All Downhill from Here

All Downhill from Here

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Seduced by an abundance of holiday cards showing rosy-cheeked, smiling families perched atop snowy mountains, I decide it’s time to teach the kids how to ski.

7 a.m. I gulp a cup of coffee, grab coats, hats and mittens, and hustle the children to the minivan. We drive half a mile before turning around to retrieve boots for one of the boys, at which point the dog slips out the front door. We chase her around the block, screaming, no doubt endearing ourselves to the neighbors.

8:45 a.m. After three stops along the highway—one for gas, one for breakfast and one for the bathroom (six minutes after leaving the restaurant, where our youngest insisted he didn’t need to use the facilities)—we finally pull into the resort. Families mill around, looking pink-cheeked and merry in their brightly colored jackets. This is going to be great!

9:45 a.m. Having successfully navigated a long line to purchase lift tickets and having signed legal waivers implying injury and/or dismemberment will necessarily ensue from our chosen leisure activity, we get into another long, snaking line to rent equipment.

10:30 a.m. Finally, everyone is wearing ski boots and clutching skis and poles. It’s time to hit the slopes! One of my sons says something. “What?” I ask, turning to look at him. My skis, which are resting on my shoulder, swing around with me and whack another child of mine on his head. I’m beginning to understand why we had to sign those waivers.  

10:40 a.m. Apparently my son was saying he needed to use the bathroom. We shuffle with all the grace of Star Wars Stormtroopers to the lodge and get in yet another line. I crack a Star Wars joke and the kids stare at me blankly. Feel old.

11:15 a.m. Having finally reached the top of the bunny slope, I give the kids a few basic instructions. I decide not to reveal that on my first-ever ski trip in the ninth grade, I absentmindedly swung my feet just before disembarking the chairlift, causing the tips of my skis to get caught in a mound of snow and flipping me off the chairlift face-first. The operator had to shut down the lift and haul me up while my high-school classmates cheered.

11:30 a.m. “It isn’t as easy as it looks,” I warn the kids. “It took me awhile to even be able to stand up, so don’t be embarrassed if…” They promptly whiz down the mountain while I struggle to keep up, falling twice.

11:45 a.m. “Should we head to the real slopes?” I ask. “I’m hungry,” one of my kids complains.

Noon. As we lurch toward the lodge, I tell myself that it’s good we’re getting an early lunch. That way, we can beat the crowds.

12:20 p.m. Still in line to get lunch, I stifle the urge to shoplift a half-dozen Snickers bars and race back to the slopes. All that stops me is the knowledge that the grandmother manning the cash register could tackle me in the time it took me to “run” there in my boots.

1 p.m. We’ve finished lunch, and I ask the kids, “Are you sure you don’t need to use the bathroom?” The little one somberly shakes his head. I’m pretty sure he’s lying.

1:30 p.m. Finally back on the slopes! Well, not technically. We need to get in line again.

1:45 p.m. I breathe in the fresh air, glance around, and realize I’ve lost a child. I wonder if I could just substitute someone else’s for the rest of the afternoon. They’re all a collection of bulky coats and hats and runny noses, so who would even notice the difference?

2 – 4:30 p.m. We manage a few runs in between stopping to exchange the boots one of my kids decides are too small. I drop a (new, expensive) glove off the chairlift after admonishing my children to hold on to their belongings. The kids move on to the intermediate slopes while I flail behind, shouting instructions they neither hear nor need. I recall that I don’t actually like skiing, and curse those holiday cards that made me believe otherwise.

5 p.m. My gloveless hand is frozen. My legs are bruised. My teeth are chattering. We head back to the rental counter to return our skis, and I try not to calculate the cost per minute of our time zipping and tumbling down the slopes. Next time, I might as well empty out our bank account and set the bills on fire. At least I’d be warm.

Sarah Pekkanen’s latest novel is The Best of Us (Washington Square Press, 2013). She can be reached at sarah.pekkanen@bethesdamagazine.com.

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