I was horrified when we parked and I climbed up to take mine and Gabriel's skis down from the car's roof -- I'd driven the entire way with the ski-rack clamps up and the skis just resting atop the rack! Incredibly, all I lost was one pole. How dumb was that!
You'd think arriving at 9am would be in plenty of time for a 10:30 lesson, but we parked far away, rentals took forever and I barely got Julian and Katrina to group lessons in time. I expected Monday to be less crowded, but the fabulous snow conditions and clear skies brought everyone out of the woodwork.
Gabriel and I had two hours to ski together, so we headed straight for Mt. Disney to execute the plan we had to give up on yesterday because of visibility. Warmup? No time -- straight to the black diamonds please! The snow was so deep and forgiving that it really shaved a level or two off of every run.
For me, the past two days' lessons had turned deep powder from an exhausting, baffling ordeal into a fun, confidence-building challenge. And the wonderful snow meant there were no bad spots -- even the usual hard wind-blown ridges were soft and forgiving.
Gabriel plowing down "Donald Duck." (Dorky name for a ski run, but it is on Mt. Disney.)
Then we tried "Disney Nose," which Gabriel had done in a lesson. After I was committed, I found myself staring down what would be my first "chute" -- a narrow gap between jutting rocks, steep and pointing you straight down with no opportunity to turn. Good skiiers don't bother slowing down; I'm still wasn't quite ready to be catapulted down a precipice. But I was having such a good morning that I tackled it happily, if not beautifully. It wasn't pretty, but I survived my first chute!
Then there was the rest of the slope to contend with. (Actually, I think we were on "Liberty.") Steep, but the deep powder slowed us down and cushioned the falls.
Managed to find a flat-ish spot for some photos (on "Eagle").
Look what's in front of me! NOTHING! No tracks!
But the deep snow took its toll on Gabriel -- it's deeper for him after all, and to my surprise, he was tired and was ready for some fast action. So we did one more deep-snow run, then headed back to the groomers on Mt. Judah where he could barrel away to his heart's content.
When we picked up the other two, I was dismayed to find that once again, Katrina was back on the bunny hill -- not the whole time, but for some of it. Even Sugarbowl has the same problem all places do: there just aren't enough intermediate 5-year-olds who show up for group lessons for critical mass to get them off the bunny hill. The all-day ski school with a reservation system can handle that, but not the group lessons where anyone can show up.
But Katrina was in good spirits and anxious to show off on Mt. Judah, which has become one of favorite areas: all moderate blues, some groomed, some ungroomed, easy terrain parts, and one short steep section that if it were longer would qualify as an easy black, and easy access to the lodge.
With trepidation, I took all 3 on the lift up Mt. Judah, grateful for the comfortable, safe, padded and easy-to-load quad lifts at Sugarbowl. Katrina was still afraid of the lift though, and screamed for me to pick her up to get up on it. Once we were at the top, she was right in her element and was anxious to get going.
The boys were not happy about my plan for them to follow Katrina down, but I had to start somewhere to figure out how to keep track of all of them. I managed to persuade Gabriel to let Katrina "lead," though he complained a lot.
Interestingly, Julian couldn't always keep up -- sometimes he wasn't trying, but sometimes he was and couldn't.
Julian was more interested in showing me his "jump."
Finally I sent the boys off on their own, with instructions to wait at the lift for me and Katrina.
I wondered, how does my friend who skis with her 3 girls all day long -- and enjoys it -- deal with this?! I guess this is where having older kids, and ones who are more matched in ability, factors in.
And girls. Having the boys wait alone turned out to be a terrible idea: they started an obnoxious pole-fighting game, blocking the lift line and antagonizing everyone trying to get bt.
After a sound scolding on the ride back up, I told the boys they could ski down on their own, but they had to wait again at the bottom of the lift -- do not go back up without me -- and I'd throw away their poles if I saw any more pole/sword-fighting. I thought again about my friend who skis with her girls. Does she go through this aggravation?!
But at the top, my heart swelled to see the boys chase each other down -- what fun for brothers to do together! They might ski together long after I'm dead, trading stories and chuckles about me at my expense.
Or not. Turns out the split up fast; Julian went for the tree powder while Gabriel aimed for the "bimb run."
Katrina was irritated at not being the leader this time, but I told her she could lead me. Truth is, it's hard to ski behind her -- she turns way faster than I can, but overall is slower. Seems I have a thing or two to learn about fine control.
I stuck close to her though, and was glad I did when I saw her tumble in the snow.
She was all tangled up, and I had to lift her off the ground, shrieking her head off, to untwist her legs. She told me it was a "natural fall" -- that is, she'd fallen on purpose because she was going "way too fast, Mom!" Watching the video later, I can see that she'd gotten freaked out when a snowboarder rode in front of her.
But as soon as she was up, she cheerfully took off again as though nothing had gone wrong.
I love this winter-wonderland view, with the snow on the trees. So beautiful.
We got to one of the terrain areas, and Katrina said "WATCH ME MOM!"
Had I realized this would be her first "jump," I'd have moved to get a better shot, but I thought she'd done this before. Turns out, this was her first attempt at climbing to the little snow mounds adjacent to a flat-box terrain feature, then skiing straight down. It was only about 3 feet high, and hardly a "jump," but she was SOOOO excited! I was so proud that she wanted to try this and that she enjoyed it so much. She talked about her first "jump" for hours afterward, even telling strangers about it, she was so excited.
After the "jump," she bombed joyously down the rest of the run, with no turning, slowing or fear. Watching her happily and confidently zip down the slope, I tried not to think about the fact that this was probably our last run of the year.
But despite some yelling and irritation, it had gone well. It worked to pick a lift and tell the boys to stick to it, let them go take runs on their own, while I skiied with Katrina. This worked much better here than it had at our attempt at Homewood a few weeks ago -- the location was great, the runs consistent but interesting (all moderate blues, groomed, ungroomed and terrain parks), and a lift we could all handle easily. And this time, the snow was great.
My regret about ending our skiing morning went beyond knowing that the joyous challenge of skiing was over -- it also meant kicking into waitress duty for lunch. What a pain in the rear end -- thank goodness we'd returned our rentals and I'd changed into regular clothes and shoes. I know enough by now not to attempt lunch and the usual valet service for 3 kids wearing ski boots.
I've done this enough times now, I knew what to do after lunch. Organized packing goes by the wayside: everything gets dumped into the back of the car, kids get piled in -- this time I latched the skis down -- and we batten down the hatches for a focused drive home with one gas/bathroom stop.
We were home by 7pm, where once again experience drives habit: dump everything from the back of the car into the living room by the armload, where it will fester for at least a week. Zip the car out for a quick wash, and herd everyone to bed. (You'd think a car wash is hardly urgent, but my car comes back from these trips so filthy that it can't be touched at all, and it needed to turn from ski bus to commute vehicle tomorrow.)
From a pure skiing perspective, this weekend was the best we've had yet. The deep snow opened up so much more of the mountain and made me confident and able to dig deep and challenge myself in a fun way. Though skiing with all 3 kids can be really stressful and difficult, I also now remember it as one of the most fantastic moments of my life.
I think this was itfor ski trips this season though. We sure had some of the worst snow conditions imaginable -- no snow, man-made snow, slushy then icy remnants of very little snow -- and then, nirvana: fresh powder. The full spectrum! But it's not just about the snow, it's being in the mountains, the challenge of a new sport, having active fun with the kids. And what a way to end this season!