A decade after teaching my son Aidan to ski, he and I ripped a big line on a 45-degree chute at Breckenridge and I realized this: We have finally arrived.
Earlier this season, Aidan and I had hoofed it up a goat path from the top of the Imperial Chair at Breckenridge to the top of Peak 8. Someone had planted an American flag, which was rippling and snapping in the wind.
Reaching the summit, at 12,987 feet, and scanning 360-degree panoramas of jagged snow-covered peaks, we really felt like we’d made it somewhere. Literally and figuratively, we had.
Laying the Groundwork
When each of my kids turned two, I stuffed their chubby little feet in hard plastic ski boots and dressed them up like pint-sized Michelin Men. There is nothing more adorable than tiny goggles over velvety toddler cheeks.
I would dump all the skis, snacks, water and the kids themselves onto a cheap plastic sled and slog them across the snow to the Magic Carpet.
Just when we made it to the bunny slope, me schvitzing at the exertion of dragging a fully loaded sled, one of my darlings would announce he needed to go to the bathroom. “Real bad.” (In the lodge, I’m so sure I told him, “No pee, no ski.”)
It was hard labor. I’d be hunched over in a snowplow trying to keep 30 pounds of squishy toddler upright. (Public Service Announcement: Parents would be wise to have professional instructors teach their kids to ski. I’m just not that smart.)
Fast Forward: Payback Time
Ten years hence, Aidan (now 12) and I were standing over Imperial Bowl with our sights set on the Lake Chutes. When you hike to a peak with your skis slung over your shoulders—which is to say, you aren’t just deposited there by an $8 million, state-of-the-art detachable six-pack—there’s a certain euphoric vibe at the top. I felt it, and I know Aidan did, too. He was pumped.
So was the guy dressed like a piece of pizza, the guy who took his shirt off for a picture, and the guy who ceremoniously cracked a can of Bud Light.
We followed the ridgeline out as far as we could and dropped into a run called Wacky’s: a white-knuckle steep pitch that dog-legs through rockbands. Aidan, who has truly become an expert skier, dropped the cornice at the top and made strong nimble turns down the chute, threading his way past the granite walls.
I followed in his ski tracks. Wacky’s is my favorite kind of run. Super steep, chalky edgeable snow. A little bit of a choke to get the adrenaline rushing. I even whooped.
Taking a Moment to Reflect
At the bottom, we looked back up at what we’d skied. The exhilaration of the run alone (and the couple of runs down Peak 6’s hike-to terrain earlier in the day) would have made it my best day on skis this season. But sharing the experience with my son was the clincher. It made all those sweaty trips to the Magic Carpet beyond worthwhile.
“That was awesome!” Aidan said, giving me a big Gore-Tex clad bear hug, his mittened hands patting me on the back. “Let’s do it again.”
And we did.
More success stories from the slopes
- Pit Stops for Kids’ Amy Whitley realizes she’s skiing black diamonds with the whole family and no longer wiping noses.
- Mathew Fortune has an “aha” moment with the family during a lesson at Vail. Read about it here.
- Ski Magazine readers share their stories on learning to ski.
- You can also read about teaching kids to ski–and the relative merits of using the pros–at maddogmom.
When did skiing or riding click for you and your brood? What’s your story?
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