Mammoth Lakes, California — There’s something about snow and little kids.
It wasn’t my children's first time in the snow, but it felt like it. After two years of living in Cuba, my two- and four-year-olds were accustomed to warm weather all year long. But when we woke up one morning on a recent ski vacation, they looked out the window with delight, like the boy in that lovely children’s book “The Snowy Day.” We were on a ski vacation in Mammoth, and we’d been lucky enough to catch an enormous storm that brought with it several feet of fluffy white flakes.
After so much time in Cuba, it was difficult for me to adjust to the brutal cold of the Sierra Nevada. Of course, for people used to snowy winters, it wasn’t that cold, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit. But I struggled, now used to winters in Cuba that brought “cold fronts” of winds and lows in the 60s Fahrenheit. Even my husband, a steadfast New Englander who always talks about his love of the seasons, commented on the cold that greeted us when we opened our front door. The forecast was also foreboding, promising two days of steady snowfall that eventually totaled up to seven feet of snow on the mountains during our stay.
I was thrilled to get back into skiing, after a several-year absence from the sport. Pregnancy and infants are not exactly conducive to the downhill sport. This time, though, my youngest was past the baby stage, and we were fortunate that both sets of grandparents -- a.k.a. babysitters -- v accompanied us.
Skiing is one of the few sports that my husband and I can do together. Of course, being the sporty, athletic guy he is, he always skis faster than me. But he doesn’t leave me behind in the dust, which sometimes happens with bicycling or hiking. Gravity is an equalizing force. Every so often, I’ll even beat him down to a chairlift, if he decides to take a more challenging route through the glades and I manage to overcome my fear and point my skis down a wide, but steep black-diamond slope.
This time, though, the most thrilling part of being in the Sierra Nevada turned out not to be skiing but rather enjoying the snow with our children. After watching a snow plow from the windows of our condo for a while, we bundled up our children in many layers so they could experience this magical white stuff firsthand. We plopped them on top of soft walls pushed up by the plows, allowing the snow to form custom-built armchairs. When the stood, they giggled at the "butt prints" they left behind. They coasted down a hill on neon orange sleds. My father-in-law shoveled a path to the playground, where the kids went down icy, cold slides to crash into piles of snow.
On our last day, while our four-year-old daughter went to ski school, my husband and I put our two-year-old son on skis and pushed him between us down a gentle slope. It’s amazing how quickly children pick up skiing at that age — and how little fear my son had as he skied down to me. Even though he wore tinted goggles, I could still see his eyes lighting up. Suddenly, all those years away from the slopes because of motherhood became worthwhile.