Published: 2005


Dave Barry

A ski trip is a perfect family vacation, because it gives you a chance to spend quality time with your kids, both on the ski slopes and, later on, in the emergency room.

Just kidding! I'm sure you'll have a great time on your family ski trip, as long as you remember the Number One Rule for Skiing Safely with Your Kids, which is: Never ski with your kids. It's OK to be on the same general mountain as your children, but under no
circumstances should you attempt to go down the mountain the same way they do.

The problem is that children, being young and naive, do not understand the laws of physics. They've heard of gravity, but
they don't have a lot of direct, personal experience with it. So when they stand at the stop of a large snow-covered mountain wearing long slippery sticks on their feet, they think, "This is gonna be FUN!"

Whereas you -- a mature adult familiar with gravity from having it yank downward on your body parts with increasing force for decades -- know that there is a good chance that you will fall and slide headfirst at high speed into the tree-infested forest, where you will most likely perish and be eaten by squirrels.

The result is that your kids have more confidence than you, which makes them better skiers. Not always, of course: There is period during which you are the superior skier. This period lasts from the child's birth until roughly a half-hour after the child first puts on skis. These are known as the "golden minutes of family skiing."

But after this period ends, your kids quickly become much better than you. There are no exceptions: All children ski better than their parents. You take the winner of the Olympic gold medal in
the men's downhill event -- some guy who can hurtle down a brutally difficult, near-vertical mountain slope at 93 miles per hour, and I guarantee you that, when that same guy goes skiing with his family, his 6-year-old daughter is wayyyyyy ahead of him, far down the hill, impatiently yelling, "Come ON, dad! Hurry UP!"

Does this mean that family skiing is no fun? Not at all! It just means that you as, a parent, must guard vigilantly against the danger that you will wind up skiing with your child. It's not easy. When I go skiing, my son, Rob -- who is clearly thinking inheritance -- pesters me constantly to ski with him.

"Come on Dad!" he'll say. "There's this one run that's really fun!"

"But is it hard?" I'll say.

"No!" he'll say. "It's mostly a green!"

Here Rob is referring to the standard color-coding system used to
classify the difficulty level of ski slopes, in which green means "fairly easy," blue means "intermediate," and black means "certain death."

I myself am a green-slope man. I am not ashamed of this. If there were an easier color than green -- say, pink, denoting slopes that were flat, or actually inside the ski lodge -- I would ski on those.

Rob, of course, skis strictly on black slopes, unless he can find some color that is even more dangerous, such as ultraviolet. So when he asks me to ski with him, at first I always refuse. But he keeps after me, pestering, pestering, until finally the cold mountain air has killed enough of my brain cells that I have the functional IQ of a Yoo-Hoo bottle, and I agree to ski with him.

And it's always the same. We ski for a little way, and it's fine. And then, without warning, we come to: a cliff. There's a sign stating that this particular run is called something like "The Organ Donor." At the bottom, thousands of feet below, are tiny dark specks representing the bodies of other parents who have been lured down this run by their children.

Rob doesn't even slow down.

"Come on, Dad!" he says, disappearing over the edge of the cliff and falling like a stone, but faster and with less concern for his own safety. "It's easy! Just..."

Beyond that point I can no longer hear Rob's voice, because he has
exceeded the speed of sound. As for me, I spend the rest of the day working my way down the cliff, inch by excruciating inch, like a mountain climber in reverse. Sometimes I can't move at all and have to cling to the side of the mountain, shrub-like, until the spring thaw.

So I avoid skiing with Rob. I still sometimes ski with my daughter,
Sophie, who is 5, and thus is in the waning seconds of the golden minutes. Together, we putter down the beginner slopes, moving about as fast as the line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sophie still thinks her old man is a pretty good skier. Of course, she also thinks she can talk to lizards. But I'll enjoy this era while it lasts, because I know that soon enough Sophie will be rocketing down the Organ Donor with her brother, while I cling, shrublike, to the cliffside.

Maybe I should take up poker.

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