The Highs and Lows of a Family Ski Trip

Jan 4, 2016

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Family travel, especially that with young kids, is nothing if not a roller coaster of adventures and mis-adventures. The highest of highs, the lowest of lows, the craziest of crazy. At times you feel like you are living some sort of bad family comedic sitcom where simple things like getting through a line at the airport become absolute three ring circuses of insanity with kids passed out being dragged on the floor, babies spitting up, people staring, tears happening, etc.

Then, there are moments like this.

C ski

Total, unscripted, absolute perfection. These moments tend to happen just when you are swearing to yourself Ever. It’s a roller coaster, the kind with some seriously high height requirements and not for the weak stomached. To prepare those with this sort of travel in their future, or to reminisce with those with this sort of travel in their past, here is a peek into the highs and lows of taking our six-year-old and five-month-old on a Colorado family ski trip this week. Buckle your seatbelts.

When I booked this holiday ski trip before Baby S was born I don’t think I believed that she would actually make the trip with us. Or, I thought that even if she did we would somehow have a grandparent or other family with us to trade off kid duties, or something. I don’t know how I expected any of that to actually happen, but I definitely didn’t book it thinking we would somehow actually ski with a 5 month old and 6 year old along for the ride without some sort of third-party hands to help. I think this is called denial.

Well, since I am still full-time nursing the little one, leaving her behind wasn’t an option even if a grandparent would have kept her, and so the day came for the four of us to head to Steamboat to ski together. Somehow. In -15 degree weather. Yes, we were taking two small Texas children to -15 degrees. Awesome.

family travel plane

Getting there actually wasn’t bad at all thanks to the nonstop flight from Houston to Steamboat and a baby that has thus far done very well on the 2-4 hour flights we have taken. As expected due to the very peak season weekend of our visit, there were no upgrades to be had at the hotel (more on the hotel in another post), so the four of us were again to be confined to one 300 square foot sleeping space with a baby who still doesn’t sleep very well most nights.

In fact, this introduced the real low of the trip. Well, other than essentially a repeat of this messy incident replayed in the hotel lobby before our room was ready. On this trip we learned that not only does the baby wake-up (often repeatedly) at night and squawk until she is nursed, but she also talks to herself very often in the night between feeding sessions. In fact, she makes noises that we have never heard during the day. At home with our own rooms we don’t hear the mmm, mmm, mmm, baa, baa, baa vocal practice sessions at 11PM, 1AM, and 4AM, but here in the same 300 square feet we hear everything.

Add to that some cluster-feeding-growth-spurting-needing-to-be-held-to-sleep fun times and you end up with about three hours of sleep at night by the end of the trip. On previous ski trips there was nothing like that post-ski nap where you ache from head to toe and you pass out so hard to recuperate. On this ski trip there was not only no nap, but minimal nighttime sleep as well. This made for some low times. We were literally begging for sleep, but whoever we were begging to didn’t answer our pleas. In all seriousness, this lack of sleep on the trip was very, very hard and took a big toll on all of us mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.

But then, there was the skiing. The main attraction of the trip. I hadn’t skied since blowing my knee while teaching Little C at Whistler in 2014. I sat out last season pregnant, so I was so ready (and nervous) to pop into bindings once again.

ski shot

And it was great. It was so nice feeling like a real adult doing one of my real hobbies once again. It was the sort of thing that rejuvenates your spirit as you make s-turns down the mountain hearing the skies slice and cut into the snow with each turn. I loved it, and the insanely cold temperatures didn’t even matter.


And then like Cinderella at midnight, 90 minutes later I would have to be back in the room to strip off the gear and feed the baby. So, it was a very measured and coordinated “freedom on the mountain”, but having the hotel right on the slopes made this precarious arrangement feasible. With the help of a babysitter for a few hours a day, we made it work and it was absolutely worth the effort to get a taste of the mountains again.

Then there was ski school. Ski school and Little C have not always been the best of friends. In fact, she has run away successfully for a bit before from ski school. So, it was little surprise that when I spied on her the first day she was the one face down in the snow crying through frozen snot for her mom. That hurts your momma heart to hear, but ‘saving’ her wouldn’t have done anyone any good in that moment. So, after watching her regain enough composure to ski down the ski-school-corral I had to stealthily pass her by and go feed the littlest one and cross my fingers things got better for the big one.

Flash forward to the next day when I again went to spy on C at ski school and this time she was leading the pack down the ski school corral smiling and waving to me like the happiest of campers (by this point she could recognize me even in full ski gear). She ended the day with a great report and recommendation that she was ready for the chair lift and bunny hill.

C ski mountain

At her request we spent the last hour the mountain was open doing the chair lift together and skiing the beginner run over and over again with each run being met with more exclamations of best-day-ever than the last. This was the moment I had been waiting for. This was when I got to ski with my daughter. Every single other hard moment on this trip was worth these 60 minutes of awesome.

family ski

Not only was that hour magical, but even more importantly, it gave me a glimpse of what future ski trips can be like as she really gets her ski legs and we move up the mountain together. It isn’t easy finding things that C and I both truly love together for any length of time, so I am still smiling ear to ear thinking about how much she truly enjoyed something I also love. This was the highest of Rocky Mountain Highs.

Then the day of our departure dawned and we were all desperate to get home and oh-please-God get back into a routine that included more sleep.

We took showers, had breakfast, started packing, and then that gut-wrenching-noise of a kid getting sick froze us in our tracks. Then it happened again, and again, and again.

The bathroom looked like a cranberry juice tinted horror scene. I mean, at least she made it to the general bathroom area, but I wasn’t even sure where to begin. So, I did what any good mom would do and high-tailed it out of there with the baby both in case this was contagious, and also to go source additional towels, puke bags, and more while dad tended to the kiddo and the ‘mess’.

By the time I returned with the supplies I could find, maintenance was already there in much needed partial bio-hazard gear dealing with the bathroom while the child was laying in bed with a skin tone that now closely mimicked the white sheets surrounding her. We also had to quickly try and figure out how much do you tip someone who is cleaning up your child’s vomit? When in doubt, tip well. 

This was about 90 minutes before the shuttle was to pick us up for the airport and we had a man very down for the count. A quick calculation tallied that staying another night would have likely cost at least $1,000 in change fees, room charges, food costs, etc. We may have been lucky enough to cut that number down some, but it would not be cheap or easy to stay longer and we really, really all wanted to get home. We were too tired to stay any longer all in one room, Josh had work the next day, and we wanted our own home base to get everyone well again.

So, as “go time” neared, we made the very hard call to at least try to make it home. We knew if she got sick again we probably wouldn’t make it, but armed with towels and plastic bags we had to try. C was feeling better after getting everything out of her system and had no other symptoms of illness, but was still pretty weak. Our best guess was she had some bad food due to the sudden onset and lack of any other issues.

Every few feet on the journey to the airport she would want to lay down, but due to the sheer volume of gear we had, having to hold the baby, etc. we had no choice but to encourage her to keep moving as we couldn’t carry her.

C sick airport

The airport check-in line, the slow-moving TSA line, the boarding line, etc. were all exercises in insanity prodding her to keep going. I felt horrible asking her to do it despite how she felt, but we had to try and get home. Her six years of travel experience really helped her and us make it through this process, but just barely. There were moments I did not think we had a shot at making it on the plane.

Ultimately, and against the odds, we did made it on the plane where she promptly passed out on the pillow that we had brought for the baby to lay on.

C sick

By the time she woke up 30 minutes before landing she felt well enough to sing, have a sip of water, and have the best 20 minutes of interactions with her sister she has ever had. Since they were occupying essentially the same space and had nothing else to distract them, they laughed together, snuggled, hugged, smiled, and were absolutely the sweetest sight I had ever seen.

In less than two hours we had gone from not knowing how we were going to make it one more foot towards home to having our two girls bonded together laughing with each other more than we had ever experienced. It was a huge up-swing on the roller coaster that was this trip and it came just when we all needed it the most.

We had gotten darn lucky in making the right call to march on home. I felt like we had won some serious battle and some sort of honor badges should be bestowed to us, or at least to C, upon landing. However, upon landing we were just granted the honor of making it through the Houston airport, retrieving luggage, loading up for home, and then starting the nighttime routine of dinner-baths-and prayers for sleep. Thank heavens Grandma was ready to help with pretty much all of that. 

The first night home brought with it the comforts of our old routine. The baby just got me up once, C woke feeling much better, Josh made it to work, the third load of laundry is turning, and here I am on my laptop with coffee at the ready.

Would I voluntarily do it all again? Heck, no! Well, probably, eventually. I mean, absolutely. The highs of family travel are intoxicating, and the lows make for a good story and a tougher stomach when all is said and done. Or something like that. Here’s to this adventure being in the books and to a hopefully smoother next adventure, wherever that may take us.


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