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How to Have an Enjoyable Family Ski Day Despite Varying Abilities

Jennifer Rudolph, Loveland Ski Area

Jennifer Rudolph, Loveland Ski Area

By Jenn Rudolph, Colorado Ski Country USA Communications Director

Its a tough transition. Another one of those things they dont tell you about when you first have kids, like how hard breastfeeding is, or about that infant witching hour. Your ski friends who are parents know. Theyve been there, toughed it out and made it to the other side. But they dont tell you the reality right away for fear of dampening your excitement that youre going to be a parent. They listen to you gush on about how youre going to get the kid skiing as soon as he can crawl and youre sure hell be the next Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn. And theyll stand there and smile knowing full well what its really like, that having kids will greatly impact your time on snow.

Skiing was so easy as a nonparent. Hitting the lift early, especially on powder days, or going up late after a leisurely breakfast. Covering the whole mountain, going anywhere, as fast or slow as I wanted, dropping in trees, bumps or carving up a groomer with no thought to the comfort level of company I was with or anyone elses ailments or hunger or bathroom habits.

Then along came the kids. And suddenly my ski days dropped, like certain parts of my body affected by the pregnancy. There was a brief hiatus all together where we didnt ski at all. Until it was getting to easy to let winter pass by, and so the time came to make this a family activity.

Like any skiing parent, we got him up on boards before he was two. That first season we spent lots of time on the magic carpet, and in lessons and teaching him ourselves. Just as he was starting to link turns and stop, along came child number two. Our ski days dropped again. We reverted back to taking turns on the hill with the toddler and one of us stayed with the baby. It got us on snow but still just the greens. We were so far from the runs we enjoyed.

Yeah sure its nice to see your kid progress and watch them bloom into little rippers, and sure it warms my heart to hear them get excited about going skiing and talk about how much fun theyre having. But still, I hadnt made a parallel turn in three years. My knees were aching from snowplowing. Yet I was always optimistic that maybe Id be able to sneak in a full run and always wore my helmet and had my boots buckled.

Then one day, after countless knee stiffening snowplow runs on greens, numerous backbreaking pickups, thousands of nose whipping and vigorous hand warming, finally, the day came when we all four loaded a high speed quad together. I swear I heard angels as we got safely seated, lowered the bar and rose up above the treetops and ascended to the peak. We were embarking on the other side, we had made it, we were a skiing family.

My advice to young skiing parents hang in there. Like all things parenting, the time and patience you spend with your kids on the hill will be worth it. Before you know it theyll be better than you and you will be asking them to wait while you catch up. Meantime, here are some tips I found useful during our French fries and pizza phase.

Get a harness with a handle. I didnt use the leash but I wouldve liked to have used the harness with the handle on the back. Very helpful for picking up the kid off the snow or hoisting him onto the lift. I did use the edgy-wedgy and think that is helpful in teaching muscle memory and helping them form the snowplow.

Be ready to quit. This is the hard one for me but when your little one is complaining about being cold or hungry or having to pee or that her feet hurt, you have to call it. You have to stop and deal and take care of things. So by having the mind set and expectation that you might not get last chair, that helps soften the blow that you got one run in before having to stop for lunch already.

Hit the magic carpet during times when its free. Check with the resort. Sometimes you can even just do little laps at the end of the day.

Divide and conquer. Trade off with your partner or spouse. While one of you does a few laps, hang in the lodge with the kiddos. Some resorts look like little Romper Rooms as parents collect in certain areas and set up camp for the day. This strategy is good to do with another family too. Like a mini playgroup.

Have a sweeper. This is important, when on the hill together, have one parent always be last. Just in case the weakest link has an issue, you can deal with it easily without having to hike up to be on the scene. But you got to take turns as far as which parent goes first and which goes last.

Spend for the lessons. I used to teach skiing for a living and I still put my kids in ski school whenever we can. It buys us a nice adult day on the slopes, the kids have more fun with other kids and their instructors, and they actually learn some skills. And they always love lunch.

No matter what, when skiing with a variety of abilities, everyone ski to the lowest skill level in the group, or split up into two groups. No one likes being the one keeping everyone back.

And lastly, always have an aprs treat. End the day on a good note.