Season opener

If there’s one thing I don’t take lightly, it’s a challenge. Like daring to defy the three-quarters of pecan pie leftover from Thanksgiving, or seeing just how far I can drive with the “low fuel” light before I coast into the gas station on fumes and a prayer. (I do, however, draw the line at testicle eating contests.)

Sure, I am not always successful, but hey, at least I throw the empty pie tin away before I stoop to licking crumbs. Which is why, when a certain spouse scoffed at the thought of me taking our two offspring skiing on a solo mission for opening day at DMR, I took it as a challenge.

Not only would I take them, I countered, but everyone would carry their own gear without screaming like tortured banshees, and we would load the chair without looking like a final scene out of “Titanic,” you know where everyone is savagely clawing over each other to get a spot on the last lifeboat.

I mean, if I was able to safely bring them into this world, then surely I could do something as simple as hit the slopes for a casual afternoon of bluebird cruising. Skis, boots, poles, what else is there? OK, besides toe warmers, hand warmers, helmets, goggles, gloves, long underwear, neck gaitors, chapstick, cell phone, Kleenex, car keys and emergency stash of candy.

I believe the technical term is “denial,” although to some, it could be misconstrued as “child endangerment.” Bear in mind, I come from the pre-child seat/helmet-wearing era. Heck, we barely wore seatbelts. In fact, my mom used to drive a car (probably a Pinto) with a hole rusted in the floorboards, clear through to the street. I can distinctly remember being fascinated by this, as well as the urge to stick my foot through it like Fred Flintstone. Fortunately, Darwinism prevailed, and we all emerged with limbs intact.

Anyway, despite the naysayers, I am proud to report we arrived at the mountain at the respectably and fashionably late hour of 1 p.m. (Ok, in full disclosure, I did carry all the poles and two pairs of skis. But I did not have to drag any kicking and screaming bodies, so in all, a moral victory.) In another miraculous feat, we procured passes and entered the maze a mere 45 minutes later, quite possibly a new family record. But just as we attempted to load the chair, the wheels fell off. Or should I say, skis.

Needless to say, all’s well that ends well, and we somehow managed to load despite shrill screams and the traumatic loss of one ski. And we learned an important lesson that day: do not all try to cram through the same gate at the same time, no matter how panicked we get. Oh yeah, and those red safety gates, when they slam shut, it hurts.

Anyway, we were soon on our way, the anxiety of the year’s first chair load behind us. As luck would have it, the dismount went much better, but it seems even in the mind of a 7-year-old, there are no friends on opening day. I had barely wrestled the errant ski back on his sister’s foot than he disappeared into a twin tip rooster tail of white smoke.

We scrambled to catch up as he led us down the frontside, and I had an inkling as to why some parents use leashes, although a tazer might have been more useful in this situation. Let me just add here, I am notoriously bad at finding my way around ski areas, even ones I have skied at for almost 15 years. I have taken countless friends and family on forced death marches from lifts that weren’t running and have even been accused of attempted mogul murder (I swear, I did not know it was a black run.)

But by the time we caught up to the boy, it was too late. We stood atop two formidable headwalls with 2 feet of fresh chop. Normally, such a sight would elicit howls of delight, but from the corduroy lubbers, it elicited howls of horror. Seems in the absence of grooming, the normally mild-mannered Cherub is a ruthless devil. There was no way out but down, and I’d have to go through Parental Hell to get there.

Despite vocal protests, the boy was ordered to “just point ’em … and get in the backseat a little” while I straddled the girl between my legs. It started off well enough as we cut our way across the slope, until it came time to turn. Needless to say, trying to convey the nuances of a jump turn to a 7-year-old while shucking 45 pounds of dead weight between your legs in 2 feet of powder and juggling two sets of ski poles while trying not to blow both knees out is a little like trying to summit Mount Everest in flip flops and shorts with an orangutan on your back. Not just extremely futile, but stupid to the point of being suicidal.

Before too long, all three of us were tangled together and buried in the snow. The kids were in the throes of complete mental breakdown, and I was close. If the murderous screams from both children did not set off a major avalanche, at the very least, they would trigger a massive search and rescue effort and subsequent visit from Social Services, possibly resulting in jail time.

“Shhhhh … it’s going to be all right. We’re fine. Everything’s OK,” I reassured them in vain.

But they could smell my fear and desperation, and only commenced lamenting their imminent deaths louder. There was no choice but to kick off my skis (a big no-no, I know), leave the girl wallowing in her own self-pity and hike up to extricate the boy. Once he had been un-entombed, I gave him a push in the right general direction and returned to the girl, who had recovered from hyperventilating to a controlled whimper.

“We’re almost done,” I lied as I once again hoisted her and assumed the double-blown ACL-stoop.

As luck would have it, knees and sanity held out long enough to coax both children down the hill and back from the brink of hysteria. But it was not without profuse regret on my part. See, if there’s one sure-fire way to make your kids hate skiing, or any activity for that matter, it’s to force them into something so horrible and awful that they are sufficiently scarred for life, possibly requiring years of expensive therapy for all involved.

“Let’s just get some hot chocolate and go home,” I said in defeat, as I wiped snow from faces, goggles, mittens and other packed orifices.

Perhaps my better half was right. This is no job for a solo parent, not even Super Mom, no matter how severely delusional she happens to be. Which is precisely how they reacted when I suggested we call it quits.

“What?!!” they balwed. Maybe I was being oversensitive. Or maybe the near-death incident (perceived or otherwise), had resulted in a jolt of kiddie adrenaline, but they were having none of it. “Let’s just eat some candy on the chairlift. We want to keep skiing!”

Which just goes to show, when dealing with ultimate challenge of kids: Expect the best, prepare for the worst, and always have an emergency stash of candy just in case.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows