The best gift a parent can give

Mar. 29, 2015

Skiing together as a family

My parents were geniuses, and they gave me some of the very best gifts parents can ever give. The family ski vacation is high on that list. It may sound silly or superficial but don’t underestimate what you are giving your kids when you take them to the mountains with you.

The Lifetime Sport
From those vacations and the ski lessons they facilitated for me every year of my life, they gave me the obvious – a lifetime sport I get to enjoy for the rest of my days, as long as my knees hold up. That alone is a golden gift.

I know how much I love the outdoors, the mountains, gliding and flying on pristine snow with the planet’s most beautiful backdrops for a view. As it turns out it even gave me my career.

A Blast!
I’m a northeast girl and our vacations were to Canada, where my folks thought the best ski schools in the world, of that time, were. We know that the best ski school in the world now is at Vail, but that’s beside the point.

We went with 5 or 6 other families whose kids I knew well from school or family parties. The parents took lessons too. So during the day, we kids took over ski school, for that matter we felt like we took over the whole mountain, even the resort. In short, we had a blast! I can remember one instructor who took my class skiing right through the middle of the adults in a lesson (including my parents) and leaping off a jump, yelling “Geronimo!” As our parent’s ‘ooh’d’ and ‘ahhh’d’ we felt like rock stars. Oh yeh, we didn’t realize at the time, but we were getting exercise and fresh air all the while we were having that blast.

Identity and Pride
Teaching your kids to ski
I was a skier. I knew it, thanks to the family vacation, since I was 3. If I could do nothing else, I was a skier and not every kid at school was. I had lessons, so I got to be pretty good, or at least I felt like I was. I learned new things and conquered harder terrain each season. With every accomplishment came self-esteem, self-reliance and a happy kid.

Sharing For Real With Our Parents
After the ski day, we kids ran around the hotel exploring every “employee only” door, the restaurant kitchen, and every other nook and cranny of the resort. Then we all had dinner together.

I remember my brother teaching all the other kids how to wet your finger and run it around the rim of our water glasses to make a chorus of ringing noise to annoy most everyone else. Funny stuff when you’re a kid in a fancy dining room. But at dinner, we all told stories of each of our own adventures on the hill. We reviewed what we learned, regaled everyone with stories of our best turns/ toughest runs/ biggest jumps and biggest yard sales. It didn’t matter who was a parent, or a kid, who was performing Royal Christies or conquering their first “pizza” turn. WE WERE ALL SKIERS, together, and could all appreciate and share a big laugh at each other’s adventures.

We Were All Skiers
My parents were always my parents, not buddies, but when we skied there was a great opportunity to be equals. We were all Skiers. We talked about the quality of the snow, the best terrain, the other people we met, and our classes. We could really SHARE our day together and talk together, not about school, or their work, or cleaning our rooms, but about a great day.

Skiing was something we all had and now I can share it with the next generation, because my parents gave skiing to me.

When I stand now in the ski school yard trying to help parents get their kids set up for their day, great memories come flooding back to me.

I think of looking up to my big brother and the other big kids at Race Camp, thrilling at the stunts they pulled and their skiing ability.

I remember my mom, an advanced intermediate skier, but every bit the lover of skiing as the rest of us.

The dads would always want to race us kids and they cheated horribly. We all knew it and thought was the funniest thing ever, very un-dadlike. They would show us on the trail map the “separate but equal” race routes, trying to convince us kids it was going to be fair since we were all starting at the top and racing to the same ski school bell at the bottom. They pointed out to us the circuitous zig-zag route the kids were supposed to ski while the dads took a straight shot to the bell. It was good plain fun and I won’t ever forget it.

You Are A Rock Star Parent
If you are giving your kids any percentage of the experience my parents gave me by taking us on the Family Ski Vacation, you are a Rock Star Parent. Your kids will love it and a big bonus, later they will realize that not only could you be fun, but that you are geniuses too.


Vail blog Janet LawrenceAuthor: Janet Lawrence, of the Vail Ski and Snowboard School. Janet grew up skiing in Upstate New York and came to Vail in 1997. She has been working in the Vail Ski and Snowboard School since, first as an instructor then a Trainer and a  Supervisor in the Golden Peak Children’s School. In the off- season she sails and bikes and works with children at an outdoor day camp.