Heather Korol, author of A Slice of Happy and active, outdoor mom of three, shares her perspective on the claim that skiing (or snowboarding) is the only truly family winter sport.
“Do you think skiing is the only true family winter sport?” a friend asked me while we were discussing the upcoming winter events in town.“What? No, of course not.” I barely gave her question a moment of thought, because the idea seemed ridiculous. There are lots of sports families can do in the winter.
I ran through a mental checklist of activities that fit the criteria of a winter sport that could accommodate a wide range of ages and abilities.
Bobsledding? Nope. Luge? I don’t think so. Snowshoeing? Okay, but it’s more like calling taking walks as a family in the winter time. Skating? Maybe, but who takes a family vacation to a skate resort? I was stumped. Was skiing really the only option?
If you calculated the cost of equipment and lift tickets, travel time, face-freezing temperatures and the horrifying reality of taking kids under the age of six skiing, the odds are stacked against this sport being “winter’s crown jewel.” I wanted to find out who these ski families were, and whether they had possibly become the unheralded glue of the ski culture.
Meet the Everitts
Shelley’s parents (who still ski) introduced her to the sport. When she met her husband, Mark, it was like they were predestined to become a ski family.
“You know, we met on the ski hill right here at Blue.” Shelley and Mark were chairlift sweethearts, happiest when they were cutting lines in the powder. Friends and family figured it was just a matter of time before the two married under a snowy cornice of love.
When I asked Shelley whether they had planned on putting their kids into skiing, she excitedly told me, “They had ski stuff before they were even born.”
As parent to three kids myself, I wondered whether they ever struggled to get their boys, Teagan and Cuyler, to the hill or whether their über–ski genetics make them immune to the process. Shelley explained: “Some days, it’s a total pain in the butt, and I want to bundle them up in a giant bag and throw them to the mountain just so I don’t have to load everyone and everything into the car. It can definitely be stressful.” It appears that even pro-parents suffer like mere mortals getting their kids to the slopes.
Shelley offers these bits of wisdom to parents who love skiing and want their young kids to love it, too: “Promise snacks when you get there and keep those snacks in your pocket. Don’t try to dress them at home, just get them in the car and put their gear on at the hill. Only do short spurts when it’s really cold, and if there’s too much crying, call it a day.”
I asked her whether she thought all the effort was worth it. “Absolutely. Now we can ski the whole mountain. We sing songs together on the chairlift, and we just try to have fun. At the end of the day, everyone is fresh-air-tired and happy. It makes winter fun and family time amazing.”
Meet the Christensens
“When I met Chris, he couldn’t ski at all.” Jo laughed a little as she described the memory of watching him get to the bottom of hill with his skis and ski poles sticking out at odd angles. “My family has been skiing together for as long as I can remember, and my parents still ski at the age of seventy-seven. It occurred to me that if this guy was going to stick around, he’d better learn to ski.”
They were both 21 at the time, and Chris just couldn’t get a feel for the sport.
“That’s when he suggested we should learn snowboarding together. It would be something new for both of us and we could enjoy spending time with my family.”
And while Chris has fallen in love with boarding, Jo still describes herself as “a 20-year beginner snowboarder.” To this day, she carves and he shreds — it works for them.
When it came time to teach their two girls, Kaelan and Ainsley, how to ski, they both agreed it was a good idea to start them young. The girls donned their first pair of skis under the age of three. Each year, the Christensens put their kids in Christmas ski camp, and according to Jo, “they came out beautiful skiers.”
When I asked Jo what she thinks about skiing with her entire family in the chill of winter, she simply said, “I can’t wait.”
Meet the Mancusos
“Neither of our parents skied,” Frank told me when I asked about their ski experience. “Meg skied a bit in high school, but mostly we wanted to give our kids experiences that we didn’t have.”
Their ski family started when Frank and Meg were attending his sister’s wedding at a local ski resort. They decided to test the slopes the next day. They enjoyed it enough to sign up their girls (then four and six years old) in weekly ski lessons and to start skiing as a family.
Now, the Mancusos take five or six mini ski vacations a year — always staying in the village at Blue Mountain. Frank explained, “I park my car and I don’t see it again until we are ready to leave. There’s everything we need right there. The girls can ski independently, we walk to the restaurants, and if for some reason we don’t feel like skiing, there’s swimming or relaxing in the hot tub.”
I asked Frank if there was any advice he’d give to other budding ski families. “Without a doubt, lessons. And just dabbling doesn’t get you there. If you make a commitment to get your kids in consistent ski lessons, you will reap the rewards. We love doing stuff as a family, and skiing puts the fun in February.
Meet the Perrys
Skiing on their first date, an engagement ring on the hill, and a honeymoon on the slopes — the ultimate ski couple triad. For Steve and Linda this was only the beginning of creating the behemoth of ski families.
Both of Linda’s parents are active in the ski community, and all four of the Perry children have varying levels of ski and snowboard savvy. It’s in the genes (or the ski pants).
So what’s their secret? “It’s a common denominator,” Linda explained. “When the kids were younger, we were all together on ski days. Now we are bit more spread out in our lives, but skiing gives us a common bond. The sport has given my kids a tremendous level of self confidence. They have learned social manners from our après-ski time, as well as the etiquette that comes with being involved in a competitive sport.”
All four of their children have ski raced or competed in snowboarding events. When I asked her what skiing meant to her, she paused and said. “Rather than dreading winter, skiing gives us a way to enjoy the season and still love doing things with our kids.”
After speaking to these incredible ski families, I’ll admit I was wrong. It appears that skiing is a stand-alone, cross-generational winter sport that accommodates both beginner and pro level participation. Whether skiing allows you to love winter or winter coerces you into loving skiing is irrelevant once you become a ski family.
I know that when my family gets to the mountain and hits the first run, everything changes. The fresh air, the speed and the focus — it’s exhilarating. It allows us to disconnect from everyday distractions and there’s no doubt, that it brings our attention back to the now. When we reconnect at the bottom of the hill, it’s hard to believe we are the same people. We laugh, we dissect the near misses, and we share the enjoyment of being outdoors in the winter — as a family.