The other day I got to go skiing with my best friend! At twenty-one months, Rumi couldn’t get enough of the groomers. She screamed “Go faster, Mama!” at least three times on each lap as I guided her skis between my legs.
Her spirit of adventure, tenacity, and ability to fully support and partially balance herself on her own little skis impressed me. When I suggested she bend her knees and look where she was going, she quickly integrated the input. I am conscious of the propensity many athlete/parents have to push their beloved sports on their children. Though I sometimes have to bribe Rumi to don her climbing shoes, she lights up when she sees me load our skis up for a day at the slopes.
Click through the slideshow to see a picture of my dad taking me skiing at Crystal Mountain when I was the same age as Rumi. Skiing has been the best way for me to relate to my dad ever since I can remember and it was the same for him and his dad (who founded this little family resort way back when while my Norwegian grandmother skimmed the springtime slush in a bikini top and lederhosen).
One of my first memories of childhood is being perhaps three or four, ripping down Discovery on fresh snow, and yelling “FASTER, Dad!” before completely biffing it in the place where groomer became off piste at the margin of the run. The raw feeling of the groomed snow grazing my cheeks and the crystals clinging to my eyelashes sticks with me now, more than twenty years later. The other memory I have of those early ski days is that my dad made me wear my ski boots and carry all my gear up from C Lot. When I was three.
To avoid the pitfalls and help your toddler learn to love skiing, here are a few tips to help out:
Keep them comfortable: Snacks, suit, sun is a great summary. Truly, your toddler is growing like a weed so be sure to pack her favorite snacks - and not just the ones that keep her fueled up. Be sure to back what I call 'bribe snacks' for those moments when you might need an extra boost of positive motivation like when she gets frustrated with her skis, when she falls over, or when she has to march back to the car. I've found Rumi's Patagonia down suit an invaluable piece of equipment over the last two years of outdoor parenting. I got her the 12-18 month size when she was six months old. Then, she wore it with hands and feet tucked in with lots of room and now it still fits but now with her feet in boots and hands in gloves. Slap on some sunscreen and invest in a sunhat or baby sunglasses for the slopes.
Follow the stoke: If your toddler wants to go slalom-style around the cones at the edge of the track, do it. If your toddler wants to go fast, give them a taste of controlled speed. If your toddler wants to ride along in a pack at first, indulge his wishes. When your kid indicates the need for rest or a bathroom break, be sure to heed her needs over your own desire to keep shredding. This approach will buy you many more years of happy skiing with your child than taking a tough-love approach.
Self-care: As a solo-mama, I am constantly checking in with my own needs relative to being able to show up joyfully for my child. Just as it is important to keep your kid fueled up with nutritious snacks, layered appropriately for the weather, and properly-hydrated, your wellness contributes to the day skiing being a success. Taking your kid skiing, even without the support of another parent or friend, is completely doable if you show up well rested, well fed, and in the right (positive) headspace.
Leave on a high note: It may be difficult to pry your enthusiastic toddler away from the rope tow when she's still having a blast but leaving while the stoke is high will allow you to return next time with the same level of excitement. Pushing the day beyond her limits or to the point of tantrum does no one any good.
While I hope to prevent Rumi from face-planting anytime soon, I did ask her to carry her skis back to the car. She slung them ably over her shoulder, her small hand draped casually over the edge in front of the binding as though she was already denizen of the slopes, and marched happily back to the muddy parking lot.