Slowing Down on Skis

Skiing with KidsWhen my eldest daughter was three, I had asked her if she wanted to surf. The idea excited both of us. After all, she enjoyed flicks like Lilo and Stitch, where a destructive, koala-like extraterrestrial takes well to the waves. For me, surfing is my sport of choice.


Some people said that three was too young, but I was just eager to get her on a board.


Then, a few weeks after the invite to ride waves with dad, we were out in Montauk, where the ocean displayed to her its fickleness and cunning. The tide crept in, stole some shoes, and robbed me of any chance to get me daughter onto a board any time soon.


The next year, watching Moana, the Disney chief-in-waiting, renewed hope of waveriding together. What could be more inspiring to a nursery-school-aged kid than a protagonist who defied her father by charging into the surf?


Still, our next trips to the beach went as such: we’d unfold chairs a few hundred yards from the water’s edge (to appease the children), and if we went for a walk or approached the ocean (at all), my wife and I became porters, as our daughters refused to touch any sand darkened by water. Once, in Mexico, the kids objected to stepping foot on the sand entirely, and we spent four fair-to-middling days in chlorinated waters.


Recently, when my eldest daughter turned five, and my youngest neared three, I halfheartedly proposed a new adventure: skiing.


Despite a love for Anna and Elsa, Frozen’s sibling protagonists, my daughters always objected to sledding, ice skating, and, in general, touching snow. So I expected a similar demurral toward this winter sport. Perhaps the suggestion came at a time of unconsciousness, because both girls nodded without objection. (I believe I owe this acquiescence to some odd non-Disney Russian cartoon, in which a young child named Masha runs amok in the house of a poor Bear.)


My wife and I had little to indicate that either child would take to skiing. Still, we debated which daughter would enjoy it more. Gymnastics was the benchmark. Our five year old still refused to do flips over the bar—she claims it hurts her belly—whereas her younger sister, who had only ever taken a trial class, climbed atop a mat three feet up from the padded floor and chose the bellyflop as her form of dismount. Though she should have been gasping for air, she arose all smiles. This observation complemented by her natural abilities to body slam parental figures and run headlong into household objects without complaint had us betting on the younger one.


On the first day of our ski trip, we drove up to nearby Mount Peter. There, we introduced our daughters to their instructors and the magic carpet, which we pitched as Jasmine’s fantastical ride over Agrabah. The girls, however, appeared dubious, as the skiers standing on it resembled groceries moving along a more-sloped conveyor belt.


For the youngest, skiing proved disastrous. A half dozen instructors, equipped with pool noodles, hoola hoops, and a wet stuffed monkey, attempted to teach her to ski, but it really just looked as though they were training a baby circus animal. The eldest was harder to notice, blending in with the rest of the neophytes on the bunny slope.


When the lessons ended, the two year old was covered in snot and tears and snow. This looked to be the makings of her first concrete memories; the ones parents hope to avoid. (She has not requested Frozen since.)


But when my eldest returned to us, she was talking enthusiastically about French fries and pizza—terms that represent the fundamental techniques employed by new skiers.


“Do you want to ski after lunch?” I asked, still expecting that my five year old had had enough for the day.


But she hadn’t. We went out for another couple of hours, working on those food-named rudiments.


That night we drove farther upstate. I planned to ski at Windham the next day and was happy to take either child, should they want to join me.


When we awoke, the two year old begged to stay beside the fire, at home with her mother. Despite yesterday’s enjoyment, I assumed my five year old would graciously opt out, too. But at seven in the morning, she was up, eating a banana and fueling up for the slopes.


Except for the sushi served in the lodge, nothing shook her at Windham on day two. She feared not the magic carpet, (even though a late-day spill the previous afternoon had her questioning the physics of Jasmine’s ride); she graduated to the chairlift, (even though on first dismount she had collapsed like a heap at the top of the mountain), and she overcame a collision with another newbie, (even though he outweighed her by two hundred pounds).


“Next I’ll do that,” she said, pointing up at the tall peak, where a young skier bombed to the base with her father dashing madly to catch up.


But for now she was keen to stick with the bunny slopes. And I savored that lingering hesitance because it would only be a matter of time before I’d be the one racing to keep up (assuming she’d even ski with me); before cartoons would stop being appropriate allusions; before she’d no longer need me to save her from the gentle surf.

Posted on by Noah Lederman in New York, Or Bust, Surf & Snow

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