On being a skiing family: From the first green run to a family ski vacation

Recently, I read a Facebook update from a friend and fellow travel writer that declared something along the lines of, “Third time’s a charm! On our third ski vacation, we finally fell in love with skiing.”

This happy statement made me reflect on my own family’s ski ‘journey’, which started perhaps a bit differently than most. Unlike many parents, we considered ourselves a ‘skiing family’ even before our kids could ski. My husband and I had both grown up with the sport in the Tahoe area, myself racing slalom at the state level through high school. There was nothing I loved more than skiing, and we couldn’t wait to share this winter pastime with our boys.



We started each son on skis at age three, which turned out to be a worthwhile yet exhausting endeavor. By the time our third son was born, we were a full-fledged preschool-and-toddler ski family, with tiny Rossis, boots, snowsuits, goggles, mittens, and other paraphanilia littering the back of our car. We hauled all our gear up to our local ski lodge at Mt. Ashland, Oregon, in a huge duffel bag, with stumbling children (usually with runny noses and lost gloves) trailing in our wake. We set up a port-a-crib in the lodge for our baby, and my husband and I took turns taking laps.

Those early years were fun, but rough. My mom, the boys’ grandma, was actually in the trenches the most, as the most patient ski instructor of our group. Without her, I’m not sure my kids would have mastered the ‘pizza wedge’. As they grew, we continued to teach them on our own during the preschool years, and they followed us like ducklings around our local mountain. We signed the boys up for weekly lessons with our local ski racing club when they hit the required age, and the consistent, dedicated instruction took them from competent intermediate skiers to experts.

skiing with kids

Perhaps because we’ve been on the mountain almost every weekend of every winter of our boys’ young lives, we never had that ‘aha moment’. We never experienced that single day in which we said, ‘This is it! We get it now.’ Instead, it just seemed to happen without our noticing, until one season, we were all skiing blacks together and I realized I wasn’t wiping anyone’s nose or helping anyone take off their snowsuit to go potty or sweating in my jacket as I  knocked the snow off someone’s little boot and guided it into their binding. After years in the trenches, we could all, as a family, ski any run of any resort…together.

squaw valley for expert skiers

Sometimes, I’m asked whether it was ‘worth it’ to teach my kids to ski so young, when the process was still more like hefting sacks of potatoes than a rewarding day in the outdoors. My answer: absolutely. By declaring ourselves ‘a skiing family’ before we actually were one, I fulfilled the prophecy. And there’s always more to learn. Now, we take family lessons at major resorts from Tahoe to Colorado to learn more skills, my 5th grader is trying to perfect his 360, and my teen skiers are considering backcountry skiing and avalanche courses. I imagine when they have kids, they’ll start as ‘skiing families’ too.

Is your family still working up to that first blue run? Read this account of a family finding that ‘aha moment’ during a private lesson at Vail.