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My Whole Family Went Skiing. What’s The Worst That Could Happen?!

My husband, Danny, has a unique designation: He married into a family that is both a turkey trotting family and a skiing family. Yes, we’ve seen all the plentiful memes about both scenarios, and for years, and although we have run 5Ks together on Thanksgiving, I never thought there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d get him on the slopes. Turns out, I was wrong.

As anyone who knows him would agree, Danny is one of the most accident-prone people alive. Last year he fractured his toe playing soccer at a bachelor party. The kind of dedicated sports fan who can’t just sit in the stands, Danny plays basketball with other adult men who are at various stages of “past their prime” during the week (not to mention soccer on the weekends), and he frequently comes home with new ailments: a busted elbow, a strained hamstring, and other wounds I wish I was making up. He’s got two bad knees; one’s been repaired and one hasn’t. None of these questionable circumstances could quiet my deep-rooted desire to take my family on a ski trip where my husband and son could learn to ski for the first time. If Danny could avoid injury, I knew he’d love it.

I faced insurmountable odds even getting him to agree to the trip. I spent an entire year selling him on it, using a few key points: we love Vermont and we’ve already made some great memories visiting. Why not take the kids? Stowe, the mountain I’d set my sights on, boasts the best skiing on the East Coast. Where better to learn? He could take lessons and face absolutely no pressure to enjoy skiing. If he hated it, it would be both our first and our last trip. I also introduced him to the concept of apres ski, which experts define as boozing and/or enjoying the hot tub after engaging in physical activity on the mountain all day. But perhaps the most crucial point was that he’d be learning with our son, Douglas.

There are very few things that level the playing field between a 5-year-old and a 36-year-old. Learning to ski or snowboard is one of them. (Danny exclusively skied; Douglas went to ski school where he did a day of snowboarding and two days of skiing.) I’m not sure my kindergartener fully understood that his dad was a beginner, too. But it’s something I know was meaningful to Danny, who was cutting his teeth on the same Stowe beginner terrain that our little boy was. “I was going up the bunny hill, and I heard him say ‘Dad! Dad! Dad!,’ and I looked over and saw Douglas with the biggest smile on his face,” Danny told me. “Not only was he happy to see me, he was happy for me to see him learning something new.” I felt that mix of joy and pride watching them, too.

Douglas rode the magic carpet, aka this little conveyor belt that ferries kids up a hill so low-grade you can hardly call it a hill, to learn how to come down safely. By the end of our trip, he’d ascended from being a snowflake, the very first beginner level, to squirrels, which is the next level up. And Danny, ever the athlete, had graduated from the bunny hill and could successfully get on and off a ski lift and then pizza his way down a green run by the end of day one. I knew things were going well when he called me at the end of his first lesson to say he wanted to go up the Adventure lift for one more run. I raced over as fast as I could to join him.

I had braced myself for disaster on this trip. Weird things happen. People break wrists on their first time up. Kids pee their pants and get ejected from ski school. I’ve been around the block enough times to know that in the sliding doors version of our trip, that could have been us. Fortunately it wasn’t. We were saved by a few things: one, ski school is awesome. They really get kids up and running fairly quickly, and my son is eager to go again. And two, lessons for adults. I’m sure there are people who are cocky enough to come to a ski mountain and think: I’m athletic, so I can wing this. I’m proud to say that’s not me or my family.

Is there a deeper lesson about parenting and What It All Means in this? Maybe so. But as simple as it sounds, it’s just pretty cool to do something new together as a family. (I’d be remiss not to mention my 2.5 year old daughter, who was also on this trip but spent it living it up at Stowe’s day care while we were on the mountain). I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching my son try new things. That’s made even sweeter by the fact that he learned something new—something we can all do together—with his dad, who is also new at said thing. There are a lot of platitudes about how it’s harder to learn new things when you’re older. Maybe those adages are only true when there’s a threat of being shown up by a kindergartener.

Leslie Horn Peterson is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in VICE, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Dwell, and others. She lives in New York with her husband and two kids.

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