A First-time Ski Trip Journal
How one family has a few falls and lots of funI still remember how happy I was as a kid, slicing through the powder on my first day of downhill skiing. As a mom, I always wanted my own children to know the same thrill.
But for years, we kept putting off a ski trip. At first, our kids were too small. Later, the hassle and costs were too high. We waited so long that the kids were reaching the age when they won’t want to go anywhere with us much longer. Plus, my husband and I were approaching the age when you start worrying about breaking hips. So, we finally marked the calendar during winter break last year for our first-ever family ski trip.
We picked Dodge Ridge, a family-friendly resort that is a three-hour drive from our San Jose home. The resort wouldn’t overwhelm the kids or our pocketbook. As we lined up for our gear in the Family Lodge, the kids were excited, but I was on edge: I wanted them to have a good first impression of the sport, but I also know that learning to ski is no stroll in the park. I expected Theresa, my 13-year-old figure skater, to catch on swiftly. However, I worried about Ben, 9, a video gamer who isn’t a fan of either outdoor sports or tricky learning experiences. Also, I was concerned about my husband, Tim, who tweaked his knee skiing 14 years earlier and never cared to try again.
Tim and Theresa took a beginning teen/adult lesson together in the morning, while I helped Ben find his feet on skis before his afternoon class. It was a dazzling day in the 50s, but Theresa soon looked hot and unhappy in her oversized rented snowsuit. More than once, I looked up to find her lying on the bunny slope, her skis stuck in a big letter X and a crimp in her brow that pointed directly at me.
But, that look was kind compared to the glares I was getting on the even tinier slope next to the bunny hill. Ben had perfected the snowplow on flat ground, but throw in a little slant and he could only stop by plunging into the snow. And then, there was the slow, sideways trek back up the hill after each run that had Ben throwing down the poles and begging for lunch break by 10am. I delayed by promising extra cocoa and setting goals: “C’mon, this time I know we can ski the whole 10 feet!”
Fortunately, things started looking better on the bunny slope. Tim maneuvered the course without any hint of joint dislocation, and Theresa began to look more like her graceful figure-skating self. When we finally plunked down in the airy Creekside Cafe, I asked everyone what they enjoyed most so far.
“Lunch,” responded Ben.
Oh no, a future lodge potato is forming right before my eyes, I thought. Just three hours into our new family hobby, and Ben already had enough. Fortunately, we already paid for the Children’s Snowsports School, so off he went.
The rest of us enjoyed our tentative first afternoon on real slopes. However, when two hours passed and it was time to pick up Ben, I dreaded it. I feared the same sight that awaited me when picking him up at unhappy sports practices in the past: Gear ripped off and slammed down and declarations that he would never, ever try the sport again.
But what I witnessed as we neared the ski school made me glow: Ben was coasting downhill, swooshing around flags and not only still wearing all his gear, but also sporting a grin. He showed off his “Ready for Level Two” certificate and rated the lesson an “A.”
I realized that it hadn’t been such a bright idea to teach Ben myself that morning on a slope that wasn’t meant for skiing, especially when I hadn’t skied for a decade. The Dodge Ridge instructors knew just the right words and motions to teach youngsters the critical skills. They even take child development classes in order to teach different styles of learners.
Plus, the instructors have the “magic carpet.” This conveyor belt whisks kids up the hill, so they don’t have to mess with a rope tow or lift, and then drops them off at a spot with just the right powder and gradient for newbies their age.
Flush with success, we spirited Ben off to the nearest ski lift to test his new skill. On his first run down the beginner trail, he fell once, but then popped right back up, giving me a thumb’s up.
As I looked at the postcard-perfect winter scene and saw my family whisking through it, I was delighted. I introduced them to one of my favorite pastimes, and it was a success. Before the lifts shut down that day, I managed to snap our Christmas card photo on the slopes. I didn’t even have to bargain for the smiles!
Angela Geiser is an associate editor with the Bay Area Parent.
Here are some super spots to ski and snowboard:
Diamond Peak – Diamond Peak makes for a great learning environment, with a lack of crowds, wide slopes and an unintimidating six lifts on 655 acres. $49 adult lift tickets, $18 ages 7-14. Special deal: The beginner package includes a 1¾-hour group lesson, beginner lift ticket and rental gear for $69. 775-832-1177. 1210 Ski Way, Incline Village, Nevada. diamondpeak.com.
Northstar – A downhill ski resort with 19 lifts on 3,000 acres that also features cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and tubing. Prices available on website. Special deal: A couple with children can share an all-day lift ticket. 100 Northstar Dr. Truckee. 800-GO-NORTH (466-6784). northstarattahoe.com.
Sierra at Tahoe – This South Lake Tahoe resort features 14 lifts on 2,000 acres. $71 adults, $61 ages 13-22, $18 ages 5-12. The learn-to-ski/ride package for ages 13 and up is $35 for a 2 ½-hour beginner lesson, equipment rental and limited access lift ticket Sun.-Thurs., when booked online. 1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges. 530-659-7453. sierraattahoe.com.
Squaw Valley – With 33 lifts on 4,000 acres, Squaw Valley was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics and is the second largest ski area at Lake Tahoe after Heavenly. $86 adults, $12 children. 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley. 530-583-6985. squaw.com.
Sugar Bowl – Known for its significant intermediate and advanced terrain, Sugar Bowl features 13 lifts and 1,500 acres. $71 adult lift tickets, $59 ages 13-22, $23 ages 6-12. Skiers ages 13-69 with a season pass or lift ticket can take a free group lesson and/or use standard rental equipment for no charge except on holidays. 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden. 530-426-9000. sugarbowl.com.
Tahoe Donner – Billing itself as “the best place to begin,” this small resort features five lifts on 120 acres, a program for 3- to 6-year-olds and new terrain and a new conveyor belt in the ski school this year. $39 adults, $19 ages 7-12. A couple with children can share an all-day $39 lift ticket. 11603 Snowpeak Way, Truckee. 530-587-9444. skitahoedonner.com.
Badger Pass – Enjoy Yosemite’s beauty, as you navigate the five lifts and 100 acres of this facility. $43 adults, $37 ages 13-17, $23 ages 7-12. Stay in a Yosemite lodge midweek from Jan. 2 through March and receive a free lift ticket, ski rental, group lesson and more for each guest. Badger Pass Road, 23 miles west of Yosemite Valley. 209-372-1000. yosemitepark.com.
Bear Valley Mountain – The resort is opening 400 acres of new terrain this year on a sunny southern slope, bringing its total to 1,280 acres and nine lifts. $62 adults, $49 ages 13-19, $19 ages 6-12, $5 for 5 and under. Special this year: Name the new terrain and win a season pass. Highways 4 and 207, Bear Valley (between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite). 209-753-2301. bearvalley.com.
Dodge Ridge – New features at this resort include the Family Lodge with indoor children’s classroom and two extra conveyor belts to ease kids’ path as they learn snow sports. Amenities include 12 lifts on 830 acres. $59 adults, $16 ages 6-12. A package including kids’ lift ticket, lesson and gear is $92. 1 Dodge Ridge Road, Pinecrest (between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite). 209-965-3474. dodgeridge.com.
Mount Shasta – The Northern California resort sits on one of state’s highest mountains and offers five lifts on 425 acres. Weekends and holidays: $39 adults, $20 ages 8-12, $5 ages 7 and under. Ski until 9pm for $6 more for adults and $2 more for kids. 4500 Ski Park Highway, McCloud. 530-926-8610. skipark.com.
– Angela Geiser