If you had told me even one month ago that I’d be learning to ski in the Upper Laurentians of Quebec, on Mont Tremblant, in my mid-40s I think I would have told you to stop drinking. I am a yoga girl, body flow, centergy, weights, planks – I am good at all of those. Swimming, I endure as a means of fitness, and because pools are mostly warm. But, skiing? Well, the thought never crossed my mind until last weekend when the opportunity presented itself and then I thought why doesn’t the entire family learn to ski together?
Last weekend we flew to Mont Tremblant, Quebec with Porter Airlines and my family went to ski school. Picture me, afraid of heights jumping with strange planks attached to my feet off a chairlift at the top of Mont Tremblant. I am not, as I have already established, a skier. Nor am I particularly fearless. But I find that in my 40s I do more than I ever did before. I choose to embrace new things with my family and together we sometimes enjoy brilliant new experiences through travel. I hoped this might be one of those occasions.
We arrived at Tremblant Friday just in time for dinner and were outfitted with all the ski gear we needed. For a family of four who never skied that was a big undertaking. But Mont Tremblant has all the gear you could possibly need. You can easily rent all of it for the weekend. We were even able to borrow four sets of ski jackets and pants for each of us. The service was friendly and fast and we took advantage of the ski valet for the night so we didn’t need to carry skis and poles back and forth after each lesson. Then we had a great dinner at Gypsy. Tapas was delicious and another first for us. But here’s where it gets tricky. The wine during our dinner was flowing freely and I was happy to be in Tremblant, having fun, so we might have had a few glasses. Service at Gypsy was great and every time I looked my glass mysteriously was full again. We slept well in our spacious suite at Ermitage du Lac and woke early to hit the slopes. I didn’t really give much thought to the fact that wine maybe isn’t the best fuel for your body the night before your first ever ski lesson. Oops.
Family Ski School Day One:
In the morning we met our guide in the lobby ready to go. The experience putting on ski boots for the first time was challenging for everyone female in my family. My husband, the athletic guy and brown belt martial artist, knew how they buckled up, so thankfully that helped. We walked to the cabriolet feeling like astronauts. Psst say cabriolet several times in a row. It feels like you are visiting Europe. I loved that. Ski boots are heavy and stiff and not extremely comfortable (at least until day two when my feet totally adjusted.) It was slippery out too so the ups and downs on the stairs were super challenging (mostly for me).
Bob, our ski instructor, met us at the overnight ski valet and we started our first family ski lesson ever. How to hoist your skis on your shoulder with poles and walk in ski boots. I was shocked how heavy skis were, especially when you carry them all the way to the lift or the hill. But we managed and found ourselves together on the learning hill. I was completely okay with that. In fact, I could have stayed there all weekend, but Bob had other plans. We started with the basics of how to get your skis on and Team Schuck was doing great until one of the kids randomly fell while walking in skis and started crying. The next one took a tumble shortly after that and got back up and then Jim took a fall and I assumed it was my turn but I stayed standing. Little did I realize I would reserve all my falling for Day 2 on the big mountain run. The teary daughter stopped crying and we each managed to ski across the hill a few times. I wiped out once or twice and really needed to practice stopping, or snowplow as Bob dubbed it. The thing about falling on skis is that although you might be afraid of that at first, once you tumble a couple of times you realize you are landing in snow and typically it’s pretty forgiving, as is all the extra snowsuit padding.
“Remember snowplow,” Bob repeated to all of us.
If I didn’t seem to be getting that concept I’d hear: “Pizza!”
And the more tired I got, the more I heard “Chocolate cake.” All of that by way of saying put your legs and feet in a triangular kind of position. Incidentally skiing makes you hungry because of all the food references and the extremely challenging physical nature of it all.
The instructor was extremely patient and we put him through his paces!
We learned how to put our skis on and take them off. We learned how to criss cross the learning area and we managed to stay standing most of the time. About half way into my first day of lessons I realized that the wine the night before was a big mistake and that the breakfast I eat every morning at home when I work at a desk in my home office is a fraction of the meal I needed to have before an entire morning of skiing. I was dead exhausted half way through, my legs felt like lead, and I was pretty much not absorbing any more learning. My kids kept at it and so did my husband and they were doing great. I peaked early, I guess. By the end of the morning my kids, who were both anxious earlier in the day, skied right past me and down a hill. I walked down the final hill because it looked steep to me. I learned one final lesson that morning and it was this: Don’t be a dipstick and walk down a ski hill because it’s 50 times harder than skiing down the hill. My one daughter learned this lesson the next morning.
Family Ski School Day Two:
Day two. We were all excited to hit the slopes, err..maybe…bunny hills, the next morning. We were each able to put our skis on ourselves. The boots were still challenging to buckle up tight enough, but we managed. We adjusted to carrying the skis, and the gear was coming along. The boots didn’t feel as bad. In fact they felt much better than the first day, and I was able to actually ski a bit. I remembered some of what Bob taught us on day one and my confidence was growing. I skied down a different practice area and I was even able to maintain my balance on the magic carpet conveyer belt while wearing skis. That made me happy and gave me hope that I could do this. Bob taught us all to turn and to stop with a turn and we were each doing really well on the small hills with all the new information. Of course, that meant we were deemed ready to jump onto the chairlift with skis attached to our feet and suddenly head to a real mountain run. My fear of heights was peaking but YOLO as my kids like to say so why not?
I managed to get on the chairlift and hold on for dear life all the while feeling the weight of the skis beneath me. Bob took the chair behind Jim and I, and he sat with the girls. I heard him reminding them to jump as the chairlift slowed at the top and then I spied both of them landing flat on their bottoms. But just a few seconds later as I was contemplating how on earth Bob thought I could manage this massive long run, I watched as Payton sped past me again. Then Jim whipped by. Ainsley hesitated, this time not knowing what to expect from the run made her a bit nervous, so I decided that was my opportunity and I skied past her.
It felt great. I was doing it at the top of the run called La Passe and the scenery was stunning. So worth the trip. It was magical really and I could hardly believe how far I had come as I watched my kids sail past me again and then I realized I needed to turn and managed okay on the first turn, but wiped out majestically on the second turn. Bob helped me back to my feet. I sort of figured out how to stand again and then we were off. Each time there was a flat landing space or a new challenge, Bob stopped us to talk us through it and then we’d continue and do our best. Half way down we spied some seven, or eight-year-olds skiing up around us through the forested areas that are a bit off track and as I looked around I gained speed and totally forgot how to stop. We stopped to see the Tam Tam trail for a few minutes. Tam Tam is a new kid’s trail and it has all sorts of beautiful cravings along it and at the entry way.
At that point Ainsley took her skis off entirely, because her legs were hurting. She walked for about five minutes before she realized the same thing I realized the day before. Never walk down a mountain when you have skis, because it is way way harder to walk. At a few points my older daughter got nervous on the run, but if Bob saw she was having trouble he took the time to help Payton down and he skied with her holding on to his waist for a short section of the run. He was also really good at reminding us all we could do it and stepping back to give us space to try.
On the level passages I grew more confident and was doing better. Bob would remind me to pick up speed so I didn’t have to work so hard on the flat parts of the trail, but I didn’t mind slowing down at all and it gave me a moment to look around and appreciate the beauty of the space we were in. Two and a half hours over two days for all four of us and we were skiers. We had all the basics. That first day, I asked Bob if it was likely we could learn to ski in as little as two days and he told me that first day yes we could. It’s possible to learn to ski in two days. In fact your entire family can learn to ski like ours did in two days.
By the end of the second day we made it!! We knew how to ski. Oh, I wasn’t graceful, or anything, and I landed on my butt at least three times that last day. But I did it. We did it! Team Schuck learned how to ski in two days at Mont Tremblant. And on day two, I was a skier. I fell plenty of times, but I got back up. (Also a good lesson for my kids, age 10 and 13.) My entire family skied down one of the runs at Mont Tremblant on the Sunday just before we left for home. I know. I know. I could hardly believe it myself. I learned how to ski in my mid-40s and what’s more I actually really enjoyed it! Plus the fitness potential is spectacular! My body was screaming at me Monday morning, in a good way. I had worked muscles that I didn’t know I had in my thighs and my upper back. Even super sporty 10-year-old who runs and swims and rides horses, and skates and does martial arts told the teachers her hamstrings were sore after skiing. (I didn’t think she had any muscles left that weren’t activated daily in her fitness routine.)
Now here’s to hoping we all remember how to do this again next year. I enjoyed it that much and as Bob kept saying: “The family that skis together, stays together.”
I can see us returning next year for more and the year after that and so on…because, with 96 trails, Mont Tremblant awaits!!
We were guests of Mont Tremblant for a weekend recently. We received accommodations flights and meals for free. I have been sharing our experiences here on my blog. We never ever skied before the weekend we travelled to Mont Tremblant. My opinion is my own.
There is still time to visit Mont Tremblant this season. I highly recommend it.
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