Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lessons on Skiing from the Slog at Tog

First of all, I’d like to apologize to everyone within earshot – and eyeshot – of the beginner hill at Toggenburg Mountain on a particular Sunday a few weeks ago. We brought our family there, and we were a total mess. Sorry.
Your only consolation is to know it was harder to live than to watch.
You’ve heard the expression “herding cats.” If you attached rented skis to each cat and made it so the felines can scream and yell verbal insults at the cat handlers, you’d have a sense of what our winter adventure was like. It was supposed to be a fun family outing, but will go down in Ruddy lore as the Great Slog at Tog 2014.
While it appears he just stuck the landing,
he actually wasn't moving. Which is
exactly how we like him when on skis.
At our low point, the ten-year-old sat at the bottom of the bunny hill yelling at me because nobody with any authority was letting her go up the lift to the big hill; the 7-year-old was in a crying heap halfway down said bunny hill, unable to attach one ski due to a faulty binding; the 5-year-old was hanging on to the J-bar wire for dear life, without a parent around to help her master the art of being pulled up a hill; and the 3-year-old, with his skis off, was wandering around the crowded line of people waiting themselves to get dragged up the hill, and he was getting dangerously close to the passing Js that do the actual work of dragging.
“Somebody is going to get hurt,” an older dad said to me with concerned condescension as I scrambled to get the young boy away from the crowd and J-bar contraption.
I then sat the boy next to his screaming sister, and turned and ran in my boots up the ski hill to get the other child into her binding.
When my wife skied up to us, I said through clenched teeth, “WE HAVE TO GO.”
Luckily, no one did get hurt during our day at the hill – at least not physically. The only real casualty was the dream that we could become a skiing family.
My wife and I both like to ski. We aren’t exactly Olympic quality, but we can get down a hill. It’s a hobby we both enjoyed in our younger days.
Yet, once the kids started coming along, we had little time to ski. For a good part of the past decade, my wife’s been either very pregnant, recently pregnant, or nursing whenever the opportunity to ski came along. With our family increasingly laden with young children, skiing just hasn’t happened much in recent years.
Now that the baby of the bunch is 3 years old – meaning he’s old enough to fit into rented skis and to learn how to bomb down a hill – we’ve decided to try and make it the new family hobby. After all, we do live in Upstate New York, where I’m told it snows often. And we have several ski hills within 20 miles.
My wife also has happy visions of us going up lifts and down hills for many years to come.
There’s only one problem: Our kids can’t ski. 
It's not really their fault. They've never been – except the oldest one, who went once a few years back.
We thought we’d found our solution at the closest big hill, Toggenburg, where they offer a great “learn to ski” package: kids get lift tickets, rentals and a 2 hour lesson for about 35 bucks. We figured we could swing that. So we picked a snowy day, and set out to ski as a family.
Our brief, happy, free moment on the lift.
Actually, it wasn't "free." I've owned cars that
cost less than it took to get this shot. But we
were free from our kids ... briefly.
Our problem wasn’t with the snow, or the cold, or all the falling down. Our problem was the math: Two parents who hadn’t skied in a decade and four kids who’d never skied. If we only had two kids with us, it would have worked. But with all four, ay caramba. From the moment we were handed our rented boots until we got back to the van four hours later, it was like we were spinning plates – and doing it badly.
There was a brief time when all was perfect, when the kids were in their ski lessons, being taught by teenage ski savants how to snow plow, and my wife and I were on the lift headed up the mountain, planning to check their progress after a run or two. (We only got two runs in all day). Yes, we could do that part again.
But the part after the lessons ended, where the four screaming, falling, crying, wandering kids were ravaging the bunny hill area, tying up the J-bar line, and yelling at me because I hadn’t taken them skiing enough before, making it my fault that they can’t ski; That part, I don’t think I want to do that ever again.
For the record, there were moments of success. All the kids learned a bit about skiing, and left better skiers than they began – which wasn't hard to do. By the end of their lesson, the two oldest were more or less able to get around the bunny slope on their own, and would have done so if not for one faulty binding and a separate failing attitude. Even the 5 year old went up the J-bar and down the hill on her own once, a huge success as harrowing as it was to watch from afar. And all the kids – except the oldest – claimed to have fun.
So, as bad as it was. We'll probably try it again.    

Though, next time we go, I'm voting we get a sitter for at least half the brood. Or bring some extra hands. We have to keep the math working for us. You just can't teach skiing while running the zone defense. You need man to man.
For now, when the kids ask when we can go again, my answer is "Someday." Until then, this family is going to just stick to ice skating.

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Larry said...

Yeah, I think you were a bit too ambitious thinking that it could work with all 4 kids. I'm sure it could one day when they are further along in the learning curve. A skiing family you will be.

Cort Ruddy said...

Thanks, Larry. We haven't given up on the dream yet. I just needed some time after that debacle. Way too ambitious. Thanks for reading.