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The Not-So-Perfect Family Ski Trip

One writer plans a triumphant return to skiing—with her somewhat reluctant family in tow.

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I remember skiing. Barely. A lot of things in my post-marriage, post-three-children, what-the-heck-happened-here life are fuzzy. But I did ski growing up, though I was never a great skier like, say, my brother, who remains so obsessed about skiing that we stopped being able to relate to him and his Holy Grail snow quest. Some of you know this guy. Some of you are this guy!

I grew up in Connecticut, where easy access to the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire made for an omnipresent skiing culture. Kids sported their clump of lift tickets on their CB-jacket zippers like badges of honor. I assumed I’d always ski and my kids would ski too. I even fantasized about becoming one of those cool ski families you see on Facebook all winter, posed on the summit with their coordinated outfits, the sunshine catching the glint of adventure in their fearless smiles just before they push off to carve down the mountain in tight zigzags. Yeah, we’re not them.

Truth is, I haven’t skied in maybe seven years, partly because my husband didn’t grow up skiing and you know how that goes. It’s a tough sell to take limited vacation funds and use them to trudge your family to cold distant peaks for a sport you don’t have the equipment for—and that no one knows how to do anyway. It could be a total disaster, not to mention downright discouraging to my crew to be on the same slopes as all of those hotshot families speeding by—pausing just long enough to take another of those annoyingly effortless, picture-perfect, all-straight-teeth smiling selfies.

Ski Family illustration
The not-so-perfect mountaintop family selfie.Matt Wood

In fairness to my husband, our lack of skiing can be explained away because we don’t live in Connecticut anymore. After five years in Georgia, we’re soft, and start shivering around 65 degrees. And forget the battle of renting ski gear; I have no idea if we even have long underwear. Who am I kidding? We don’t even own gloves. The idea of outfitting five people makes me want to hide with a glass of wine until the skiing desire subsides. The only thing our family does worse than ski is shop.

Still, I want to get back to skiing. My older kids don’t even remember learning to ski when I did the backward reverse-snowplow thing holding their hands. Now at 10, 14, and 16, my kids are way overdue. The trouble is that we’re dangerously close to losing the oldest to college and have been amping up our family-vacation game before these trips become impossible to coordinate. The ski-trip idea keeps coming up, but we end up opting for national parks or beach vacations…anything that’s a sure thing in our (read: my husband’s) comfort zone. Until now. I’m cramming my foot into a ski boot, dammit, and putting that foot down.

A ski trip is at the top of the list because I can’t in good conscience raise kids who don’t know how to ski. And skiing embodies the kind of trip we love: being outdoors, being active, and spending time with each other. I’m fully aware that my people will never be that family smiling brightly from the summit. For starters, we aren’t at all cool and there’s no way we could all stand in one spot without one of us falling. It’s far more likely that one of us will start wobbling mid-selfie, causing a domino effect where we end up rolling down the mountain in a giant family snowball with skis, gloves, and poles sticking out. That is if we don’t get tangled up getting off the chairlift first.

Persuading my husband and kids to take a chance on a new adventure is worth it to me for a bonding experience that introduces my kids to something I loved growing up. Maybe they’ll love it too.

Oh, and I remember something very important about skiing I had forgotten—like most of my thoughts these days. If all else fails, there’s the newbie family’s version of après-ski: hot chocolate and cards in the lodge, a steaming hot tub, and free wi-fi for the teens. Boom! Now if we can just get one good photo of us at the top of the mountain before the big roll down, I’ll be happy.

Meredith Trotta is an Atlanta-based writer who blogs at about marriage, parenting, and, reluctantly, midlife concerns.