Monday, February 23, 2015

Skiing with the girls

The four of us all crammed in together for a lift selfie! 
A few weeks ago we were able to take the girls on a long-awaited event: their first ski trip! When we went to Aspen in December we had promised the kids that we would start the (long and expensive!) process of teaching everyone to ski. I have to say that I was initially a little torn about this, because skiing has always been such an escape from the real world with my dear husband, but at the same time we both love skiing soooo much that we want it to eventually be a family event. Luckily we're within striking distance of some pretty decent Midwest resorts (for this trip we went to Boyne Highlands and Nubs' Nob) that were perfect for the girls' introduction to the most blissful sport on earth.

As much as I love skiing with just Neil, I must say that taking the girls with us brought my love of skiing to a whole new level. Nothing like watching your babies zooming down a hill laughing with joy to bring tears to your mother eyes and make you feel like this very moment is the most amazing one ever!!

So--the things I don't want to forget about this trip:

1) How incredibly excited the girls were for time with just us. We've done this sort of thing in the past with them when we went to Kings' Island, and it is so fun to be able to really enjoy our witty, fun, talented older children on a more individual basis. We had some great conversations during the 8 hours that we were in the car with just the girls (and oh, those 8 hours were sooo peaceful compared to the 6 we spent with all 5 kiddos that weekend!). So so so grateful to my parents, who offered to watch our boys so that we could do this!!

2) Ski school is worth it! We hemmed and hawed over this but signed the girls up for a full day of ski school the first day. When we got to the hill we realized that we still had half an hour to kill before the ski school started, so we were like, awesome, let's take them up for their first run!

You guys, it was soooo awful! It took us half an hour to get them down and Neil basically carried them most of the way. I was terrified that we'd made them hate skiing forever! The ski school people were great and taught them all sorts of things I didn't even think of, like how to just move around in skis (duh), plus they had this whole huge learning area with magic carpets and cool cones and obstacles and things that weren't available on the actual bunny hill. They spent most of the day in the special not-as-steep ski school area before they moved on to the hill that we'd dumped them on in the morning (oops!). (With that said, Abigail didn't like her instructor and ended up skiing with us for most of the second lesson of the day. Oh well...it was good for her in the morning and Jooj loved it all day.)

3) How fast the girls picked it up and how characteristic of their personalities their individual learning actually was. On the second day I was really worried that Abs would be skiing totally different stuff while Jules would be on the bunny hill all day, since Abigail and I did three runs while Jules was still working her way down her first run. But then I took Abigail down a run that she hated (full disclosure: I totally thought it was a beginner run but actually it was an intermediate run, so she was justified in being upset; the signage wasn't very clear and I think the liftie misunderstood when I asked him whether it was green or blue) and she took her skis off and insisted on walking the rest of the way down, and didn't want to ski with me anymore. So I took Jules and Neil took Abs, which turned out to be the perfect pairing, since Neil is way more patient than I am and frankly is a better teacher since he knows more of what he's doing. Abigail really wanted to stick with the snowplow, which was where she felt comfortable, and it was kind of driving me crazy that she wouldn't try the other things I was trying to teach her, but Neil is so good and patient with that and was able to help her to learn and progress in the way that is best for her.

Juliet, on the other hand, is an interesting combination of trusting and a total daredevil, so I would say, "Okay, you did that run twice. Now let's do this one that's just a little bit harder," and Jules would say, "Okay, let's go!"  Juliet didn't care quite so much about being in control and fell quite a bit at first, but got super fast and was willing to learn the hockey stop, got pretty dang fast on her parallel turns, and was keeping her skis parallel and using her body weight/hockey stop to navigate the hill. Jules did really well with ski school and with me since she was willing to try whatever the instructor or I said; Abigail learned best with Neil. (Thank heavens that there are going to be two of us around when these girls are teenagers.) Both of them were zipping down all of the intermediate runs by mid-morning on the second day, and we spent the rest of the day trying to ski every single intermediate run at Nubs' Nob (we didn't hit them all, but we came close! The girls found a couple of lifts with access to half a dozen runs that they really loved, so we spent a couple of hours there). I love the varied terrain and longer runs at Nubs, soooo much better than Boyne, IMHO.

4) Letting go and letting the girls do things on their own. Neil and I were switching off once we got to the backside of the mountain so that one of us would ski down the intermediate runs with the girls while the other of us hit the double-black glade skiing, and at one point I got to the lift and was like, oh my gosh, where are the girls? and Neil told me that they were already on the lift. That was pretty terrifying for me watching my little babies ride a ski lift ALL BY THEMSELVES but they loved it so, so, so much and were just thrilled beyond belief at being able to do that together. Near the end of the second day, they finally talked us into letting them go down one specific run on their own while we went down another way (it was a run we'd skied half a dozen times with them and was pretty heavily patrolled by ski patrol) and oh man oh man, I could not believe that we actually let them do it--but it was by far the highlight of their day and really brought home to me the fact that they ARE growing up and moving away from me and doing their own thing, and that it's okay to be simultaneously proud and terrified about that fact.

5) On that note, the girls progressed SO fast that what I had anticipated would be kind of a babysitting on the bunny hill trip ended up being full of really good skiing for us too! I spent quite a few runs working on my parallel turns so that I could ski through the glades (I felt really good about my skills until Neil and I skied the glades together...then I made him go ahead so he couldn't watch how slow I was in comparison! He is so so so fast and my jump turns are still kind of nonexistent), and there were some pretty good black diamonds that were steep enough and icy enough to be challenging and adrenaline-pumping! Especially for poor Jooj who accidentally went down a black diamond run that joined onto the blue run we were all skiing together...she stayed up the whole way down until she got to the lift and then fell over in a little heap because she said her legs were shaking so hard she couldn't stay up anymore. She cried all the way up the lift, but man, you should have heard her telling EVERYONE later about her black diamond run. :-) Kind of like when I skied Honeycomb Canyon the fourth time I'd ever been on skis (okay, mostly I cried and slid over moguls).

6) It was soooo cold! We had everyone totally bundled up but we would routinely get off the lifts and have to shake the accumulated snow off of us. We were worried that the kids would get so cold on the lifts that they would freeze up on the hill, so Neil brought along a bag of Sour Patch kids and made the lifts this big game where he would adopt a very strong German accent and ask the girls, who he named Helga and Irina, if they wanted any "small sour children." They loved it and would just laugh and laugh and do their best to imitate his accent and tell him, "Ja, bitte!"

And so while it was a wonderful and awesome two days and I could spend hours writing a blow-by-blow of the trip, what I remember most and what I want to hang on to was the shared euphoria of the slopes together, where we were falling down, getting up, and sailing over the snow. There's no pastime I love so much in this very deep, visceral way as I love skiing (running comes closest and it's still a poor comparison) and getting to share that with my daughters and seeing their faces just light up with the joy of skiing and hearing them talk about it nonstop--such a gift. So grateful we could go, and looking forward to sharing this with my children for the rest of their lives.


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