I also thought it would be fun to ski with just the boys together. Though Julian isn't at mine and Gabriels' level yet, he's really improved and I thought we could test our mettle together. Turns out, not so much. The actual skiing is a ton of fun with Julian -- he likes to interact, show off, test new terrain, try things together. But Julian is so irresponsible and unreliable, it causes a lot of problems. I've taken for granted what a great ski partner Gabriel is: I can tell him to meet me somewhere, or "just one more run," or "go that way," and I know he'll do it. If something unexpected happens, like we get split up, I can count on Gabriel to do the sensible thing, like meet me at the lift.
Julian, on the other hand, ignores instructions, makes up excuses, delays, takes other routes, needs nonstop reminders. He caused me and Gabriel a lot of standing around wondering if he was lost, hurt or just messing around (most likely). I just can't trust him.
He's also really thoughtless. This morning after getting Katrina handed off to ski school and getting myself ready, I found Julian, and we rode the lift together to find Gabriel. When we found him, he was upset because he'd lost a mitten off the lift, and had done several runs looking for it. Turns out, Gabriel lost the mitten because he'd asked Julian to hold it for him (a silly request), and Julian dropped it from the lift accidentally (uh-huh). But Julian didn't mention this at all while we were riding together, and it wasn't until I was well into a search-and-rescue mission for the mitten that I understood the whole scenario.
I gave Gabriel my right glove, and embarked into a precious hours' delay looking for the lost mitten, checking the lost-and-found, and finally huffing back to my car in ski boots to get an extra pair.
Then when the problem was solved and we were ready to ski other runs, Gabriel and I had a hard time finding Julian, because he didn't do as I asked, and then made up excuses. But mostly, I was really disappointed that Julian actively avoided telling me about Gabriel's lost mitten (which essentially ends his skiing) -- that's not teamwork at all. Try to tell Julian this, and all he does is roll his eyes and gripe, "OHH-*KAAYYY* Mommmm...". Plus just general instructions and requests, I'm never confident he's listening. I was pretty annoyed with him by lunchtime, and very ready to hand him off to a hapless instructor for the afternoon.
My final run with the boys was down Donner's Way, Sugarbowl's intro-back-diamond and one you'd better get used to if you don't want an annoying push down the only alternative, a fairly flat green. Big disadvantage to Sugarbowl: if you ski to the "Village" side, where most of the skiing is, there's no blue ways back to the "Judah" side, it's either an easy black or a flat green.
Julian's actually skiing pretty well though, and had no trouble with Donner's Way. That's Gabriel saying, "I'll take care of him!" and chasing after him. Gabriel barely bothers to turn on this run now, he bombs most of it.
After lunch, I gladly handed Julian off to an instructor, and Gabriel and I took a private lesson together. Unfortunately, Sugarbowl isn't teaching adult advanced (that is, not-total-beginner) group lessons on weekends, so I had no choice but a private lesson. Turns out, we got the same instructor whom I'd begged not to stick Katrina on the bunny hill two weeks ago!
Oh my, I was SO happy to have a lesson, it totally changes my skiing. And it's so fun to have another adult to ski with, as much as I love skiing with Gabriel. I'm all about the form and technique tips, I love drills and exercises, such as this one where the instructor tries to pull you down the mountain, to show you how to position yourself to resist the force.
This particular instructor is a retired San Francisco firefighter, and told me he'd never put a pair of skis on until he was 43. So I was very encouraged -- there is hope for me yet! I was sailing on air after the lesson, and skiing the same runs with far more confidence, solidity, and speed. I'm no racer, but it's fun to go fast when you have the confidence to stop.
Ski instructors often tentatively suggest interesting routes, seeming to expect me to answer negatively. This one suggested we take a tree-route, hesitantly feeling me out with, "Are you OK with this, for Gabe?" I said, "To hell with him, do it for me!" Instructors visibly relax after seeing that I'm willing to do anything -- and no one worries about Gabriel, he'll try anything too.
Speaking of stopping, the boys and I have a new game together, which is to try to spray each other with as much snow as possible in a fast hockey stop. I'm getting pretty used to them barrelling at me full-speed now, knowing they'll stop just in time. Well, Gabriel will; Julian is liable to knock you over.
Katrina also had a fantastic lesson, even though once again she was in a group of little kids who were far far less experienced than she is. There just aren't a lot of 6yos at her level who go to ski school -- plenty of 6yos ski way way better, but they're all out on the double-blacks with their expert parents. But incredibly, she had an instructor she'd had last year, who remembered her well, and was able to finagle the groups so that they avoided the bunny hill. She did some off-piste, some trees, some terrain parks, and plenty of regular practice. Once again she was nominated demonstrator in her group, and seemed to enjoy the status.
I couldn't believe how tired I was after this day. It was all I could do to slog through dinner-making and pre-packing for our regretful return home the next day. Someday, someday, I'll be able to relax and enjoy the glow after a day of skiing, instead of morphing into a work-mule and forcing myself through hours of grueling manual labor. I'm sure I'll miss the joys of enthusiastic little children, but right now, I do have moments of longing for these experiences to have a little less of the parent-effort in them. Heck, five more years and I won't even have to do all the driving!
That said, I think one of my favorite memories of this trip will be sitting with Katrina in a chair, snuggled under a duvet together, while two stuffed animals made friends, told secrets, and had a camping adventure together under the duvet. The reverie was eventually broken by a ticking clock and antsy brothers, but I can thank my ski-induced exhaustion for my diminished will to do much else for a very sweet hour. Perhaps that's the real magic of these trips, is the shared downtime together, well-earned hard after many hours of intense activity together.
Oh how I wish we had another week in paradise!