Skiing is a big deal around our house. Introducing our daughter to the sport was discussed early on. My wife and I wanted to make skiing fun from the start, and introduced her to snow early and often. Our plan worked: she loves sledding; snow caves and long walks on snowy days. The stage was set for a fun first day on skis.
During the week leading up to her planned first day on slopes, we collected the necessary items: helmet (handed down by some friends), skis and boots (loaned by other friends), and a box of goodies ordered from our friends at PlayOutdoors.com. My wife and daughter went to the local (Oregon) Mt. Hood Meadows sales office and got their spring passes. We watched ripping toddlers on YouTube. Finally, we loaded up the family (including the dogs) and headed to Mt. Hood for the weekend.
While we actively promote the idea of skiing, we kept our expectations of the day very low. In the end, we just wanted our little one to soak up the experience that is Mt. Hood Meadows on a busy Saturday.
Ideally, this first day on snow would have been clear and warm, with nicely buffed, groomed runs. As it turned out, an otherwise un-snowy season turned around and we were met with snowy, stormy conditions. But we were not deterred. It was on.
We took four rides up the covered “Magic Carpet,” which provided a nice break from the snow and wind. Each time, my daughter pointed to the chair lift and yelled, “Swing!” with a big smile on her face. Even though she was reluctant to ski down the hill between my legs, she demanded a chair lift ride. So, to the big swing we went. Given the exposure to wind, this was a questionable call and there were big tears for the second half of the short ride. Experiment finished, we headed straight for the lodge to meet up with the family and celebrate our first ski runs with a big cup of hot chocolate.
In the end, our little trouper was talking big about her first day on skis and eager to get back out there. The initial intro was made and the calendar is marked for more days on the hill this spring (We will be looking for breaks in the weather, which should make the whole experience less overwhelming.) We all walked away smiling and enjoyed a long nap that afternoon.
Two weeks passed since Tatum’s first exposure to skiing. She’d talked about it almost daily, eager to get back to the mountain. So we headed to back to Mt. Hood’s Government Camp for the weekend. The forecast was more stormy weather with questionable freezing levels, but we were committed and optimistic (as it turned out, we encountered wet snow at Mt. Hood Meadows).
I was reminded Saturday that skiing requires a lot of gear. I’ve been challenged in this realm when only responsible for my own gear (the pants I left in the Willamette Pass lodge as a kid, plus a glove here and some goggles there come to mind). Now, being responsible for myself, my daughter’s snow gear and (to a degree) my wife, forgetting critical equipment seemed inevitable. About four miles out of “Govy,” I realized I didn’t have my pass or gloves… we turned around to retrieve them. When we finally made it to the lodge I realized I’d forgotten Tatum’s ski boots in the truck, requiring a trek out to the back of the parking lot. Later, I realized an extra diaper did not make it into the bag (fortunately, our partially potty-trained daughter came through big with several trips to the potty and no dirty diapers. We dodged a bullet there!)
Finally out on the hill, we made three runs down the bunny slope with Tatum between my legs. She showed signs of independence as she directed me on where she wanted to go, and I even got her to smile a couple times. Given her recent anti-Daddy trend, this exciting and rewarding for both of us! At the bottom of the third run, Mom and Aunt Gina came out to cheer her on–Tatum was beaming. That was followed by hot chocolate, people-watching and live music in the lodge.
By Sunday morning, 21″ of new snow had fallen in 24 hours – not ideal conditions for a toddler. We decided to spend Sunday playing in the snow and chilling in the lodge, while the adults took turns hanging with Tatum and sneaking in some runs. Good thing we didn’t have high expectations, as we’d forgotten her gloves! I now have a checklist of all gear required for the three of us, and with a little more prep time, we should have everything we need to have fun on our next trip.
Image credit: Jack Horst, SXC
Ben McKinley is a 33-year-old Oregon native and dad to a 2-1/2-year-old daughter. He runs a web development shop in Portland. Ben was exposed to the outdoors and sports at a young age—he grew up alpine ski racing at Mt. Ashland and played football through high school and college. As an adult, Ben has coached youth football, high school ski racing, and now a group of adult skiers for 14+ years. Ben enjoys skiing, alpine touring, mountaineering, kayaking, and cycling and considers outdoor exposure a high priority in his daughter’s life.