Soccer Mom, Not so Much

Ski-Racing Moms: Support Crew with Benefits.

Mad Dog Mom Glade at Powderhorn

Horse moms, swim moms, and soccer moms have nothing on ski racing moms. The proof is in the powder.

A friend was recently telling me about the perils of being a horse mom. A corporate executive by weekday, she mucks out horse poop from stalls and carries heavy buckets of sloshing water around the barn on weekends. “One day last summer,” she said, “I was crossing a fence and I grabbed hold of the wire and got an electric shock.” Zzzt. Aaaaaagh!!

Imagine the shock. The literal shock. She practically gave herself a perm.

Her story made me realize just how good I’ve got it as a ski-racing mom.  Now that the ski season is coming to a close and Mother’s Day is at hand, I have time to reflect on my good fortune. In March I took my son Aidan to the state championships in Powderhorn, near Grand Junction Colorado. Now, if you often frequent I-70 behemoths like Vail and Copper you might think Powderhorn is a rinky-dink ski area not worth your time.

Powderhorn colorado aspens

Aspen glades at Powderhorn.

Admittedly, I was in that camp. It’s relatively small–1,600 acres–it has only two chairlifts, and it’s a 4.5-hour drive from Boulder. As it turns out, the modest acreage is packed with serious terrain: steeps, glades, giant boulderfields.  Only a slice of it is groomed.

While our boys were inspecting the racecourse, Amy, co-conspirator and ski-racing mom, and I snuck away to find some fresh snow. I’d gotten the skinny on a route through the woods, which led to an undulating trail peppered with powder-covered boulders.

The runs at Powderhorn spill off a mesa and from the top of the run, we could see across a broad valley to a spectacular crush of mountains on the horizon. We porpoised through untracked powder under a crisp blue sky. We were downright giddy. Amy got a text from the coach about getting the boys to the start. She ignored it. Ski race? What ski race?

Another cat track into the woods deposited us onto a glade of perfectly spaced aspens. We threaded the trees with fresh tracks. On the next lap, we found a run called–are you ready for this?– “Mad Dog Glade.” It had my name on it! It was another broad hillside filled with towering aspens all blanketed in fresh powder. Lower down, we bunny hopped over boulders covered in snow pillows and caught air (unintentional) off a giant log.


“Ski race? What ski race?” Look at all that powder!

We came to Powderhorn thinking we’d be tortured all weekend by standing on the edge of the course and maybe sneaking away for a lap on an intermediate groomer (probably while carrying a bag of coats). Instead, we’d found the keys to the candy store.

For the record, lest you question our commitment to our pint-sized ski racers, we did make it back to the racecourse in time to watch our boys race. We have several minutes of horrendous video to prove it (sky…snow…trees…millisecond of racer in a speed suit…sky…trees…).  And we both did lug big bags of coats from the start to the lodge.

Aspen Glade, Powderhorn, Colorado

Amy, in the aspens at Powderhorn.

Last year I wrote a blog post called “A Day in the Life of a Ski Racing Mom,” in which I kvetched mightily about the travails of ski-racing parents. The laundry, the miles on the car, the tuning of skis, the gatekeeping on subzero days. My friend Buzzie responded to my grumblings:

“Ice hockey moms have it worse,” she wrote. “We had six games one weekend in Buffalo, which was a six-hour drive through a nasty storm. There are games every weekend and the season lasts six months. Our vitamin D levels are depleted since we stand in a rink and breath in noxious Zamboni fumes all weekend.” I have also heard that hockey parents are known to get into fist fights in the stands.

I know firsthand being a swim mom is tough duty. I’ve spent many a weekend inhaling chlorine in an indoor pool standing at the end of a lane hand-timing races while some overzealous swim dad is screaming, “Pull!!!! Pull!!!” right in my ear.

Ski races this season also took us to Crested Butte, Loveland, Ski Cooper, and Telluride. We were pretty quick to sign up for the Telluride race. Aside from seven-hour drive and the fact that our littlest started tossing her cookies at 6 a.m. in the hotel and that my 12 year old crashed getting enormous air in the terrain park on the first run and slammed his knee into his eye, giving himself a mighty shiner, it was awesome.

We were in Telluride, Shangri-la for skiers and snowboarders, and it had just dumped a foot of snow. We came a day early and free-skied with the kids, doing laps on Spiral Stairs and Kant-Mak-M. The next day, between races, my husband and I took turns sneaking away to the Gold Hill lift and getting face shots on heart-in-your-throat steeps.

Aidan at the race start in Telluride.

“Has anyone seen my parents?”

After the race was over, we capped the day by skiing with the kids down Telluride’s Milk Run. Those post-race runs are really the best thing about being a ski-racing mom. We are more than spectators and support crew. The experience is shared.

My hockey mom friends certainly aren’t lacing up their skates for a little pickup after the kids’ game. And my horse mom friend, well, I don’t think she even rides.



  1. Amy Dohr says:

    Good stuff Helen. And you’re right, it’s ALL sunshine and powder all the time! Now that the skin on my fingers is growing back together, all I can remember are the good times. And that Powderhorn, that was a good time…highlight of the season.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      It’s true. Come to think of it, I seem to remember only the powder turns in the aspens, not that last long lonely cold chair ride up into the mist at 3:50 p.m. to help carry gear down from the start. Brainwashed that memory away.

  2. Kelly Ladyga says:

    Ha! You got that right, Helen – I’m not getting on the damn horse! Love this post! While I know it’s hard to run all over the state for ski races, I am VERY jealous of you!! Getting electrocuted, falling in horse sh*t and freezing my ass off at the barn in winter is not my idea of fun bonding time with my child. Sigh. What we wouldn’t do for them, huh?! 🙂

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Getting electrocuted puts you in a whole different category of mother’s dedication. All hail the horse mom!!

  3. T's Dad says:

    Hey, where’s my credit for pointing out Mad Dog Glade? May we all find more Powerderhorns in our lives.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      You’ll have to talk to my editor. I’m afraid the reference to where I got the skinny was cut due to space constraints. I sure do appreciate the down low.

  4. Nice one! Glad you made the race. Livetiming does have its benefits!

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Edie, Yes! we did utilize live timing to make sure we got all our ya-yas out but still made it back to the course in time to catch the races. On some days, you can have it all.

  5. Rachel says:

    I love that you somehow justify “neglect.” A woman/mom after my own heart.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Justifiable neglect. Sounds only somewhat less pejorative than “justifiable homicide.” But maybe it’s more like “purposeful ignoring” or “benign neglect.” Could be a whole blog post in that idea. The antidote to helicopter parenting.

  6. Helen –
    I’m inspired and aspire to be a ski racing mom. Just need to get the little one on skis. Is 10 months too early? Guess we should wait until she’s walking. So soon!

    • Helen Olsson says:

      I don’t think they make speeds suits for the under one set!! We did start all of our kids at two. Now that’s a labor of love. Phew! I remember Aidan on the magic carpet at Vail. He would ski down, ride up and then say, “Let’s do it AGAIN!!!” Sad thing was he was referring to the magic carpet, not the skiing. Still all three kids rip rip now, so the hard work on the bunny slope and all the days getting them to the mountain for race training has paid off.

  7. Reading this post (almost) makes me want to ski! That’s how inspirational it is to this non-skier.

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Glad you were inspired. That one day inspired me enough for a another whole year of ski racing! I suspect my powder day sounded better than a day in the life of a stage mom. Yes?

  8. Yoko Lawing says:

    Helen, your blog gave me a hope and made me believe there is a light in the end of the tunnel 🙂 I am a mother of two(which I thought two was handful ), working at the local bank in Nebraska full time and teaching fitness and zumba classes three times a week at YMCA. Plus I’m a base ball mom, softball mom, karate mom and a piano mom. I am far away from perfect mom, but try my best to involve in kids life. My husband and I love outdoor adventures. I grew up in Japan until I graduated from University in Japan and came to live in Colorado for my graduate school. I remembered how awesome snow condition was in Winter Park when I first skied in Colorado. Growing up my family vacation was ski trips to Nagano prefecture twice a year. My dad hold a instructor license, so of course taught me and my younger brother how to ski since we were two years old( My dad can be hardheaded when it comes to skiing,too). So I can ski quite well, but man the snow in Colorado mountain gave me a whole level of amazement and joy to ski again. My hubby and I will love to take our kids to skiing someday. I really enjoy your stories and ideas for outdoor activities with kids. We’re going to camping for a week starting this Friday to Utah and Grand Canyon. Glad to check your lists of list! Thank you for sharing your stories! You’re a mad dog mom and you Rock!

    • Helen Olsson says:

      thanks so much for the kudos! You nailed my intention with sharing stories on my blog. It’s good to know we are all doing our best as parents and it’s not always so easy. You sound like a mad dog mom yourself. I’m also a piano mom and a trumpet mom. Never, ever a dull moment. Have fun camping in the Grand Canyon and report back! We haven’t gotten there yet with our kids. It’s on the bucket list.

      • Yoko Lawing says:

        Thanks Helen! I cannot wait to drive off from the “Middle of nowhere ” and change scenery! I personally have been to Utah and Arizona when I was doing extensive field research on Native Americans. I did an amazing camping for about 8 weeks straight in a middle of nowhere in OK one summer,too and it was crazy. I camped with two other students( boys) in a traditional tipi which we built by cutting trees and crafted canvas to wrap around. No electricity limited access to civilization…those days were the best experiences of my life. Boys and I basically lived like Native Americans 150 years ago. We even ate road kills…guess it was less delicate flavor to my like, but filling our stomach 🙂 Good old days. I’m sure Grand Canyon mother camp site will be much less wild and more touristy feeling, but it will be a good start for my kids to learn about basic camping style.

        • Helen Olsson says:

          Holy Cripes, you ate road kill? You are hard-core! And camping for 8 weeks straight is something. But what I’ve found is that camping with kids is a whole different ball of wax. It’s camping on a whole different level of complexity.

  9. Yoko Lawing says:

    Yep…I ate road kills only fresh our wild expert in hunting checked whether the animal was milled by road accident not by disease. It was sketchy to eat anything road kills, but I went for it just because a part of my field experience. By the way, we finally came from a family camping trip feeling exhausted! Our trip was huge success. We camped in Warner lake near Moan for 3 days. The camp site sits 11,000 feet up in mountain and the place was absolutely breath taking. Very remote setting and no water access to our camp sites, however descent toilets with plenty of to supplies help campers to stay comfortable. First night was freezing, but rest of stay there was perfect. Looking over a beautiful lake and gorgeous Aspen trees are just breath taking view. Our family visited Arch National park in Moab and Canyon land national park. Arches are awesome place to explore. We hiked along trails to see dynamic rock formations all over park. I recommend to take ‘primitive trails’ which gives you more private settings than just regular trails since there are many tourists at sites. Trails are well marked by rocks too. My kids absolutely loved it. Visitor center has water station, so we tried to refill our eater bottles frequently. Each person carried at least 2 water bottles which helped us quite a bit but not enough if u plan to take longer trails through out the day.
    Canyon Lands are slightly different from Arches maybe because Arches are more famous, but I really like it because I could explore more in canyons. Absolutely grand views. I will recommend everybody to stay on trails. It is very confusing in a way…views look similar so if you don’t pay attention to trail marks, you can easily get lost. Petrograph sites and cowboy site were interesting and worth checking.
    Camping at Grand Canyons was more luxury feeling comparing to camping in Utah. General stores, showers, water access and dumpsters…whole different camping. It was nice to shower after three days in Utah 🙂 we focused on two trails, Yaki trail in South Kalibab and Bright angel trails. Yaki was more steep and slippery so wasn’t kids friendly to be honest. But Bright angel was a great trail to explore. This trail offers water stations and rests rooms at 1.5 miles and 3 miles hike points which gave us so ,much more ability to hike down and back up with kids. We went 6 miles hike using all day but it was worth. Sun beat us down, kids whined a bit but nobody hurt and we earned sense of accomplishment in the end. It can be brutal trail if you have little kids, but our kids( my daughter 8, son 7)did great jobs with help of their name made walking sticks. Great place to check rock formations and wildlife. We saw mountain goats, elks,rizards and some beautiful birds. My absolute favorite is Utah camping site. Must to visit!

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