Living in northern California means the kids get a “ski-week” off from school in February. As recent transplants from Georgia, we learned that ski-week is a mixed bag of fun, whining, fear, pain, over-priced lodging, and bruises, all compressed into tight-fitting boots and ski clothes.
To understand the excitement/dread levels associated with ski-week, you need to understand each family members’ perspective.
Teresa grew up skiing. Although she grew up in Florida, they traveled to Aspen every season. So, she pretty much grew up skiing. Add to that a “gap” year in between first and second year of law school to LIVE in Aspen, and she is pretty awesome. (No, that is not normal. Most people do not take a gap year while IN law school.)
Teresa can ski most trails, her form is really good, her skis are parallel, and she is fast!
I grew up not skiing. Indeed, the only time I recall even seeing somebody ski was in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only. Too rich for my blood. In Queens, we made snow forts when young, then shoveled snow to make money as teenagers, and finally started muttering under our breath bitching about the snow as we approached adulthood. (These were back in the days when NY public schools were proud of the fact they did not close for snow– ever.)
In college, some friends took me on a ski trip and “taught” me to ski. One friend –who looked remarkably like a Gorg from the old show Fraggle Rock– Carl Webb, gave me my first lesson. I wore a football helmet and shoulder pads. He stood as straight and tall as his considerable bulk would allow, put his hands on my shoulders, and in a somber voice said (and at the time I did not realize he was plagiarising this from a great movie. Put your non-googled guesses in the comments.):
“Go straight. If something gets in your way, turn.”
And with those serious words of obviousness, Carl Webb (never just “Carl”) sent me down my first ski run at Hunter Mountain in New York (what we city kids called “upstate.”) Luckily, I did not seriously injure myself or anybody else. I did, however, end up screaming my head off and skiing all the way into the parking lot just past a group lesson. As I entered the parking lot (no kidding), I came to a somewhat controlled stop, thanks to the exposed blacktop grinding into the bottoms of my skis. This was the first — though not the last– time I met the ski patrol. They took away my skis until I signed up for a lesson.
Carl Webb did later give better advice that stuck with me. In fact, as far as I can tell, that advice was a Carl Webb original thought. “Never say or think ‘oh shit’ because the minute you do, you will lean back and then the skis will be in charge of where you go and how fast.”
Carl Webb’s advice stuck with me and for all of my years skiing, I could be heard to scream and yell virtually every profanity known to man (in several languages) while skiing, but never “oh shit.” I believe this limitation on my cursing actually kept me focused on leaning forward and made me a better skier.
Despite my awful start, I developed into a competent skier. By competent, I mean that I could tackle most non-mogul runs and keep up with my friends. I would occasionally tackle the mogul runs and survive, though survival was not a foregone conclusion. (One trip down Outer Limits at Killington, Vermont, unconcious on the back of a ski patrol sled convinced me to be a bit more cautious.). Nevertheless, my form remained horrific to behold with my skies flailing, and curses being screamed at the mountain.
Sam and Ella
Until 3 years ago we lived in Georgia and skiing was not on our radar. For their entire lives, we vacationed with the kids at places that were warm, saw family, and generally avoided the incredible expense of skiing.
So, until we moved to Northern California, the kids never skied.
Our First Family Ski Adventure
What does one do when school is out for ski-week. Why, one skis, of course. So, off we went to repurchase virtually everything we cleaned out of our attic fifteen years ago, plus stuff for the kids. Yay, fun.
We drove up to Tahoe with friends visiting from Georgia and booked a family lesson. On the way to the lesson, Teresa and I put our skis on, stumbled around for a minute, realized we remembered the basics of how to ski, and left the kids with the instructor.
Teresa got right back into the groove and was having a blast. She was by the far best skier in our little group. (Sorry Tony, you were not faster and did not have better form.) Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end of skiing for me –more on that later.
Sam — as teenage boys are apt to do — jumped right into skiing without fear. Confident in his own immortality (or simply oblivious to mortality), he was on his own before the end of the day with the instructor just giving him pointers. By the end of that first day he was solo skiing on all of the greens and ended the day with a successful run on a blue run. Overall, a great day for Sam. And, of course, I imparted Carl Webb’s sage advice upon him, which I am sure helped.
This picture of Ella accurately reflects her thoughts, enthusiasm, and general cheeriness quotient for the next few days AND ski trips.
Most Recent Trip -Squaw Valley
Our most recent excursion was to Squaw Valley, Colorado. The goals this trip were to visit with some of our younger cousins and to transition Ella over to snow boarding. The young ones (all over 30, but still closer to Sam and Ella’s age than Teresa or I are) all wanted to snow board and needed lessons. So, this was a perfect opportunity.
We stayed in Squaw Valley Resort Village which was super nice. The snow was lovely, the weather not too cold, and the village offered a good mix of bars, restaraunts and stores. Idyllic really.
Most importantly, we had a great time hanging out with the cousins AND Ella had a blast learning to snow board with Tricia and Ben. She did a great job and kept up with the cousins and loved doing it!
Sam really came into his own as a beginner skier. I have little doubt that he will continue to progress and ultimately be more of a Teresa-class good-form skier than a Scott-type hot-mess on skis.
My Stinking Feet!
In the old days, I complained about ski boots only at the end of the day and in the same manner and volume as most folks around me. The cramped feeling was worth the fun and spectacle involved in every ski trip.
Since we started skiing with the kids in 2017 though, my feet are a real problem. The first trip I managed one full day with two separate boot changes at the rental shop. The issue was not a lack of comfort. The boots caused me pain across the entirety of my foot to the point that I was sweating, panting, and finally unable to keep them on.
As a dutiful father, I needed to overcome the pain so we could have idyllic ski trips with the kids (plus, my wife made me). So, I found the best review- certified boot fitter to solve my foot problem.
Side note– for the last twelve years or so I have done away with shoes as much as possible. I had some knee and back pain when I tried to run, but after reading Born to Run (highly recommended as a fun read), I decided to give barefoot running a try. Not only did my knee and back pain stop, but I was, for several years, a slow, but dedicated runner averaging 20 miles a week. Half of those miles were completely barefoot and the other half in vibram five finger dopey looking shoes. There has been a lot of controversy about barefoot running, but I am a 100% believer. The key, in my humble opinion, is to start slow. If you wear shoes, then your feet have unexcercised muscles in them. You have essentially been wearing a soft cast for years. If you normally run ten miles in supportive shoes then try the same distance without the shoes, you are bound to hurt yourself.
Anyway, the purpose of this little side note is inform you that I now have differently shaped feet than many folks. When I started barefoot running I was a size 11.5 and flat footed. A couple of years later, I was a size 10.5, normal arches and abnormally high tops of my feet. Hell, my feet are the most muscular part of my body. And, to bring this all back to the point of this side note, my new muscle feet may be a contributing factor to foot pain in ski boots. (Geez, I am long-winded.)
The fitter listened attentively and then proceeded to put pads all over my feet, placed the very expensive inners shells around my feet, heated everything and molded them exactly to my feet. Then, we did it again with the outer shell. Voila! I thought I would be back to skiing without foot pain as if I were 20.
I wore the boots every day for half an hour leading up to our next ski trip. Once at the mountain, I booted up, got my skis, got on the lift and the pain started again. I did not make it one full day in my custom fit boots. When we got home, I had them refit. The fitter scratched his head and then spent a solid three hours re-doing everything and leaving more room for my feet in the boots this time. The next trip was the recent visit to Squaw Valley and I barely made it out of the condo with my boots unlatched, before the pain began.
Next step– I found a ski shop in Squaw Valley with a fitter who sold these new fangled snowboard boots that you can ski in. I thought these might do the trick to just get me on the mountain for easy runs so I could be with the kids. I put the boots on and they were comfortable. I put the frames on and they were bearable. So I bought a NEW set of boots near the mountain just so I could ski with the family.
One half of one run. That is as far as a made it. One half of a green. At the half-way mark I took my skis off, opened them and sat in the snow to let my feet rest. I then walked down the mountain with just the snowboard boots on, the frames in my skis, and me carrying all of it.
For now (and likely forever), I am just done skiing. I don’t need another sport. I am content to watch my family, and sit near a fire drinking hot chocolate until they are done. Geez, I am getting old. At least I like fires and hot chocolate!