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Leaving the kids at home: A family’s ski day without the children

When you ski with the family most weekends of the season, it’s a treat to have an adult only day on the slopes.

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By Helen Olsson

My three kids are teenagers now, which means the family ski trip has been our modus operandi for some 16 years. (Our 18 year old started skiing at two at Steamboat in corduroy pants and little red boots.) It’s what we do. Pack all the kids, skis, boots, poles, snowboards, helmets, goggles, neck gaiters, and mittens into the van. We pack lunches, snacks, and waters. Books and (to my chagrin) iPads and smartphones for the car ride.

But last month, an opportunity came along to cut the chiddlers loose. My West Coast brother called and proposed we rally our East Coast brother and we take our Colorado brother to Winter Park to celebrate his 50th birthday—without kids. Genius! (In case you lost count, I have three brothers.) Why not leave all our kids at home? Between us, we have 10. The Colorado brood could all stay with my mostly responsible 18 year old. They’ve seen the movie Home Alone. They know what to do. (We showed them where we keep the paint cans.) They could eat mac and cheese; we could toss a pork shoulder in the crockpot, ski all day, drink beer into the night, and drop F-bombs with impunity. It would be like someone blowing the whistle in a crowded pool and calling an adult swim. Serenity now.

In the morning, we lingered over omelets, breakfast sausage, and lattes in my brother’s condo. When we suddenly realized the next bus to Winter Park was imminent, we rallied in under 10 minutes. Dressed, booted up, waiting for the bus in less than 10 minutes. That was the first revelation. When you have three kids and you need to get somewhere, the fastest you can rally the troops is an hour and a half, bare minimum.

When I loaded the chair with my brothers and assorted spouses, I felt like something was missing. I double checked and indeed, I was wearing ski pants. But my backpack was empty of snacks, small stuffed animals, handwarmers, and pink fuzzy lynx ears (the kind you can Velcro to a pink helmet). It was liberating! Later I would long for the snacks.

We spent the day catching up with one another about life—and reminiscing about our own childhood. “Remember the time Gerard broke a door down on my head, leaving a goose egg on my forehead? And the time Peter had a party when mom and dad weren’t home when he was….18.” Same age as the son babysitting all the kids. We decided we better call home, but all seemed to be in order. No keg party. Just a lot of coloring and the playing of Rainbow Siege Six.

We skied laps on Panorama Express, playing in the bumps in Fireberry glades. We dropped into Paresenn Bowl to get a steeps fix on dry, chalky snow. It was a perfect blue sky day. Nobody complained of cold toes or needing to go to the potty (like right now!). Late in the afternoon, we stopped into the Mary Jane Market Café for street tacos to fuel up before a few fast laps on Hughes and Norwegian on the front side. All told, we logged 10,684 feet, 9 runs and 11.9 miles. At the end of the day, before we caught the bus back to the condo, we grabbed happy hour margarita and pints of microbrews at Vertical Bistro & Tap.

The ski day was perfect, and I loved catching up on adult time with my siblings and sibling spouses. We skied hard and we laughed hard. We finished our sentences!

Just this past weekend, I skied with my husband and youngest daughter at Copper (while my 15 year old trained with his ski team at Loveland.) We were slow booting up in the parking lot. I turned around in the car and saw that my daughter had put her boots on before her pants. Really? You’d think we’d have this operation dialed in by now.

From Center Village, we took a gondola car on the new gondola-chairlift combo lift up to Excelerator and on to the Storm King T-bar. I suggested maybe we do a warmup run first. “Nope. Let’s just hit Spaulding Bowl,” said my daughter. Bold! We skied only a handful of runs, including two laps on the steeps in Spaulding. It was a cold day, and my daughter started to complain she was freezing. But that was okay; I was too. We snuggled on the chair and warmed up with hot chocolate in the lodge at the bottom of Super Bee. It was my kind of family time.

As much as I enjoyed the adult ski, the pool is pretty fun with the kids in it. And already, my 18 year old is pushing away, not exactly jumping out of bed at the chance to ski with his mother. I’m going to hang on to it as long as I can.


Helen Olsson is the author of The Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids. She blogs about outdoor adventures with kids at Read more of Helen’s stories here