I couldn’t let Mothers Day week go by without a shout-out to the ski moms. After all, it’s the mom who usually makes sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need. Who dresses and undresses the kids. Assembles the lunches. Hauls the equipment. Harbors a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accommodates multiple bathroom breaks with all the dressing and undressing that go with ’em. Provides encouragement after a fall. Drives to and from the slopes. Attends ski races. Wipes noses and tears. Administers first aid. Puts on and removes boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Makes sure nothing gets left behind. Arranges ski lessons. Makes sure the kids wear helmets.
Obviously, being a ski mom isn’t an easy job. But there is help: Kristen Lummis’ outstanding blog, Brave Ski Mom. Kristen writes about anything and everything related to family skiing: resorts, gear, kids, parenting, and more. There’s a ton of great information, so it’s a great resource for ski moms everywhere. Plus it’s a lot of fun to read.
I spoke to Kristen recently from her home in Colorado.
SD: How did you get started, and where’d the name Brave Ski Mom come from?
KL: I started Brave Ski Mom in late July, 2010, after 16 months of thinking about it. The inspiration came from my older son. When he was 11, we were skiing at Snowbird, UT, and while riding the chairlift, he began going over the points he felt made Snowbird a great place for kids to ski. Listening to him, I realized that he had put a lot of thought into his comments and that they were really insightful. So, I suggested he start a blog. He wasn’t at all interested, but it planted a seed in my brain. A few weeks later, I began writing sample posts and sharing them with family and friends.
My focus for these sample posts was family travel and ski resort reviews. The “where, how, and why” information that is helpful when families are deciding to take a ski vacation. The feedback I got was very positive. But then I got bogged down in the details: the technology, the platforms, hosting, and so on. It seemed so overwhelming that I put the project off. Fast forward 16 months and my older son, now 13, looks at me on a hot summer afternoon and says “Remember your blog? I knew you’d never do it.” My reaction was to sigh and agree with him. Another good idea put off and another project I didn’t do. A couple days later, I realized I had to do it. I had to start Brave Ski Mom, both to show my kids I could follow through and for my own self-respect! Thirty minutes later I had my first post up. The emphasis on ski resort reviews quickly grew into an emphasis on family skiing from all angles — the joys, the challenges, how to get kids’ skiing, competition and more.
The name Brave Ski Mom came from a lovely older European man whom I met at Mount Hood when my kids were at ski camp. I was riding the lift with a friend and he joined us on the chair. We began chatting and he asked, “Are you ski moms?” We answered yes and told him that we had brought our kids from Colorado. As we got off the lift, he looked at us and said, “You are brave ski moms.” I loved being called a brave ski mom. When I was thinking about a name for my blog, it’s the first thing that came to mind.
SD: Does it take special bravery to be a ski mom?
KL: I think that being a mom takes a lot of bravery. When you have children you take a jump, headfirst, into the unknown. As moms, we strive to nurture, enrich and protect our kids. Then as skiers, we put them on skis the moment they can walk and push them down a hill. They fall, we brush them off and send them back out with a kiss. Soon, they’ve got it going on and they scream down the mountain at Mach 10. When my kids progressed from powder papooses to ski racers, I had a choice. I could fret and worry or I could take a deep breath and cheer them on. I chose to cheer.
SD: What’s your own family’s ski story? How’d you start your kids skiing, and how are they doing now?
KL: Going way, way back, I grew up with a ski instructor dad. Skiing was important to our family and we skied recreationally and well as competitively. My dad was wise and didn’t teach me and my brother, so we took lessons and clinics from other instructors. But I always loved skiing with my dad and I have a favorite childhood memory of him picking me up from school at lunchtime to go skiing. My husband grew up in the East and came to Colorado for college. From the moment we met, we realized that as skiers we had a lot in common and we spent as much time skiing as our meager budgets would allow. Having kids actually got us skiing more. When our oldest was three, we started him. We made many mistakes, including not keeping him warm enough. That year was pretty much a bust. The next year, he was just four and loved it. Our younger son started at age two and has never looked back. At age 6, each boy started in recreational ski racing through our local Buddy Werner club. Then as they progressed they moved up to USSA racing. Those were really fun and busy years, exhausting actually, as we skied every day the boys did not have school and travelled each weekend. Racing gave both boys a tremendous foundation, but they soon succumbed to the lure of powder and double-blacks and stopped competing. Now we are able to ski where and when we want to, but we still ski almost every weekend and logged nearly 50 days this season.
SD: What’s the biggest challenge faced by ski moms?
KL: I would have to say the cost involved in getting kids on skis. Skiing is expensive and while many resorts offer deals for families, kids grow and outfitting them is an annual challenge. Every ski family I know makes choices and sacrifices to keep skiing. These sacrifices aren’t painful, because we’re doing what we love, but they are real.
Additionally, I think that one of the biggest challenges a ski mom can face is having a child who doesn’t share her passion. We are lucky. We all love and live to ski. But we know families where everyone loves to ski except one child. It can be hard and frustrating to honor this child’s preferences, especially when it interferes with everyone else’s personal passion. But we have to respect our kids as individuals, even if we don’t understand their choices.
SD: What do you think: Teach your kids yourself or get an instructor?
KL: That’s easy! Get an instructor! While I know this means more cost, it’s good to learn from a pro for several reasons. 1) The instructor is specially trained to work with kids and knows the latest techniques and secrets. 2) The instructor is not emotionally involved with the success or failure of the child. She or he won’t worry and fret as much about falls, nor will any whining impact the instructor like it impacts mom. 3) Having a neutral third-party involved takes the pressure off — both the student and the parent. 4) Kids like learning with other kids and are motivated by their peers. While adults often prefer private lessons, small groups for kids are often more fun and enhance learning.
I know that many parents want to teach their kids and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is to take a lesson with your child. Tell the instructor, up front, that you want to learn how to teach your child after the lesson is over. Ask the instructor how you can successfully build on the lesson, what words to say, what actions to take. Instructors are trained to help you help your child and you’ll make their job easier for future lessons if you reinforce what they’re teaching. Also, don’t push your child too far, too fast. That is probably the number one mistake parents make. We want our kids to progress, we want to get off the bunny hill, so we push them ahead, rather than letting them set the pace. I know. I’ve done it!
SD: What tips would you give a mom or dad for a happy ski day?
KL: These are basic. 1) Make sure everyone has warm clothes and proper layers. We stupidly tried pjs as long underwear and a cute department store parka as a ski coat when our oldest was three. Not surprisingly, he froze and hated skiing. My rule of thumb: if I won’t wear it, why should my kids? 2) Keep everyone fueled. Kids get colder and hungrier much faster than adults. Carry snacks and share them on the chairlift. Take breaks for water and hot chocolate. If your kids get hungry or dehydrated, they will get colder faster. 3) Be prepared to have your plans change. Especially with little kids, you have to expect that one day they’ll ski for hours and the next day they may be done after 15 minutes. While this can be frustrating and disappointing, it seems to me that forcing them to keep skiing will only lead to more problems in the future. 4) Enjoy the time on the chairlift. Chat, laugh, listen to your child’s stories and enthusiasms. I’ve had more fun with my kids on chairlifts than almost anywhere. Put away your phone and turn off the iPod. They’ll do the same and you can really enjoy one another uninterrupted for a few minutes. 5) Let the kids be trail boss. My boys love to study ski maps and snow reports, so we’d be foolish to suggest runs. Instead we follow them. Even when they were little, we let them choose where to go. That way, they would have some control, could choose what was fun for them and rarely got in over their heads. Most kids know what they can do comfortably.
SD: And I have to ask: What’s your kids’ favorite ski lunch?
KL: As a family of four, we try to avoid buying ski lunches. The simple reality is that if we bought lunch at a resort each day, we’d quickly be broke. Instead, we usually make sandwiches — pb&j, turkey, or cheese quesadillas — whatever will fit in our pockets or in the pocket of a camelbak without becoming too squished (try “sandwich thins” instead of slices of bread — totally non-squishable). We often take nuts, carrots, celery and of course, chocolate. If we’re at a resort with a lodge that allows coolers, sometimes we really splurge and take…leftovers (my lucky family!)
Our oldest son is a great sport about these cold weather picnics and will gladly eat anything. Our youngest son tries to hold out for hotdogs. He started doing this when he was racing. He’d be starving and not want to eat what we were offering. In my desperation to get something into him, I’d offer hot chocolate and he’d say, “How about a hotdog?” Bang! I’d be so happy to get a response, that I would buy him one.
He still tries this once in a while, but his older brother calls him on it (and calls me out too for “spoiling him.” Is there no end to sibling rivalry?)
* Photos courtesy of the Brave Ski Mom herself, Kristen Lummis