Kidding around the Gorge When skiing with kids leave them wanting more

By Ruth Berkowitz

For The Hood River News

December 6, 2006

“We’re not done, Mom, can we ski a little more?” pleads my 5-year-old son Kai, as he maneuvers down the hill on his cross country skis. This is our first ski of the season. The sun spreads pink in the sky and we continue down the hill. We skied up and over the east ridge above the Old Dalles Road in Hood River. Since there’s snow on the road we could continue. How can we resist? The moon is out and there’s still some light.

“Ok, but only for a few more minutes,” my husband Tim responds. We’re both super excited that our first ski has been a success. Our children, now 5 and 7, have been skiing since they were two years old and we’ve adopted the “always-leave-them-wanting-more” plan. We learned our lesson by skiing too many runs and leaving with our kids wet, cold and screaming to go home. Since then, we’ve vouched to keep the last memory of the ski day a positive one and to always leave with them wanting more.

Skiing with our kids is one of the most enjoyable outings we do as a family. It’s even better when their friends or grandparents join us for the adventure.

We’ve found that the best way to teach our kids to ski is to keep it fun. For our cross country excursions, we rig a harness to our dog so she can pull one of the kids. We also have a SkiAlong, a belt with a retractable handle, that enables us to cross country ski with our children while they either downhill or cross country ski. When they need a boost, our kids hold on to the SkiAlong’s handle and we pull them. They can release the handle whenever they want to ski unassisted. We use the SkiAlong at downhill resorts to help them ski the flat areas.

“Mom, the snow sounds like a zipper,” says Maya, as we play with various ways of describing snow which is a little crusty after last Thursday’s rain storm. But we don’t care because it’s such a treat to be able to ski so close to our backyard, especially so early in the season.

“Watch me fall,” laughs Kai. He bundles some snow in a ball and nibbles away.

Sometimes we pretend that our ski poles are magic wands. Sometimes we take off our skis and build snow creatures. Then we look for our creations on subsequent runs. Other times we’re owls flying and hooting with our arms outstretched. We’ll occasionally get strange looks from other skiers, but we’re usually having too much fun to care.

Sometimes our games are designed to improve their skiing technique. To work on wedges, we’ll make pepperoni pizzas on the way down the hill or try to squish blueberries between our knees.

But we’re not overly concerned about whether our kids are bending their knees or making turns while whizzing down the hill. We want to make sure Maya and Kai love the snow and want to come back. They’ll naturally improve with time.

In fact their technique often improves when they do not realize that they are skiing. Last winter, we found ourselves with four feet of powder at the top of Cascade at Mt. Hood Meadows. At first our kids resisted. “We don’t want to ski down this, it’s too hard.”

Tim started playing a game, “follow me, I’ve got the snitch and we’re playing Quidditch.” They followed him and skied down easily. When we made it to the bottom, we wanted them to turn around and marvel at what they had mastered, but they were too busy flying with their broomsticks. They wanted to ski another run, but we insisted on heading inside for hot chocolate.

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