Walking a Mile in a Mom’s Ski Boots

Mar. 9, 2017

Walking a Mile in a Mom’s Ski Boots…..

Do Ski instructors REALLY know how utterly daunting, it can be to send your kid to ski school for the first time? My 8 year old niece, Lucy, recently came to be “immersed in skiing”. I thought I understood what a parent’s concerns might be, but for the first time, this was MY FAMILY!!! This was DIFFERENT!

I’ve worked in the world’s best ski school here for 19 years and STILL I WAS NERVOUS. I found myself crossing my fingers, tossing coins in fountains and looking for a turkey carcass with a wish bone to yank apart. I was tempted to abuse my Ski School Supervisor Super Powers to cherry pick the very best instructor for her. I could FEEL everything I imagine moms and dads feel; I wanted her to LOVE IT, to be SAFE, to FEEL GREAT about herself, skiing and ski school, and to be BEGGING TO COME SKI AGAIN!!

Anticipation: On the eve of their big trip my sister emailed to report that she had the tar scared out of her when Lucy leapt into their Wisconsin den in full ski regalia; ski jacket, mittens, ski pants, snow boots, new helmet and goggles- all excited and beyond ready for her Vail adventure. I love that image! I absolutely had done that myself as a kid—pretty much every pre-season—ok,..I did that this fall.  Sounds like we were teed up for a great start!

I hadn’t seen Lucy ski with my own eyes, except on scratchy videos from ‘Flatconsin’, small, (but I’m sure wonderful) ski hills. Her mother’s description left me puzzled; “she’s almost parallel- sometimes, but needs help getting up, and she can stop, …but she won’t”. So I was making my best guess as to what level skier she really was and looking over the line-up of instructors for Lucy’s first day. Once again I was struck with great pride in our instructor staff when I could see that Lucy was going to be in great hands with ANY of our crew scheduled for that day.

REGISTRATION: I live here, so I trooped down to the ski school lobby, grabbed the lesson registration and ski rental forms. Completing them, getting my questions answered and paying up ahead of time was a good move. You can do this on-line and have the same advantage and I highly recommend it. You are saving time you can spend the morning of, searching for deeply packed mittens, the second ski sock, scrambling up breakfast- all the rest of it.

THEY ARRIVED: Lucy started as a level 3, could wedge and had shallow turns but she hadn’t skied yet this year and was a tad wobbly and nervous. Trying not to be a “Hover- Aunt”, I held back and didn’t check on her until lunch time. Ok, I wasn’t showing great restraint, but could have been worse.  I asked how she liked her instructor, Tyler and she reported “he’s nice…but weird, nice n’ weird!”…translated from 8 year old speak, this meant she REALLLY LIKED him! Score! He was goofy, she trusted him and was confident in skiing with him.

GEAR: We rented skis and boots for her right at the Kid’s ski school. I have to say, it was pretty easy, convenient and very affordable. The gear is top of the line and looked cool- (which was very important).  She had our translucent Dabello boots with black and orange buckles and hot little Vokkl skis, light blue with little birds on them.  We did have to try on two pair of boots to get the right size, but that’s part of the process and was essential to success. If the boots aren’t right, you’re toast. Time well spent.

THOSE BASIC NEEDS! : As educators we know that students can’t learn unless their basic needs are met first. I could see this happening right in front of my eyes; and I KNOW BETTER! Lucy and I were free skiing and scheduled to meet up with family at 12:00 for lunch. That’s 1 PM Wisconsin time, (a tad late for lunch) and she’d been skiing for three full days already. Surprise! She started laying down every time we stopped, declaring “I’m done Aunt Janet!” She had hit the wall; tired, thirsty and hungry. We got her some chicken fingers and fries, (pretty much ski school kid gasoline) and we were off again for a couple more solid runs!

Here was one I didn’t see coming; she was ready to stop early another afternoon, and low and behold it was Math homework that was weighing on her mind. That night I faced my elementary school fear of fractions and we drew bar graphs and colored in portions of pies until the homework was tackled. I was relieved I could still conquer third grade math and she was ready to rock again.

Favorite Ski runs: I could have predicted this years before Lucy arrived. Like all our skiers, she LOVED the Kids’ Adventure Zones, (kid safe tree runs). Chaos Canyon, and Porcupine Alley were top on her list and we skied them about 12,000 times. (Slight exaggeration). These are fun and force “creative movement”, adjusting a skier’s stance and balance while zipping through the trees. They are a win- win.


Bonus Rounds: We hit all the hot spots, stopped at Waffle Way at mid mountain, in golden sunshine and shared the Grandma’s Apple Pie Waffle cooked to perfection with apple and vanilla ice cream. The only mistake I made there was…. the sharing! Too good to share!

We trekked to Adventure Ridge and the Tubing Hill;  first run with eyes closed, last run didn’t want to leave. It’s big, fast and wicked good fun!  Next up the kid’s snowmobiles. Lucy “Andretti” loved redlining the little machine, but wished she had warmer gloves on. My only complaint is that I see no reason why I couldn’t be allowed to drive one! Seriously, why do the kids get all the good stuff!

She even got to blaze through the Ski School Race Day course- flags flying, music blaring, and Lucy burning up our course! I’m a proud Auntie!

What we learned:

1)Too much or just right?  If we had had the time, I might have planned a morning or so to acclimate and rest before putting her in school and a full day. She was a trooper but between travel, time zone changes and there being little air in our Rocky Mountain air she had to be tired.

2)  We need to watch for those basic needs- and if she gets to Algebra we may need a tutor.

3) It was good to go easy on the ski level for classes and let her get her feet before pushing her too hard- she had confidence, was safe and progressed like crazy.

4) We had a chance to look around the area and happened across a wild herd of elk in a field. You just don’t see that everyday!

5) There was still a ton more to do; hit the Hot Chocolate Bar, have dinner on top of the mountain, skate at the Arabelle…. Always “leave them wanting more!”right?

Results: After a few days in ski school Lucy was a solid big mountain, green run, wedge skier matching her skis at the end of her turns with consistent control. On easy terrain she was sliding some true parallel turns!  We met our goals for her trip, now She is a Skier for Life!  Getting ready to travel home she pleaded “Why can’t we just live here!” I’m not her parent, but I understand better what that might feel like.

A mom’s ski boots can be heavy, but I will gladly walk that mile again!    

Author: 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.