Field Notes

The Agony of The Feet (And Everything Else About Skiing that Makes My Kids Cry)

Squats will not help you prepare for a ski season with kids.


T he angst of ski season really begins in October, when I have to convince my kids to try on last year’s boots in advance of our annual pilgrimage to the ski swap. We get through that sweaty anguish—“These are toooo tight!” “I haaate these!” “I GUESS these will work—CAN WE GO NOW?”—and I think, Well, that was terrible, but at least it’s over. Now we’re ready for fun.

November rolls into December. I keep an eye on the mountain as I drive around town, watching the snow slowly creep its way from the summit to the bottoms of the runs. I start daydreaming about bluebird days and soft, fluffy turns. I completely fail to take courses in child psychology or conflict resolution, which would be a much better way to prepare for the coming season than squats or lunges. If I were less of an optimist and more of a realist, I would spend November in soul-centering prayer and meditation.

Because what I remember from one ski season to the next is that my kids love to ski. I have photographic evidence of this: years of little faces grinning as they zip down the mountain, videos of them bombing off every bump and swoop, zipping in and out of the trees, filled with wintery joy. What I conveniently forget from winter to winter is that their love of skiing is equaled only by their hatred of getting ready to ski.

The same child who whoops and hollers and asks, “Did you see THAT one, mom?” will start most ski days flailing on the ground insisting that it is not physically possible for his feet to fit inside his boots. The same child who can wrangle her twin mattress off her lofted bed to build a fort has been known to pick up one ski, walk five steps, then drop it on the ground and dramatically proclaim it waaay toooooo heaaaaaavy to carry. Another child wavers between disdain that everyone else is so whiny and rage that her glove won’t stay fastened over her coat cuff. Yes, it has gotten easier as they’ve gotten older—no longer am I packing a baby on my back and pulling kids and gear in a sled—but it’s never become genuinely pain-free.

We let our kids get ready in the base lodge, which at least once a season prompts my “you just don’t know how good you have it” lecture: When I was your age, we put our boots on at the car and walked half a mile uphill to the lift in them, carrying our own skis and poles, and we were so happy to be skiing that we never even whined about it. Because every good parent knows that the best thing to do in the face of rampant emotional instability is deliver a lecture. They absorb my wisdom with the thousand-yard stare of caged animals who are slowly being destroyed by their unbearable circumstances. Their socks are too bunchy and their gloves are too hot and if I don’t stop lecturing and get them outside, they’re going to start biting.

The solution, of course, is skiing. Ironic, but true. Every week the miracle occurs about halfway up the first chair lift: suddenly the coats and helmets are comforting instead of suffocating. Eyes refocus from irritating siblings to the best places to duck into the trees. We all relax, forgive, and remember how much we love to ski. At least until next Saturday morning.

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