Sunday, March 3, 2013

9:40 PM

We had three major breakthroughs this weekend on our family ski trip to Tahoe.

The first was that my very cautious four year old daughter got up the courage to ride the chair lift.

The second was that my 18-month old son skied unassisted down the bunny slope multiple times.

The third was that my husband and I both managed to almost keep up with our daughter while trying telemark skiing for pretty much the first time :)

With respect to my kids, they both totally exceeded my expectations and they did it of their own volition and with huge smiles on their faces. In the case of my husband and I, well lets just say that we were extremely proud of ourselves for not getting injured.
Practicing for the Big Time

I should note that none of the above breakthroughs had been factored at all into my thinking and planning for the weekend. At this point I have been burned so many times for having what turned out to be unrealistic expectations about what we can accomplish on a family trip that I had set the bar very low in terms of what we would undertake for the weekend. The reasons for the low bar were multitude. Firstly, we would be attempting skiing with the kids unsupported in the sense that my parents wouldn't be coming along to help out with the logistics and babysitting. Secondly, my daughter has taken her time to warm up to skiing and our approach has been to encourage, but not push, her into doing more. As such, our progress in teaching her to ski has felt incremental at best, and sometimes regressive. Thirdly, my son seemed too young to be able to do much other than roll around in the snow or sled. Fourthly, the logistics of trying to have my husband or I snowboard when the snow wasn't great just didn't seem worth the effort. We were up with friends though and had a great cabin, so I was just looking forward to a fun weekend of snow play and everything else would be gravy. Goes to show how much I know (or the benefits of setting a low bar).

Breakthrough #1: After several attempts to teach her to ski ourselves and running into some tantrums and bouts of "not trying", we decided that perhaps a ski lesson taught by a neutral third party might be just what our daughter needed to get past the mental block that appeared to be holding her back. So a few weeks ago we took her for her first lesson at Tahoe Donner Ski Resort where they are known for their beginner ski lessons. She had a great time on the little bunny slope during her two hour group lesson and made dramatic improvements in her attitude and capabilities. Wanting to built on this success, we signed her up for another two hour group ski lesson for this weekend thinking that hopefully after this second lesson she would be willing to try the BIG magic carpet with us and the longer bunny slope.

My daughter and I discussed this "goal" of the BIG magic carpet several times over the course of the week leading up to our trip. She was game and I was cautiously optimistic.

Saturday morning lesson time arrived. We sent her off with her little ski school group and to our surprise they led her straight up to the BIG magic carpet that went all the way to the top of the bunny slope. My husband and I paced nervously at the bottom of the hill. We NEVER would have taken her straight to the top. How would she do? Would she fall? Would she cry? Would it be all over? Would we never ski as a family again? "Kyle" I nervously called out to the very casual and unconcerned looking ski instructor "Please watch her very carefully, she has never done this before". Kyle acknowledged me in an unconvincing way and was off.
First Chair Lift Ride

I squinted way up to the top of the bunny slope and could just make out her little pink helmet at the top as she got off the magic carpet and scooted over to start her run. Then I watched her start off down the hill. I watched her fall over and over again, struggling to right herself, inching her way down, falling over. This was not looking good.

She eventually made it down the hill and to his credit Kyle stayed with her. And to her credit she wasn't crying and she got straight back on the magic carpet without even a glance in my direction. This never would have happened if I had been the one with her.

The next time she came down the hill she only fell once.

The next time she came zooming down the hill, a huge grin on her face.

And then she did it again even better the next time, and the next, and the next, and the next....

Two hours later I came to collect her and take her to get some lunch. After exclaiming over her and congratulating her, I asked her how she felt. "Great" she said "I even did my goal on the first one!"

"So now what do you want to do?" I asked. 

"Go on the chair lift" she said.

And she did. Three times yesterday with my husband, four times today with me. Not a fall, not a whimper, and truth be told not a single turn as she "french fried" her little skies and barreled down the hill, so fast that I and my wobbly tele turns could barely keep up.

We finished each day with a steaming cup of hot cocoa. A well-earned celebration.

To the top of the mountain next time? Perhaps, but I'll keep my expectations lower and just maybe she'll surprise me. 

IMG 1044[1] from MommyTasker on Vimeo.

Breakthrough #2: On our prior visit to Tahoe this year my son showed limited interest in the snow. He was open to, but not enthusiastic about, sledding and generally seemed very uncomfortable with either wearing gloves or with the sensation of snow on his hands which left us in a bit of a quandary as to how to best meet his needs. While he still hasn't figured out the gloves thing, he definitely seemed to get the hang of at least some aspects of the snow this weekend.

While my husband and I stood around wringing our hands during our my daughter's first ski run, my son started having a complete meltdown while pointing to the magic carpet and the ski slope. This went on for some time while we tried various ways to appease him. Finally, I asked my husband to just go down and rent him some skis hoping, somewhat incredulously, that that would make the boy stop crying. At a loss for any better option, my husband acquiesced to my admittedly ludicrous and financially irresponsible suggestion and lugged him down to the rental center where they fit him into the smallest boots and skis they had on site (which were way too big for him).

Little Man on Skis
Now with daughter seemingly sorted out with her lesson, and dad in charge of the baby, I headed up the mountain to get in a few turns of my own (before you think I am totally irresponsible please note that this was part of pre-negotiated deal with the husband as he is getting to spend an entire weekend in Tahoe on his own shortly). On my second run I saw my husband trudging back towards the bunny slopes carrying my son with his little skis on. I then watched my husband run along behind my son supporting him as he slid along the snow.

Now it was my turn. I carried him up the bunny slope until we reached the "no foot traffic beyond this point" sign and set him down, paralleling his skies and making sure he was stable. Happy as my son had been to see me when I came back from boarding, he now started pushing me away. I want to do it by myself he was telling me - so I let him. 

And then that little dude skied himself 20 feet down the hill to his dad. ALL BY HIMSELF. I caught up to him and he looked at me with a huge grin and said "MORE". So as you can see in the video below, that is what we did about 20 more times that morning - carried my son as far as we could up the hill and then let him ski 30 or so feet down on his own. 

IMG 1051[1] from MommyTasker on Vimeo.

He was so proud of himself! One time, as I picked him up after a run, he just started showering me with kisses. It was like he was saying thank you mommy so so much for taking me skiing - I love this and I love you. My boy, just so you know, I will carry you to the top of any mountain you want if you love me back like that.

Time and time again people skied by and stopped and stared. How old is he? they would ask, incredulous as he grinned his little grin, his baby face pink with excitement and cold. When I would tell them 18-months they would just laugh and shake their heads in amazement. Good job, good boy! they would tell him. He would grin even bigger, say WOW and then say MORE.

He skied himself into such an exhaustion that morning that he fell asleep on my shoulder as I carried him in the bright sunlight, on the busy ski slope, with his skis still on. He slept for two hours in the stroller in the ski lodge while I sat there and watched the other lodge-bound parents drinking themselves into sanity. When he woke up, he had a snack and then headed back out for more. Today he went again, nodding his head in vigorous affirmation when I asked him if he was a skier. 

Yes you are, my boy, yes you are.

Breakthrough #3. While admittedly a lot less impressive, I am excited that my husband and I have decided to take up telemark skiing. We started discussing making the transition during our last Tahoe trip when we realized that for at least the next four years it is just not going to be worth it to go to the big resorts and pay hundreds of dollars to ski for the few runs we manage to sneak in. Rather than being bored riding our snowboards on little mountain groomers we would leave our boards behind and enjoy learning a new sport while exploring some of the smaller and less traveled ski resorts in the Sierras. I am pleased to say that it was fun and challenging to ski the greens with my daughter today and we are excited to be truly learning to ski together as a family. 

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  1. A great weekend of firsts, way to go Hunty and Aidyn! Hope we can join you while we can still keep up with the kids!