The Joy of Spring Skiing With Kids Equals Two Steps Forward, No Falling Back
Photo by Alexa Miller
We didn’t have to wait all ski season long for those 30 -degree days to warm to 40 and 50 but there’s just a different vibe when it’s April versus February. “Spring is in the air!” I started skiing in California when I was six. My parents forced me out in the worst possible conditions- and I hated them for it- and I thought I hated skiing. Here I was, being practically blown off the lift with crystals forming in my runny nose, and my folks sat all cozy in the warm daylodge waiting for my ski lesson to end. Grrrrrr. Then came spring and I nearly forgot the previous months of torture. Less layers, sunglasses, juice instead of hot cocoa, sunshine instead of frostbite, smiles instead of tears. If it weren’t for spring skiing, I may have turned out differently.
Decades later, I have the luxury my parents didn’t. Living along the Wasatch Front, I can pick and choose the days I want to ski. Despite my hardcore ski attitude being crushed by a less-than stellar winter, I’m not about to take my kid rockclimbing when there’s still snow on the ground. At 8, I drag her out every chance I get and she happily follows.
Photo by Alexa Miller
The love affair began at 3 for her. I didn’t want her to have my childhood experience. I wanted Sage to love me, love skiing. Here in Utah, Sage could have the ultimate first experience(s) that I didn’t get. She’d be hooked. Because if she wasn’t, well, I would miss her on those powder days. If she didn’t love skiing, not only would I be disappointed that she didn’t share my passion but I’d be destined to pay hundreds of dollars over the years for babysitters. Not only does late spring offer stellar weather and incredible resort deals on everything from lodging and lifts to meals and shopping but what better time to drag the kids onto the hill? No crowds, no traffic to interrupt your beginner flow, cheap lessons, cheap rentals, warm soft snow in which to crash-land, and no chill to freeze tiny fingers and toes. Plus, we have all of those funky names for the snow in the spring- mashed potatoes, creamed corn, sugar, death cookies (globs of snow that refreeze over night), slushy, mush, slop- and wild spring events like pond skimming, dummy downhills, skiing in costumes, outdoor concerts at the base, and tailgating barbecues in the parking lot. What’s not to love about skiing? I calculated. Sage’s first season would be only sunny days and toasty temps.
Sure you can whine in March that you need a beach but live here through two winter seasons and you know that you can pretty much count on white stuff in the mountains. You have months to learn to surf, ride a bike, hike or rock climb. By mid-March, however, you’ll have mere weeks to form a love of snowsports in your kids. Here’s another thought. When it’s warm and sunny, your kids will want to stay out longer. By the coming December they’ll be intermediates and you won’t have to waste a powder day on the bunny slope. Not to mention when the snow turns to mush by 2 p.m., they’re ready for a nap and you can get in a round of golf or a bike ride.
I dressed Sage in layers (it was warm at the base but cold up top) and made it to Snowbird by 10:30 a.m., April 3. About two hours post sunrise, the sun slowly turns that top icy layer into “corn” – when the frozen snow melts into soft crystals but the base is still frozen. It’s “pool table smooth” and akin to skiing a February groomer. Try to ski any earlier and you’re skidding on ice. Sage would cry and we’d leave. Timing is everything. Up we went on the Chickadee lift, the bright orange Edgy Wedgy clinging to her Sponge Bob skis. No tears. Only laughter and the “ABC song”. Halfway down the run, she threw me her coat and told me to let go of her ski tips. By the next lap, she had spied the Tram and begged for a ride. My plan was working.
Photo by Alexa Miller
If your kids are beginners and you don’t feel comfortable teaching them yourself, the resort ski schools will love your business and there’s a sweet chance she’ll have the lesson all to herself. But spring is also a time for families to connect and play together. Once your kids get the basics down, help them explore the mountain. After a few hours, Sage and I were done and shared a hotdog on the plaza while the afternoon band jammed to “Born to Be Wild”. Sage asked me if we could “ski again tomorrow” as we rode the lift back to the car (the empty Chickadee Lot is the best spot to park when you have kids in tow and don’t feel like shuttling back and forth for gear). I replied, “Wouldn’t you like to go swimming tomorrow?” “Not tomorrow,” she said. “In a couple weeks. Tomorrow we ski.” Yep, score one for the next generation of skiers. It’s spring. The beach can wait.
Photo by Alexa Miller
FYI- Park City, Deer Valley, The Canyons, Snowbasin, Alta, Sundance, Powder Mountain, Wolf Creek, and Solitude close mid-April, followed by Brighton at the end of the month. Snowbird, which has the longest season of most resorts in the west, has been known to stay open until June although that is unlikely for 2015.
What I Brought
Ski Pal – No sore back, no crossed skis; you keep your distance while they learn to ski on their own two feet. The Pal is your best friend. Solid in your hands, adjustable, ergonomic and breaks down for easy storage. $80, www.ski-pal.com.
Kiss My Face Kids Sunstick– The water-resistant SPF 30 protects tender skin without getting goo all over those cute duds, in their eyes and your hands. $14.
My First Shades– Your grom will be too cool for (ski)school in these shades. Shatterproof, foam-backed for comfort and 100 percent UVA/UVB protection (Kids don’t care but you might). The adjustable neoprene headband fits under a helmet or over a hat. $12.
Roces IDEA 6-in-1 adjustable ski boot – Save money and the headache of finding good-fitting boots every season. These ones grow with your child – through six sizes! No complaints about comfort either. $100, www.SkiSk8.com.
Jammy Sammy & Mashups – Organic snacks for when the tummy rumbles. Beats graham cracker crumbs in your pocket. $3.99 for 5 Sammies or $4.99 for 4 squeezable fruit Mashups.
Spyder pants and insulator jacket
Gordini kids spring gloves
What I Wish I Brought
Small hydration pack filled with enough water for both of us. You’ll sweat more in the spring and even more chasing kids.
Lucky Bums Grip and Guide- It’s a workout steering your child, hoisting them off the snow, or onto a chairlift. A handle would have helped. $20, http://luckybums.com.
GoPro or other POV video Camera- Catching those warm grins in the spring sun: priceless.
Watching Sage stick her head into the wind from the open Tram window; a giant smile on her face. That’s my girl!