Essay: Our Last Ski Vacation

We were never hardcore skiers. Just a hardcore family.
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We were never hardcore skiers. Just a hardcore family.
Essay: Our Last Ski Vacation

I'm finalizing the details of a family ski vacation to Mount Snow, Vermont. It occurs to me that it may well be our last family ski trip as a foursome, and I’m having a difficult time getting my head around that fact.

What’s ending our run? Not ill health, not divorce, not boredom with the sport or the mountains. Thankfully, there isn’t job relocation taking us away from the snow. No, my two girls are growing up. Actually, they have grown up. And damn, are they busy.

My oldest, Heather, is 29. Her New York City marketing career is hectic and vacation time is a precious commodity— and I am no longer her priority. And a boyfriend has entered the picture; a “serious” one, I’m told. Jenna, my youngest, is 27. She’s on hiatus from a job, working toward a graduate degree. Her restlessness might lead her overseas for a few years in the near future. Good for her. But still.

It’s sort of amazing that we’re actually getting this one trip planned. Honestly, it has probably been a decade since we all took a proper ski vacation together. College and careers short-circuited our once frequent family ski trips. That makes my melancholy mood that much tougher to figure out. Can you feel the loss of something that you, objectively, had already lost?

So this trip is a cosmic collision of digital calendars that probably will not occur again for quite a while—kind of the Halley’s Comet of family trips. There’s sure to be a new tagalong or two by the time we’re able to knot all of our loose strings together again for a trip to the slopes.

Truth be told, we were never what you’d call an avid ski family when the girls were young. What we were avid about was ski vacationing. Maybe there isn’t much of a difference between the two. Maybe that’s the essential attraction of the sport.

Our most vivid and cherished family ski memories aren’t of specific runs or deep powder days but of experiences shared and life lessons learned in the mountains. “Remember when we skied with the Care Bears at Okemo?” my older daughter asked me when I originally brought up the topic of a full participation family ski trip.

They were young, and it was the first time they’d experienced a radical weather inversion. Thick curtains of fog and a misty rain enveloped us at the base for the first few minutes of the chair ride. Suddenly, we pierced the cloud layer and soared into brilliant sunshine and a deep royal-blue sky. An endless bed of cottony clouds floated below. They both suddenly squealed, “We’re in Care-a-Lot!” (So much for my fatherly attempts to get them to appreciate the natural beauty of the mountains.) Skiing had transported them to a real-life fantasyland.

As my girls grew into tweens, skiing helped them learn about deception and subterfuge. It was an ah-ha moment in our parent-child relationship when they confronted my wife and me with their realization that the “Kids’ Night Out” pizza-and-movie parties the ski resorts promoted weren’t for kids but for parents to get away from their kids.

Skiing was their door—our door—into a greater world. They sat entranced the first time they saw oozy raclette cheese being scraped from a giant wheel at the summit of Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. They marveled at the thousands of maple-sap taps networked from tree to tree and ultimately to the sugar shack at a farm near Jiminy Peak, Massachusetts, learning that pancakes are just an accessory and that syrup is the real star.

I think about carrying their pint-size skis, helping them buckle their boots (I still do that), harnessing them with leashes, and endlessly shouting, “Pizza pie!…French fries!” as they practiced their skills, all while I ignored the powder up high and stuck to the groomers.

The condo is booked. Lift tickets bought. Dinner reservations made. I pause for a moment and silently give thanks to skiing. Thanks for giving our family thousands of indelible memories. And for the chance to make a few more.

Steve Cohen lives in New York and is a former editor at SKI Magazine.


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