far, and then immediately leave me in the dust as they blaze down the mountain.
After chasing my rental kids around the hill for a couple hours, I'm ready for some hot chocolate. This does not go over well with Jodi and Reece, who chastise me for being a baby, and tell me real skier ski from first chair until last run. In an effort to buy their compliance, I sweeten the deal with some french fries. Presto! We're headed for the lodge.
Jodi and Reece are great skier and super fun to hang out with. I'm munching fries and happily sipping hot chocolate when Reece delivers some catchup for me. Rental kids are so thoughtful. I wonder why they're giggling so much, and a few minutes later I realize I've been had.
As steam begins to shoot out of my ears, it is clear that Reece's gift of catchup was actually a tiny cup of Tabasco Sauce she'd mixed with just enough Heinz to give it the right texture. Uncontrollable giggle ensues as I turn bright red and guzzle my hot cocoa, which, unsurprisingly, does little to cool my tongue. I must admit, it's a pretty good prank. I wonder what other wonderful little surprises these two have in store as we make our way back out to the slopes.
Despite their treasonous leanings, Jodi and Reece are great ski partners. These kids have the enthusiasm, energy, and attitude that reminds me of what it was like to be turned loose on the slopes as a kid. Each run is an adventure, a race, and a challenge. The concerns I had about skiing with kids fade away. Kids are the best skiing partners - they show up on time (in Jodi and Reece's case they live in the rental shop so there's not much commute), know all the secret trails, and are here for one reason - the most important reason - to have fun.
Skiing is not to be taken seriously, and making some runs with kids is a powerful reminder that this sport is about being outside, laughing, and just enjoying yourself. So bring your kids to Echo, or rent a couple like I did. Just keep an eye on your condiments...
-John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA