Kick and Glide

Skiing With Kids


Before my children were born, I imagined them eagerly pursuing the same activities that I enjoy, particularly cross country skiing since I love it beyond all other sports. The fact that as a young person I would have walked on hot coals rather than do anything that my mother found even remotely interesting, did not seem relevant now that I was soon to become a parent myself.

I purchased adorable little secondhand skis and poles for my three sons when the oldest was six and the twins were four. They looked like triplets in their matching snowsuits and hats, and I figured that even if they weren’t the most skilled young skiers out on the trails, they were the cutest. Our first few minutes of family skiing passed remarkably well. It was a glorious day, with a deep blue sky and fresh white snow; the kids were smiling and declaring skiing to be the funnest thing ever. Nobody fell because we’d picked the flattest trail at the resort.

But our children acted like large toys with about five minutes of run time in their batteries. When the batteries drained, the perky, happy little boys collapsed over their skis wearing expressions of the deepest despair. They cried, whined, and swore themselves unable to take one more step. No amount of coaxing could get them up again, until we agreed to turn back and give them candy at the car. They made it back in fits and starts, crumpling into the snow now and then to show how desperately they needed a great influx of sugar.

The next time we attempted family skiing, the kids skied the obligatory five minutes, then threw off their skis and took up strategic positions behind trees, where they began building snowball arsenals. At first they made their father and me the primary targets, but soon we were all slinging snowballs indiscriminately, until, inevitably, one of the boys got it in the face. He responded by trying to shove snow down his brother’s back.

The game turned ugly then, though I swear I didn't mean to hit my husband Sinan on the side of the head, and we would have gone back to skiing except that now we were soaking wet. Exposing ourselves to the possibility of hypothermia didn't seem like the ideal way to teach the kids about the joy of winter sports, so we turned back.

The year after that, we signed the kids up for a lesson, but unfortunately that led them afterward to declare themselves experts, although the lesson lasted one hour on level ground, and the sum total of their previous ski experience, also on level ground, was about forty-five minutes. They insisted we head to the practice downhill, where they would show off their expert style and accumulate brag stories to exchange with their downhill skiing friends.

The snow was extra slippery that day, and as the children labored to ski up, they seemed to realize that they might not have learned quite all there is to know about cross country skiing. That was not something they'd ever admit to us, their parents, however. We could see that tempers had soured by the time they reached the top, but nevertheless we admired their determination.

Soon they boldly set off downhill, although not one of them had the slightest idea how to slow himself down and, being experts, they couldn’t ask.

Miraculously, one of them survived the experience without crashing, which made the other two furious enough to struggle back up for another attempt. We tried to get them to quit -- we could see where it was going -- but they insisted on staying until they fell enough times to make them despise cross country skiing beyond all other things, including lima beans.

By the time the next ski season rolled around, our sons had discovered that snowboarding was cool but that few of their friends had ever heard of cross country skiing. That their parents were obsessed by it only added to the dork factor.

I was beginning to think that Sinan and I might have to give up our favorite pursuit in order to make it more appealing to our children. And then one morning, as I was about to set out for a day of solo skiing, one of the twins asked to come with me. As soon as we reached the resort, he told me to take him on the hilliest trails, even though the snow was fast. At times he slipped backward climbing up, and wiped out going down. But he never complained.

If I end up with one skier out of three, I won't complain either.

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