It was a crisp morning above the frost line on Whiteface Mountain during, lets say, 1988. The air was still and a few inches of fresh powder were a nice change from the usual late January ice that makes skiing in the northeast a more of a chore than it really needs to be. It was, all in all, a fine morning, right up until my buddy Dave and I found ourselves facing a drop so sheer that we weren’t really sure that we were supposed to be there. Clearly we had missed a trail marker while we were chattering and trading stories about the previous night that had started at Lums and ended up, well, never mind.
Anyway, retreating back up the lengthy trail wasn’t an option, so we decided to face this nasty bit of black diamond the way only real men would: we took off our skis and started sliding down on our butts. Genius? Absolutely, and we were feeling pretty good about the whole business until we heard the telltale swish of a skier flying down the hill behind us. Needless to say it turned out to be a kid, all of six or seven years old, and not only was he flying down the hill in perfect form, he even spared a second to glance back at us with an expression of pity that I’ll never forget.
It had never occurred to me until that moment that kids and skiing not only mix well, but are a perfect match. And it was just that combination of fearlessness and ability to pick up new things that I was counting on years later when we took our boys to Ski Big Bear when they were about six or seven. Since then, the three of us have had a lot of great days not just skiing, but enjoying some of the other benefits of a day on the slopes: getting a chance to shoot the breeze while standing on line, talking about music and whatnot on the lifts, and just generally having a good time away from the pressures of school and the distractions of home.
This year, of course, has been warm enough that the slopes north and west are a little slow, but sure enough the hills are open and there are even kids racing. So even if you’ve never been skiing or are looking for an excuse to get back out after some time away, now’s the perfect time to pack up the kids and take advantage some of the resources out there. There are, for instance, late season packages, discount ski passes offered by retailers such as Costco and the very tidy Liftopia.com. And… now’s the time to start thinking about your fourth or fifth grader for next year because there are skipass and passport programs available for free lift tickets wherever you may be. Do it.