To ski?

T’s dad has been saying that we should take the boys skiing.  In particular, he’s suggesting that if D doesn’t learn to ski soon, he’ll never be "really good."


  • Skiing is ridiculously expensive, even at the dinky little mid-Atlantic ski areas that have almost no slope.  Between lift ticket and equipment, it gets up close to $100 a day per person.  We think long and hard about spending that kind of money.
  • Especially when there’s no guarantee that the boys wouldn’t try it for 5 minutes and then want to go home.  D still has his training wheels on his bike, because when we take them off, he panics when he picks up any speed and puts his feet down.
  • Downhill skiing is never particularly environmentally friendly, and is particularly not-so in the mid-Atlantic, where pretty much everything you ski on is man made.


  • Skiing is fun.  Downhill skiing is as close to flying as I’m ever likely to get without mechanical assistance.
  • T’s dad is right that it’s easier to learn when you’re young, and not as discombobulated by falling down.
  • D picked up skating this winter (on an indoor rink) pretty well, and many of the skills are transferable.
  • I can imagine that at some point in the boys life, they will have friends who ski, and they may feel deprived/outside/something if they don’t know how.  Yes, this is a huge marker of class privilege.  But both T and I did learn to ski as children, and in some real way, I think we both feel slightly guilty at the idea of not passing this opportunity on to our kids.  Especially since we’re probably slightly more affluent, not less, than our parents were when we were young.  But — even setting aside the fact that T grew up in Michigan and could learn to ski on a local hill — I think skiing just wasn’t as crazy expensive a sport at the time.

15 Responses to “To ski?”

  1. Laura Says:

    I used to ski and loved it, but we went to a slope in NC, where it wasn’t terribly expensive. As I recall a lift ticket for the day was something like $15. I vaguely remember it getting over $25 and my parents complaining. We eventually bought all our own equipment, which wasn’t horribly expensive either. We bought one set of skis every 6 months or so–for a birthday or Christmas–until we all owned skis.
    Now, not so much. Mr. Geeky doesn’t ski. We now live near various kinds of ski slopes but the time it takes to drive there, to rent skis (expensive) and to buy tickets just isn’t worth it to us. The kids aren’t clamoring to go, so I’m just letting that happen. When I used to ski, we’d often ride up the lift, ski down and then ride right back up again–no lines. From later experiences I’ve had skiing and from talking to others, I think that’s a real rarity. Which makes it not so much fun.

  2. Jody Says:

    I’m scared to death of go carts and water slides and have minor issues with heights and therefore have zero interest in downhill skiing, ever. So that’s an easy decision for me. :-) If there are grandparents who want to take the kids to a ski slope someday, they are welcome to try, but meanwhile, we’ll make other winter plans.
    We’ll definitely teach the kids cross-country skiing when we get the chance, because that’s what I knew growing up (my aunt who lived on a farm had bundles of skis in a shed and we would make our own trails across fallow fields in the winter — but we also skied in high school gym class, and at local golf courses). It’s possible we’ll take a winter mountain vacation someday, to get our snow on, and the kids can take ski lessons while I lounge in the resort. And then we can all cross-country ski together in the afternoons, and have those trails mostly to ourselves (from what I hear, anyway).
    One of the moments when I missed raising MN kids most of all was when their first skating experience was indoors, and involved rented skates. Growing up, we just had various sizes hanging on nails in the basement, and you compensates with extra socks if your perfect size wasn’t available. And we were very, very far from financial wealth, too.

  3. Lee Says:

    I don’t enjoy skiing nearly enough to justify the money for myself. However, I will try to give my kids some opportunities. I have a theory that kids who are engaged in healthy adrenaline-producing activities with a little risk may be less likely to try other, less healthy activities with a lot of risk. (I may be kidding myself.)
    When I lived in the NE there were second-hand ski sales every fall where you could get some great equipment very cheap. That probably offset the equipment cost for a lot of families.
    Pretty much everything we want to teach our children will be easier if we start at an early age. I’m having a hard time with that right now, in particular with language lessons. I know that now is the time for my daughter to learn Spanish, but she really doesn’t need another afternoon activity (nor do I).

  4. Jackie Says:

    My dad grew up in upstate NY, and our family that still lives there all ski. But yeah, they don’t spend the kind of $$ on it that we would have to here in the mid-Atlantic. Used skis are plentiful up there, and at least one of my cousins works at a ski resort and gets discounts.
    When I was a kid, we spent summer weeks in Alabama, where everyone learned to water-ski because several of my uncles had motor boats. None of that will happen for my kids, but I’m so incredibly uncoordinated and unathletic that it doesn’t bother me much.
    I do want my kids to go camping and be out in nature more, because they are growing up city kids and I spent a few childhood years in a very rural area. It’s one reason I’m trying to start a Daisy troop for my girls to join, to start them in Girl Scouting.

  5. jen Says:

    Although I have been skiing myself, I’ve never been interested in teaching the kids. I have always been very aware of the class marker of skiing. And I’m not getting much argument from my husband, who is old-school Colorado, cowboy-hat-and-Wranglers Colorado, and in his mind skiing is associated with obnoxious rich kids.
    That said, we all have experiences we were lucky to have as children that we want to pass on. I grew up as a city cousin with lots of farm relatives, so I have very specific feelings about horseback riding. If I were truly worried about class markers I would have left this one behind long ago!
    But I think the root of *your* argument has to do with money and time to be devoted to sports. Did you see the piece in the NYT this week about the decline of golf? It’s just too time-consuming. It rang very true for me, while also depressing me. Talk about an overt statistic showing the death of leisure time!

  6. bj Says:

    I think we’re planning on making it possible for our kids to learn to ski, on the grounds that it’s something people should know how to do, if they have the opportunity. (though, clearly, it’s a class marker). We don’t ski, though, and I have absolutely no interest in learning myself (like Jody, I don’t like heights or going fast, and add to that that I also don’t like the cold, so cross country doesn’t appeal, either). But, I’ve decided that like swimming, skiing is something kids should know how to do if they can. So, we’ll give them an opportunity, and see what happens. My guess is that one of them will hate it, and that the other might learn.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    I live 20 minutes from a ski resort so my experience is probably not comparable, but for what it’s worth: At our mountain there’s a short lift that’s free for everyone, including parents. It’s so short it’s not rewarding for people who can really ski, but it’s a good way to teach a child. Also we have ski swaps and used sport-equipment shops where we’ve picked up everything for the kids, skis and boots and snowsuits etc. All that reduces the cost. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s expensive, though. A family season pass here cost us (gasp) about $1500 — we can only justify it because we ski absolutely every weekend & all holidays; we ski instead of taking a vacation.
    To my mind teaching a kid to ski is a gift of freedom. Once they know how to do it, there’s no coaching involved, no hovering parents, and the boundaries are those set by the mountain itself. The mountain sets the rules. There’s the open run, there’s the trees, you pick your line and commit to it and off you go, all on your own, to fly or fall based on your own choices and abilities, no one will rescue you but also no one will yell or criticize — it’s all you from the top of the hill to the bottom.

  8. bj Says:

    PS: how do people feel about swimming? is that something every kid should know how to do? I think so, but for us, that’s also an activity we all enjoy as a family.

  9. trishka Says:

    first of all, yes downhill skiing is hella more expensive than it used to be!
    second, it’s not true that if your kids dont’ start *now* that they will never be “any good”? (how good do they need to be?)
    seriously, starting out young is great, but it is not mandatory. and if it is not something that they have regular access to, they will probably not get “really good” anyway. to be a really good skier means either growing up near a resort or spending a few years as a ski bum or both.
    to get good enough to have fun? much easier. and that’s something they can start later, when they’re older and you’re more financially comfortable.
    also, starting them out on cross-country skis is much cheaper, much more environmentally friendly, and will instill in them a solid skill set that will allow them to learn to adapt to downhill later. (it’s actually easier to learn downhill after mastering cross-country than vice versa. the control issue is so much different).
    that’s my thought. i don’t think this is something you need to pressure yourself over yet, and this is coming from someone who loves skiing with a passion.

  10. lisa Says:

    I struggle with this-I’m a MN cross country skier through and through-but I’m raising my child in CO where “everyone” is a downhill skier and it is a class marker, but not entirely. OTOH, I have zero interest in downhill and I would prefer that my child not get pulled into the class part-but I am also thinking maybe I should get her on the slopes young so she has the opportunity to be good enough if this is something she wants to do with her friends. Environmentally and costwise, downhill is really contrary to our value system-but part of our values is letting her make her own choices about some of this-and how can she make it if she doesn’t have a chance? I am only considering this because it is such a strong part of the local culture and I wouldn’t want her to feel left out-her papa and I will remain antisocial doing our cross country thing in the back country all alone ; ) Or maybe with Jody. ~lmc

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  12. Becca Says:

    I feel totally guilty that we haven’t taught our kids to ski or play tennis–but WE don’t ski or play tennis! i.e. the guilt is obviously about withholding class privilege, not about sharing treasured pastimes… I cross-county skied as a kid, and it’s not like my kids don’t have 1) plenty of physical pastimes, and 2) plenty of class privilege…there’s just something about skiing and tennis!

  13. Maggie Says:

    We’ve been making a point of taking the kids skiing. My husband grew up skiing 4 days/wk and can ski basically anything. I didn’t learn until I was an adult, and although I’m a good intermediate skier, I know that it’s something I’d be much more comfortable with had I learned as a child. I love it, and want to get better at it – all of us learning to ski will facilitate my own improvement. It’s something we can do as a family for years to come, and can be the centerpiece of future vacations (Switzerland! Chile! ha ha ha). My son’s a bit of a sports junkie (and thru hero-worship, his little sister is becoming one); because we’ve discovered that every other part of his life is better when he’s very physically active, we’re consciously trying to balance out the seasonal team sports with some individual sports. (I know this is waaaay in the future, but my team-sport varsity-athlete roommates from college had a really hard time stepping down from college teams to pick-up and local league teams).
    To keep it a little less expensive, when we ski, we either go for a long weekend with cousins and rent a group house out in the relatively cheap and naturally snowy Canaan Valley in West VA, or we go stay at grandma’s house and go to one of the PA slopes – good snow, often at least semi-not-manmade, and competition keeps the prices down. We’ve also traded week-long vacations – particularly during spring break – for long-weekend ski trips, about 2 or 3 per winter. We buy ugly used equipment so that we don’t spend the extra $$$ per person on rental (except for adult boots – we bought those new and intend to use them for 15+ years). The ski areas that are within day-trip distance of DC are truly a gyp, with crummy skiing, big crowds, and hugely inflated prices, even more so on the weekends.
    There is a significant cost beyond the financial to picking a certain set of activities and committing, though, and that’s made me stop and think quite a bit about how our family’s become so physical-activity-focused in our extracurricular stuff. The list of things we *don’t* do that I wish we did – that things like skiing and soccer and dance and baseball and swimming take the place of – include piano lessons, language lessons, more museum-y and cultural activities, and those week-long vacations over spring break!
    BTW, if D is still nervous about downhill bike speed, I doubt he’s ready for skiing. He’ll do just as well learning to ski at 10 or so, when N will be more ready, anyway.

  14. Scrivener Says:

    Not only did I never ski until I was an adult, but I almost never even saw snow until I was an adult, yet downhill skiing is about the only sport I ever tried and was actually just immediately good at. The expense is enough that it’s not something I’ve been able to do much of, but I would love it if I could.

  15. Alison Says:

    I think you have time. I learned to ski when I lived in No Va as a child, and my skiing improved (to my surprise) when I was a young adult (and not so young adult) living in New England. It is definitely expensive, and also a ton of work for Mom and Dad (unless you pay for classes also). You can use up the patience of a child just standing in line for rentals — and sometimes they don’t want to give the rentals back! We live 20 mins from a decent small (New England) mountain, and it’s still expensive and a ton of work. IMO if they learn when they’re 11 and 9 (insert correct age difference here) and hone their skills in their teens and twenties, they’ll be just fine.

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