Mar 082015
 
Ready to ski!

Ready to ski!

For the past two years, we have enrolled the children in ski lessons during the winter months. We learned that they LOVE skiing. This year, as we were deciding when to start lessons, it was a particularly cold week due to a “polar vortex” and temperatures were in the low digits.

Temperature doesn't mean much in Virginia.  When you add in humidity and wind chill, you have to subtract between 5 and 10 degrees from the temperature.  15 is frigid!

Temperature doesn’t mean much in Virginia. When you add in humidity and wind chill, you have to subtract between 5 and 10 degrees from the temperature. 15 is frigid!

“It’s going to be really cold this week. Do you still want to ski?”
“YES!”
“But, we’ll have to get up really early in the morning.”
“That’s OK.”
“And it will be really, really cold.”
“Our ski coats and gloves will keep us warm!”

There was no excuse in the book that would keep them from skiing. They overrode my reluctance. So, once a week, we altered our homeschooling schedule to allow for “ski day.” We got up super early to make it to the resort for the 9 a.m. lesson time.

We had to be on the road by sunrise and sometimes a little before.

We had to be on the road by sunrise and sometimes a little before.

Just in time for class to start!

Just in time for class to start!

My pregnant body would no longer fit in my winter coat so I told my husband I needed to use his ski coat and pants. He handed them over without complaint. He was surprised the pants weren’t dragging on the ground on me….until I pointed out how high I was pulling them up around my belly.

My husband had no idea that his ski clothes double as maternity ski wear.

My husband had no idea that his ski clothes double as maternity ski wear.

The ski class is grouped by age and ability. It ran from 9:30 – 2:00 p.m. and included lunch. The kids in the class come from all over the world, especially during peak winter holidays. It is a great chance for my kids to interact with all sorts of children.

“Mom, there were some girls speaking Spanish and taking selfies at lunch.”

“Mom, I met a friend today!”

One time, Fairfax County schools were out for teacher work day and it seemed like every kid in the county headed to the ski resort. When I went to pick up my children at the end of the day, my 6-year old was engaged in a cute staring contest with another child.

The ski instructors are also some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Being around their positive and encouraging personalities has a wonderful impact on my children as well.

The girls spent the entire ski season in the “green” class. The green class is one below the highest level “purple” class. To graduate from the green class, you need to be doing mostly parallel skiing all of the time with very little snowplow/wedge. It is a hard level to get out of. Even my own skiing skills took a long time to get past this level!

Progress on a parallel stance!

Progress on a parallel stance!

Wide parallel turns are the transition from wedging.

Wide parallel turns are the transition from wedging.

Waiting for the ski lift.

Waiting for the ski lift.

This one sometimes skis with a snowball so she can hit you on the run.

This one sometimes skis with a snowball so she can hit you on the run.

Starting to put a little edging into her turns.

Starting to put a little edging into her turns.

Leaning back is still a problem we are working to correct.

Leaning back is still a problem we are working to correct.

Favorite trail this year: Geronimo!

Favorite trail this year: Geronimo!

Favorite trail: Lower Mak Attack!

Favorite trail: Lower Mak Attack!

While the girls skied, my son and I generally headed back to the car to take a nap and sip on hot chocolate until it was time to pick them up.

Relaxing in the car with some hot chocolate.

Relaxing in the car with some hot chocolate.

Last year, he and I had done some simple skiing together but that was impossible this year as pregnant ladies don’t ski. However, one day while registering the girls for class, the ski instructors asked how old my son was. They then informed me that next year he too would be eligible to enroll in the ski class! With that in mind, we wanted to make sure he had at least some exposure to skiing this year so next year wouldn’t be a rude surprise.

Suited up and ready to ski!

Suited up and ready to ski!

I signed him up for a private lesson. He seemed kind of excited at first but as soon as we had to put on all the ski gear, including boots and helmet, the tears and tantrums came out. All of that gear was just sensory overload. When he finally settled down from the gear, more tears and tantrums came when I left him with the instructor.

Not going so well at first.

Not going so well at first.

“Do you want to build a snowman? How about we play in the snow?”

My son just wailed.

I suggested they try to put his skis on and get him moving as he likes skiing once he gets moving. They tried but my son would not cooperate. A more senior instructor came out to help and after about 5-10 minutes, they came over to me,

“You know, not all 3 year olds are ready for ski lessons. We can’t work with him like this.”

Since I had already paid for my non-refundable hour of lesson, I asked if I could work with him a little and see if we could at least get his skis on and then the instructor could finish up with whatever time was left in the lesson.

“Go ahead and try,” they said dubiously.

I went over and gave my crying son a big hug. We walked around the ski learning area for a bit. He stopped crying and looked up at me and said:

“Mom, do you want to build a snowman?”

Even through his crying, he had heard and understood every word they said to him.

“Sure!” I said and we proceeded to build a small snowman.

“Do you want to put your skis on?” I asked him.

“I can’t balance on my skis,” he said

“Well, let me help you!” I said. We got the skis on and I started pulling him around the ski area. The ski instructor saw him and came over.

“Do you want me to put my skis on too?” she asked him.

She put her skis on and within less than a minute, my son went from holding my hands to holding hers and they went off to ride up the gentle hill on the ski escalators.

Finally!  A smooth transition with no tears.

Finally! A smooth transition with no tears.

“What did you do to make him cooperate?” the senior ski instructor asked me after they skied off.

I told her that he just needed a little reassurance. While common practice for preschoolers is to have mom drop off the kid and then disappear while the kid “cries it out” for a bit and then calms down, my son doesn’t like this pattern. He likes to have me there to help him gradually transition to new situations.

Next thing I know, he is high-fiving the lift operator!

Next thing I know, he is high-fiving the lift operator!

And smiling!

And smiling!

After the lesson ended, he still wanted to ski! He was “shuffling” off on his own power.

Unfortunately, we had to stop. He looked forward to getting out of his ski boots and back into his “car shoes.”

And the next week, he transitioned much easier and had his full one hour lesson!

Smiles from the start this time!

Smiles from the start this time!

Having a great time!

Having a great time!

As I was filming my son from afar, some mothers nearby commented, "Look at that itty bitty on the lift!"

As I was filming my son from afar, some mothers nearby commented, “Look at that itty bitty on the lift!”

He looked forward to his “skedding” lessons.

The other big change in our ski lessons this year was that the girls had the chance to ski in Utah at one of the major resorts. I always wondered how our Virginia ski lessons (which I find to be excellent) would compare to those of the major ski resorts.

To our delight, the girls did very well in their Utah skiing. The slopes were steeper and the altitude thinner but they didn’t think it was any harder than their Virginia skiing. They received excellent reports from their Utah ski instructors too.

The gorgeous Utah mountains.

The gorgeous Utah mountains.

2015-03-07-utah-trail

My daughter got her first lesson in using ski poles from her Utah instructors.

My daughter got her first lesson in using ski poles from her Utah instructors.

Utah skiers!

Utah skiers!

After ski class was over, the kids always loved to have a little time to play in the snow. They were plenty tired but loved to slide down the small ski slopes, especially my son!

Some apres-ski sledding!

Some apres-ski sledding!

My daughter collapsing after lessons.  While this looks painful, she is just naturally this flexible.

My daughter collapsing after lessons. While this looks painful, she is just naturally this flexible.

2015-01-09-apresski

Organizational Tips for Skiing

  1. There is a LOT of gear involved in skiing. After 3 years of practice, we finally have this down to a system. Each child needs: ski coat, ski pants, helmet, balaclava (full face hat), goggles, ski gloves and ski socks.
  2. We store the goggles, balaclava and ski gloves in each child’s helmet and make each child carry his/her helmet to and from class.
  3. The night before we lay out all the gear and pack a lunch.
  4. The morning of our expedition, we boil water and put it in a big thermos, usually mixed with hot chocolate.
  5. Each child wears rubber rain boots to and from class, changing into ski boots at the lesson site. This makes walking through the parking lot much safer and faster and minimizes the weight of the boots that mom has to carry.
  6. After lessons are done, we make sure we have goggles, balaclava, 2 ski gloves and the helmet packed back up.

Next year, we might add to our gear challenges by purchasing skis and boots for each child. We have done well with renting so far but it would make the check-in process for lessons much smoother to avoid the equipment rental process, particularly if we will be adding a third skier. We bought the used skis and boots my son was using for $50. They paid for themselves in saved rental fees.

Our 2015 ski team photo.

Our 2015 ski team photo.

Anyone else skiing this year? Any tips to share on managing gear for gear-intensive sports? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on March 8, 2015 General Tagged with: ,
May 092014
 
Our favorite school activity this winter?  Skiing!

Our favorite school activity this winter? Skiing!

At the moment, the children and I are consumed with intense homeschooling in order to complete our homeschool curriculum for June exams. We are a smidge behind in a few subjects and have had to double up on math in particular. It is time consuming and tiring but we are all working now to avoid having to school throughout the summer.

As we focus on school this month, I wanted to take a moment to review some of the homeschool-related events of this year.

With the temperature hovering around 80 degrees lately, none of us are thinking about winter but one of the most fun “school” activities we did this winter though was ski school!

We had to leave very early in the morning for lessons.  In January, we often were driving in the dark while the moon was still out!

We had to leave very early in the morning for lessons. In January, we often were driving in the dark while the moon was still out!

All of the snow we had this year made for terrific skiing!  Here, cresting the ridge of Shenandoah National Park on the way to the resort.

All of the snow we had this year made for terrific skiing! Here, cresting the ridge of Shenandoah National Park on the way to the resort.

Anyone with a child who is a "Cars" fan will appreciate that the real-life Mater was in front of us at one point as we entered the resort.  My son was thrilled!

Anyone with a child who is a “Cars” fan will appreciate that the real-life Mater was in front of us at one point as we entered the resort. My son was thrilled!

We did this last year and I wrote about it then. We returned to the same resort but this time did a slightly different program. Last year, I had one daughter in the 2-hour homeschool ski school group and one daughter (who wasn’t old enough for the homeschool group) in private lessons.

This year, my youngest was still not old enough to participate in the homeschool ski school program so I put both daughters in the “Slope Sliders” program, that runs for 4 ½ hours with a break for lunch included. Children are grouped both by age and ability in this program. My girls were put in separate classes based on their ages.

2014-05-07-slopesliders

All of the kids get personalized ski boot fitting service from the instructors.  My girls will have a rude awakening when they have to put their own boots on.

All of the kids get personalized ski boot fitting service from the instructors. My girls will have a rude awakening when they have to put their own boots on.

The resort groups the children by ability in a color-coded system, red is a beginner, orange can stop, yellow can turn, green begins the stem christie and purple starts parallel skiing skills. While you can progress quickly out of red into the orange and yellow levels, it can take a while to progress through the yellow and green levels. For these levels, there are low, middle and high levels within the color. Over the course of 5 weeks of lessons, my eldest started in the yellow group and ended up in the high green group. My youngest started in orange and ended up in green.

2014-05-08-skisisters

Moving up to the yellow group!

Moving up to the yellow group!

The instruction was excellent! While you would not expect that we would have a lot of talented ski and snowboard instructors to choose from here in Virginia, they had a team of at least 20-30 ski school instructors, all of them wonderfully trained. They also all had wonderful personalities for working with children and the environment was very fun and encouraging.

The Slope Sliders class was designed primarily as a sort of day care for families visiting the resort on vacation. Each week we attended class there were different kids in the group. Some were international with accents ranging from European to Latin American to Asian. There were different ratios of boys and girls in each group as well. Once when my eldest daughter was put in a class primarily comprised of boys, I asked, “Were you able to keep up with the boys?” To my surprise, my daughter responded:

slow boys quote

That’s my girl!

At the end of each class, we received a report card that checked off which skills were practiced or mastered and which skills the child was still working on. My eldest was described by many of the instructors as a “joy” to have in the class. She had a positive attitude, worked hard and had good skills. Her areas to work on were matching her skis more often in preparation for parallel skiing.

My youngest daughter was often at the top of her class in terms of skiing ability but the instructors were hesitant to push her forward into a class with older children because she had trouble putting her own skis on by herself and sometimes when she fell down she needed (or wanted) the instructor to help her get up. Both of these simple skills are necessary to master in the early levels because in the advanced levels the instructor doesn’t have time to climb up the hill to help someone who has fallen or lost a ski. She also liked to lean back in her stance, which the instructors said was normal for a young child and that she would grow out of this tendency as she gets older.

"I've fallen and I cannot get up."

“I’ve fallen and I cannot get up.”

There was another “ski school” student this year too . . . my son! Since he could ski free with my paid ticket, I decided to see how we might handle the slopes together. This was a challenging effort.

Looking longingly at the snow as his sisters head off to class.

Looking longingly at the snow as his sisters head off to class.

He didn’t like wearing all the ski gear. The bib pants, ski coat and gloves were tolerated OK. The ski boots caused him some sensory challenges. He couldn’t get used to the strange walking motion required in ski boots and insisted I carry him. It was hard to haul him and all the skis at the same time. The helmet was pretty bad. He hated having anything on his head. But worst of all were the goggles. He really didn’t like having anything over his eyes. I couldn’t risk him getting an eye injury from the snow glare, however, so we had to struggle through his screams until he forgot about them.

Suited up and ready to go!

Suited up and ready to go!

Not so thrilled with the ski gear.

Not so thrilled with the ski gear.

Once we finally got all the gear on, we made our way first to the “magic carpet” ski escalators. My son was not thrilled at first. There was a lot of whining and crying. We finally got to the top of the lift and made our first run down the barely steep slope. Once my son realized that it was kind of fun to go down the hill fast his attitude changed. He no longer complained riding the magic carpets and when we got to the top he called out:

2014-05-09-321go

My son got a lot of attention particularly from other men at the resort. Although men don’t really have a maternal instinct the way women do, they do have a “rescuing instinct.” I think they saw us getting ready to go down the hill and thought “Oh dear, that could be a disaster in the making. Better keep an eye on that.” The men (and dads in particular) were always pointing out that my son’s goggles and balaclava hat were falling down so they covered his eyes. I couldn’t see him since he was skiing in front of me. The poor guy was practically skiing blindfolded down the hill! One of the ski instructors gave him cool points for his effort though, “Dude, he can brag to all his friends that he started when he was 2!”

Mother son skiing selfie.

Mother son skiing selfie.

While I had purchased a special kids skiing harness and wedge tip clips my son didn’t need any of that. He would not ski at all unless I squatted down in a deep snowplow and held him around the waist. It was a tremendous thigh workout for me! Had it not been for the yoga and Tracy Anderson workouts over the past year, I would not have been able to do it!

2014-05-08-skilift-view

We tried the chairlift exactly twice. We went on the easiest lift. Getting on and off the lift required that I carry my son in my arms, skis and all. He was not frightened at the height of the ski lift and just enjoyed the view. Once we unloaded and started skiing down the hill, he would panic halfway down and want me to carry him. That was not an option so we would just ski as quickly as we could to the lodge. At that point, my son would pass out for a nap that lasted several hours. Skiing was a great way to tire him out!

Taking in the view from the chairlift.

Taking in the view from the chairlift.

It did not take much skiing to completely exhaust my son.  He would tuck into his ski coat and snooze until his sisters were done with their lessons.

It did not take much skiing to completely exhaust my son. He would tuck into his ski coat and snooze until his sisters were done with their lessons.

So, skiing with a 2 year old wasn’t a great success but we both had at least a little fun. I ran into my daughter’s private ski instructor from last year at the resort and she told me that 2-year olds can be taken for a “ride” skiing but at 3 they will actually start learning skills. We will see what happens next year!

2014-05-08-crossedskiboots

2014-05-07-skikids

2014-05-08-snowangel

2014-05-08-slope-chillin

Zonked out for the car ride home.

Zonked out for the car ride home.

 Posted by on May 9, 2014 General Tagged with: , ,
Feb 042013
 

2013-02-04-skivalentines

It’s the month of love! It’s also crafting heaven this month! Time to break out the paper, scissors, glue, glitter and all that other fun stuff to make valentine cards! Our first valentines this month were to thank the ski instructors.

We used odds and ends of stuff from around the house. A little spare red posterboard, some construction paper, toothpicks, glue and a black marker. The ski pole toothpicks were inspired by an idea I saw here. (It’s the only blog in Italian I “read.” I have no idea what it says but this woman is a crafting genius!)

2013-02-04-skivalentine

2013-02-04-wedgevalentine

They were super fun to make and made the recipients smile!

 Posted by on February 4, 2013 General Tagged with: ,
Feb 042013
 

2013-02-04-skis

This past weekend, we finished our last homeschool ski lesson. My kids had a blast and are a bit sad that the ski season is over for us for this year. We are already looking forward to next year.

Even though each week we drive the same route to the same resort for the same lessons, each week has been a completely different adventure.

For the third lesson, we were treated to honest-to-goodness real snow! All the schools were closed that day in Virginia and it seemed to us that most families packed up their kids and headed to the resort! We have never seen the parking lot so packed.

I tried to catch some photos of the snow falling but that turns out to be above my photography skills at the moment. So, the best I have for you is a close-up of some snow that fell on my car. Real snow falls in spiky snowflake formations. The fake stuff is much smaller and finer, like sand.

2013-02-04-snowflakes-doorhandle

After the previous week’s lesson with the snow guns, we bought some goggles (pink of course!) to add to the girls’ skiing attire.

Ski arabesque!

The only catch with the natural snow is that the temperature outside was REALLY cold. 19 degrees!

2013-02-04-19degrees

Even though the lessons were only an hour and a half, my girls and their teachers couldn’t even make it that long. My 4 year old made it 55 minutes and my 7 year old’s class cut their lesson 10 minutes short to wait in the lodge.

Even Eskimos find it hard to ski in 19 degree weather!

Even Eskimos find it hard to ski in 19 degree weather!

My snow bear found the cold hard to take too.

2013-02-04-snowbear-bench

Pink cheeks from the cold.

Pink cheeks from the cold.

We spent some time in the lodge too. The lodge, turned out to be another point of difference between Virginia and Utah skiing. The lodge in Virginia serves alcohol and in the evenings has rock bands and a DJ playing until 1 a.m.! During the day, the bar is open but the lounge area is pretty quiet with families stopping in for lunch and snacks at the cafeteria nearby.

2013-02-04-lounge-refreshments

On our last ski lesson, the snow guns were back on. After all the real snow, the snow base at the resort was getting up to decent levels, the highest of our visits. When the snow guns are on, it is loud, cold and hard to see.

For the final lesson, I decided to experiment with the latest safety trend . . . helmets.

Testing ski helmets.

Testing ski helmets.

A recent article on The New York Times Well blog indicates that everyone, and kids especially, should ski or snowboard with a helmet on. Helmet rental was an optional and additional expense from the ski rental so we did not rent helmets for the first three lessons. Also, I learned to ski without a helmet and didn’t really see the need for them. I am a pretty cautious skier and my girls aren’t aggressive my nature either.

I asked one of the ski instructors about helmets and she said that the resort takes no official position on helmets. The only difficulties with helmets, she indicated, were that for small children, it has quite an impact on your balance to put a helmet on. So, for little kids, she indicated that if you plan to wear a helmet in the long-term, you should learn from the first lesson with a helmet on. She also said that helmets make it harder to hear, which I can see would be frustrating when you are a teacher trying to give instructions or make sure your out of control child hears when you yell “SLOW DOWN!”

Most of the kids in my daughter's class were wearing helmets.

Most of the kids in my daughter’s class were wearing helmets.

My girls were not big fans of the helmets. They were heavy and it was hard to fit our hats underneath to keep them warm. For my 4-year old, the instructor commented that the helmet was affecting her balance a bit. For next year, we may research options for super-lightweight ski helmets.

Overall, my girls made tremendous progress and it was exciting to see their confidence soar as they zoomed down the bunny slope.

Ski exhaustion!

Ski exhaustion!

Anyone else skiing out there? What is your experience skiing or snowboarding with helmets? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 4, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
Jan 242013
 
2013-01-24-virginia-snow

The snowy scene we awoke to this morning.

Last night, we received the first “real” snow of the winter—a whopping 2 inches or so.  It’s enough to close every school in the county.  While this may seem ridiculous to residents of snow-drenched states (like my family in Utah), I have come to accept that it is slightly necessary here in Virginia.  Virginians are just not used to driving in the white stuff and our vehicles are generally not snow-suitable.  Every time they don’t close school, there is almost always a severe traffic accident involving teenagers driving to and from high school.  Also, the higher traffic volumes on our roads pose a greater risk of accidents in general.

So, as I sit inside sniffling, I will give you the ski report from last week.

We had our second ski lesson last week.  There was snow in the forecast for Virginia that day of up to 8 inches, which is pretty huge by Fredericksburg standards.  Everything closed as a precaution.  (I’m sure it also helped that it was the Friday before a 3-day weekend as well.)

The snow ended up bypassing our area completely, which was unfortunate because we were really looking forward to skiing on fresh snow for our Friday ski lessons.  The upside, however, was that it was a clear drive to the resort.

And when we arrived it was “snowing” of sorts.

2013-01-24-snowy

 

Well, snowing from the “snow guns.”  I have never seen snowmaking equipment in operation.  It just wasn’t necessary whenever I was skiing in Utah.  And I don’t think anyone called it “snow guns.”    Here in Virginia, we seem to have a “gun” for every purpose.

Snow gun in action.

Snow gun in action.

The snow produced by a snow gun is different from real snow.  It is more like fine grains of sand than fluffy snowflakes.  But it looks pretty and it seems to be just fine for skiing.

Since I am not used to artificial snow, I didn’t know that when the resort decides to make snow, you need to dress as though you are skiing in a blizzard, which means goggles and neck gaiter.  Fortunately, the ski instructors let my kids borrow some.

Goggles and a neck gaiter are a must when it is snowing, artificial or otherwise.

Goggles and a neck gaiter are a must when it is snowing, artificial or otherwise.

My kids are making great progress.  My eldest has her wedge down great!

Wedge perfection.

Wedge perfection.

Any my youngest is skiing the lift like a champ, but she doesn’t want you to know about it.

 

Talk to the mitten, mom!  No more pictures!

Talk to the mitten, mom! No more pictures!

While I joke that snow is not serious business here in Virginia, certainly sometimes it can be.  When the snow bypassed us last week, it did hit southwestern Virginia more severely.  The Virginia Department of Emergency Management posted a great reminder about snow driving on its Facebook page.

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Is it snowing where you are?  Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on January 24, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,