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Hit the Slopes

I hope that when I was a kid, I was sufficiently grateful to my parents for introducing me to skiing. But there is no way I could’ve realized then what a huge gift they were giving me for my life. They put in the tremendous effort to get me and my siblings geared up for skiing, sign us up for lessons, and to regularly schlep us to the local ski hill on the weekends. My parents were total troopers about skiing. Not only did they outfit all three of us in skis and ski gear and take us on annual trips to Vermont where we got to ski some of New England’s premier ski mountains, they actually learned to ski alongside of us (when they were in their forties!) so they could join in the fun.

Our family sometimes skied all together, sometimes separately, but we always met up in the lodge at the end of the day to drink wine (my parents) and hot chocolate (the kids) and tell each other the crazy, fun stories about our day, like this one: One time when I was about 13 years old I was skiing with a friend, and my ski pants got stuck on the chair lift, so when it was time to get off, one of my legs stayed on the chair while the rest of me tried to get off; I ended up upside down hanging onto the chair as it turned the corner to head back down the mountain. The lift attendant stopped the lift and helped me down without injury, but my mom still tells the story of how at the end of the day, when we were all gathered together having our apres-ski beverages and I recounted the incident, I alternated between crying (it was scary!) and laughing (it was hilarious!). Skiing was not only fun, it taught us independence, appropriate risk taking, and appreciation for the great outdoors. It also encouraged having a sense of humor about wipe outs and ski lift incidents. In short, skiing makes kids tough.

So, no, I’m not sure if I said thank you to my parents after every day on the mountain. I’m sure they could tell how happy we all were on the slopes, so maybe that was thanks enough. Even 30 years later, I can vividly remember the flutter I would get in my belly when, on our drive up to the mountain, we’d get our first glimpse of the slopes. I also remember my pride when I skied down from the tippy top of the mountain for the first time, the taste of the awesomely huge sugar cookies we would get in the lodge, and the satisfied hum I would have in my body after a full day on the slopes.

As a mom who lives in Maine, where it is winter for basically half the year, I am now even more grateful to my parents for raising me as a skier. I didn’t know then that the fun and sense of adventure I experienced as a kid would translate into a gift that I would pass to my own family. I could tell you that I love to take my kids skiing because it gets us outside in the winter months, because it leads to increased fitness, balance, coordination, confidence and perseverance. Those things are all true. But the single best reason why I love to take my kids skiing is this: they don’t fight! They don’t argue! Skiing is the only activity that we do as a family where everyone’s needs are met; everyone is happy. My kids are very different, and there are hardly any outings we go on where one child is not just impatiently waiting for the other to finish doing their thing so we can move on. On a normal day, I probably say 1,000 times: “Leave each other alone” or “be nice.” When skiing, we all exist together in perfect harmony. I swear we actually sang “Kumbaya” on the chairlift once.

I love watching the kids get more and more skilled and confident on the mountains each year, and I love hearing them laugh and sing and hoot and holler as we cruise down the winding slopes. I love that they get as giddy as I did as a kid (and still do) when we drive up to the mountains, and I totally relish that apres-ski time in the lodge when we all sit around and recap the favorite moments from our day. After a full day of exerting our muscles, coming together with sun-kissed faces with the relief that no one got hurt or lost adds up to a satisfying whole-body buzz and a sense of calm.  I’m not overstating it if I tell you that skiing is magical for me and my family.

I know many families rule out skiing because of the expense, plus the hassles of getting kids dressed warmly from head to toe, carrying equipment from the car to the lodge, and often driving a few hours to our state’s best ski mountains, but don’t dismiss skiing too quickly. It is definitely worth the expense and the effort. There are several reasonably priced small local mountains in Maine, and often good deals on lift tickets through your town’s Recreation Department or Liftopia.com (if you purchase them in advance). Ski and snowboarding equipment can be leased through ski shops like The Ski Rack in Bangor for about $125 for the whole season, which makes good sense, especially when your kids are growing so fast from year to year. 

Don’t let the long winter, cabin fever, and sibling rivalries get you down. The beautiful mountains of Maine, the smell of balsam trees and snow, and the chairlift singalongs are yours for the taking.

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