Mama Wüleur, Olive and I just returned from a birthday party and after sharing a couple of nightmare skiing stories with friends and the recent snow fall in the Mountains, I was inspired to write a post about a side of skiing that no one speaks of: family suffer skiing. Now matter how you look at it, cycling will always be cheaper, safer, better on the environment and way less stressful than skiing. I have never heard of a physical therapist prescribing downhill skiing to an injured cyclist. Have you?
Our friends casually asked us if we planned on any family trips to the Sierra this winter and I tiptoed my away around the fact that I can't stand downhill skiing anymore for numerous reasons. They slowly sipped what I was pouring regarding skiing and came clean with their own nightmare stories that ended up with one of them inch-worming their way down the slope to the lodge with a "seized" lower back and two kids to corral.
The last time I was on the slopes my sister broke her wrist in three places after we got separated on the first run of the day. I was in line at Gun Barrel minding my own business thinking that I would see her any minute. I did a double-triple take when I saw my name on the black board in chalk that read "Attention Jake Hess -report to first aid". I made my way to the "first aid" area of Heavenly and it was a freaking scene out of a World War II movie with walking wounded in one area, the semi-conscious in another and ambulances shuttling the priority patients off to the local hospitals like casino taxis. The triage room was easily 50 deep.
Let me preface you with the fact that I grew up in Truckee, Ca and loved to ski all winter long, went to Squaw Valley Ski School, had Rick Sylvester (google R. Sylvester some time) as an instructor and an uncle that ran Squaw Valley. Those were the seamless good old days of skiing and it all went down hill from there when we moved and no longer enjoyed the luxury of driving 10 mins and "walking" on at Squaw. It was almost as convenient as hoping on a bike.
Here is a typical day of suffer skiing with kids: You wake up insanely early to drive in bumper to bumper traffic. They hit your pocket book right out of the shoot and you overpay for resort parking. Someone at the point is already hungry or has to pee. You handle business and work your way to the ticket booth. Like a good little suffer skier, you overpay for all the tickets. You work your way through all the "stinky feet" locker rooms as Andrew Kell says because someone else now has to go pee.
If you were lucky enough or smart enough to have your own gear you can avoid the dreaded rental rooms. These rooms are shaped like a rat's maze and you slowly work your way to the fitting area where a 141/2 year old sizes you for your crappy rental gear. You overpay for your rental gear for the family and at this point you sneak a peak of a clock and its 10:45 already and someone tells you that they left their gloves in the car. At this point you have three choices, you can overpay for some new gloves, you can do the lonely solo walk back to the car once you find your locker back at the lodge for your shoes, or you simply call it a day. You end up soldering- on because that's what good little skiers do they solder on regardless as to how much suffering they are doing because you bought tickets dammit.
After wiping the first round of tears and spending 20 minutes convincing everyone that it is going to be "fun", you make your way to the first run of the day. The cold ass chair lift is looking better and better and at this point you are already day dreaming of the drive home. Your kids skis get crossed up with a strangers who is probably from Marin and throws some attitude your way. What is with all the Marin skiers anyway is it because of Jonny Moseley? I could never figure it out. You get off the lift with only one emergency stop by the lift operator who is from Fairfax. You regain your composure wipe a few tears from everybody and you "solder" on. Two ski patrols (from Novato) ask if everything is "ok" and you say, "Oh yea, we are having the time of our lives".
The complaints are now coming in at an alarming rate and are multi faceted - I am hungry, I am cold, I hate this and everyones favorite, I am tired. Remember, you are still on your first run of the day and you have spent well over $450 dollars and its now 2:15 and as an added bonus everyone is dehydrated which is always good for moral.
You work your way back to the lodge (dreaming of a $17 grilled cheese) one crash and burn at a time and you have ignored the insane "hot foot" that your rental boots gave you until now because it has become unbearable. You realize that it was the "magic" pair of wool socks that have balled up in the front of your boot and have cut off circulation to your toes. The cocky ski patrol (from Tiburan) asks you to keep an eye on your kid as you are assessing the tissue necrosis damage to your foot.
Everyone miraculously makes it back to the car as if it was some sort of sanctuary. The moods immediately change for the better knowing that the suffering is temporally over and that it could be weeks or months until they have to go back.
For the record: When Mama Wüleur and I were dating, we exchanged childhood ski experiences and we both came clean and admitted to peeing our bib pants while out on the slopes. Anyone who was a kid in the 70's or 80's and says that they did not pee in their bib pants is lying to you and has no street cred!
This father and daughter are obviously having the time of their lives! Sign me up, I have $650 bucks burning a hole in my pocket, a full tank of gas to burn, and I have met my health insurance deductible for the year.
Click to see Squaw Valley's Rick Sylvester ski jump off Mt. Asgard for the opening scene of 'Spy who loved me' (1976). He made 200k for this jump and had a 15 min window due to weather. He was also the first and only person to ski jump off El Capitan.
The Spy Who Loved Me