Family harmony on the ski hill.
A family day on the slopes: it can forge new memories of whooping it up in powder, giggling your way through the trees, and high-fiving over hot cocoa. Or, it can invite chaos, bruised egos, parking-lot tantrums, and the hot sting of tears on a freezing-cold day. And I’m talking about you here, not your kids.
While bumps in the road (and the cat-track) are inevitable, here are a few suggestions to keep your on-snow time in the happy zone.
Technique & Terrain
For the love of God, please don’t push your family members into overly steep terrain. The most likely outcome of sending the kids down Devil’s Dive is the installation of really bad habits. If your kids are in snowsports lessons, ask their instructor for terrain advice and key things to work on. Try to reinforce what your kids are learning in class. Adopt the role of cheerleader rather than drill sergeant. The most common thing that children need to practice is to use turns to control their speed, rather than a flying death pizza or heelside sideslip. If your kid is constantly on the brakes, the terrain is too steep. Find that happy-medium pitch where shaping a turn is comfortable.
Organize your day so there is something for everyone, even though you all have different abilities and tastes. Work in variations on the theme so some can play in Jump City while others can cruise Powder Park groomers. Meet back at the lift and then exaggerate the heck out of how awesome you just were. Lean toward democracy over dictatorship. To whatever extent is reasonable, let kids lead the way. And yes, grownups can ski Hully Gully, even you. Keep in mind that kids get cold and tired way quicker than you do. Be proactive in avoiding a meltdown. Bring tasty snacks (none of that dried-fruit nonsense; bust out the Snickers) and keep the calories flowing. Take a break inside before kids start to get tired and cranky.
Parents New to Skiing
If you’re new to skiing, take lessons without your kids so that you can build confidence and focus on yourself for a change. Savor the indulgence of dropping the kids at school, then heading up for some weekday powder. Keeping up with your kids is the best possible motivator to keep honing your own skills. Chase them as much as you can! Go over jumps, snake through the trees, push yourself, be playful. You got this.
Husbands & Wives
Husbands: don’t coach your wives. Just don’t. Wives: skiing in an all-women’s posse is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you don’t have a roving band of like-minded ski friends, enroll in women’s ski/snowboard workshops, where you are likely to meet compatible partners and new friends.
When the Kids Surpass You
Inevitably, there will come a time when your kids’ abilities, energy, and desire for thrill-seeking exceed your own. Set your kids up as well as you can. Enroll them in Ridge Team or a Ridge workshop; take an avy course together; practice beacon searches; do Ridge runs and Tram laps together. The decision-making skills of ski/snowboard partners can have an outsized effect on your child’s safety. Get to know their partners and their families. Debrief their day. Ask questions, look at a map and photos together. Be sure you’re part of the conversation about what they’re doing and what their goals are, and what, if anything, concerns them. Encourage lifelong skill-building. To a teenager or a 20-something, time in the mountains is often about checking off objectives. Instill an intrinsic love of mastering the sport, not just ticking boxes and posting rad photos.
Karin Kirk is a ski instructor and Ridge guide at Bridger Bowl who sometimes smiles and sometimes cringes observing family dynamics on the hill.