Before my husband and I had children, we went skiing. We went from lying in bed to standing on skis in an hour flat– plus or minus driving time. We got up, got gear, got parked and got skiing with, in retrospect, laughable ease.
Then we had kids.
Now our ski season begins in September, on that first cold morning when someone needs a hat. Then someone else needs mittens. Then begins an annual inventory of all things wintery, of coats and snow pants, neckgaters and goggles, helmets and skis, boots of all kinds – snow boots, downhill ski boots, cross country ski boots, ice skates, snowshoes – and sleds.
So here are some secrets to snowy fun that I've learned somewhere between the minivan and the mountains.
Secret #1: Follow the child's lead. If your child is more interested in eating snow than sliding down it, maybe that should be the big achievement of the day. So relax, count snowflakes, throw snowballs, and try not to think of the time, money and effort it took to get there.
Secret #2: You set the tone, for better or worse. That's why it's okay to throw snowballs, especially at dad. While searching for ski gear in the fall, practice saying, "Isn't this an adventure?" Or, "Whoa dude, that was a really cool wreck!" And, "Let's see how long we can stand on one ski while waiting in this lift line."
Secret #3: Sleds, or how to actually get a Sherpa's worth of gear to the chairlift. Before children, I didn't give a moment's thought to walking a quarter mile across a parking lot and stomping up stairs to the ticket office. Then I had to get a five and a three-year-old from the car to the lift … by myself. How? A sled. A cheap sled … because you're going to leave it in a snowbank by the chairlift until the end of the day.
But first, pile skis into sled, pile duffle bag/backpack on top of that, and pile children on top of that. Pull sled across parking lot. Stop for a snack. Finish expedition through parking area. Reach the lodge steps. Unload children. Balance four little skis in one hand and take smallest child in other. Shepherd bigger child in front of you and tackle the stairs. Drag empty sled behind you with your teeth. Put it all down to purchase tickets. Pick it all back up to continue to staging area. Stash sled. Then go throw snowballs and follow rabbit tracks in the snow.
Secret #4: Glove gators. I saw these little fleece gizmos in a gear store and ran right home to make my own. It's a tube of fleece with a thumbhole that goes over mittens and jackets sleeves to cover that crack of skin in between. They keep snow out and mittens on.
Secret #5: Quit before the crying. Do not continue until children (or parents) are crying. Always quit at the halfway point of the energy so that there is still some left to return home on. It's sort of like flying to the moon and not saving some fuel for the trip home. If you pass the point of no return and are still on the slopes with a kid in a total meltdown, you'll wish you were on the moon where there are no witnesses.
Secret #6: And finally, as with any outdoor activity with children, the more the merrier. Other kids and/or grandparents promote more playfulness and just enough competition to help everyone go a little faster and a little further. Lots of prep work, especially the night before, also increases the merriness for everyone. Though there are times I wish for the simplicity of skiing before kids, I treasure the sight of my two kids gliding down the bunny hill holding hands and laughing together. Someday, hopefully, they will be hauling their own little ones up the hill to ski with me!