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A family's February break leads to ski revelations

Eric Wilbur on the Best Vacation Week Ever.

As the headline of Saturday’s Conway Daily Sun boasted upon greeting visitors to New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley: “Best vacation week ever!”

Hard to argue.

After more than 3 feet of snow fell upon one of the Northeast’s most popular skiing destinations over the previous two weeks, nearly every mountain in the area — including Attitash Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain, Cranmore Mountain Resort, Bretton Woods Resort, Black Mountain and King Pine Ski Area — was running 100 percent open, just in time for what is normally the busiest time for New Hampshire’s ski industry.

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Add a dash of sunshine, moderate temperatures and a number of extra activities planned during school vacation at ski areas throughout New England, and it’s clearly prime time in the mountains, no matter where you might be headed.

In a previous life, these kind of conditions, paired with the promise of bluebird days, might have me playing the role of skiing nomad for a stretch of time, satisfied with sleeping wherever there was a roof, awaking with the only promise of having my legs ready to navigate the sun-splashed snow for days at a time.

But with my third- and first-grade sons off for the week, the Presidents Day break has finally morphed into something different.

For the past few years, this simply meant going through the grind. Yes, they have always gravitated toward lessons. Standing in the rental line wasn’t always the headache it could be. And my sons would be the last two to complain about the cold and needing a hot chocolate 10 minutes into standing in our first lift line.

But they were still students, still trying to grasp how this all made sense. And when it came time for me to ski with them following their lessons, one run normally would take the bulk of an hour as I skied slowly behind them, ready to pick them up upon falling to the ground, whiny and tired.

This year? We’re skiing together.

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While my oldest was prepared to take the next step in his skiing prowess this winter, his natural ability ready to progress further, it was my younger son, 6 years old, who was attempting to play catch-up, without paying attention to honing his own skills. It was only two weeks ago when he began a multiweek program at Blue Hills Ski Area in Milton, and after watching him pop the skis on for the first time this winter, then nearly fall into a rock garden after losing control of his footing, I remained suspect.

But then last week, he remained in control as fresh snow fell about the learning area. A week later, both of them took the opportunity for private lessons at Black Mountain, in Jackson, New Hampshire, and came back to the lodge ready to show off their turns. The difference after a 90-minute session was remarkable.

By Monday, the three of us were cozying up together on the triple chair lift at King Pine, in Madison, New Hampshire. Every time one of them fell, he got right back up. No whining. No crying. Run after run after run. They’re both up to intermediate runs. The younger one thinks he’s ready for the black diamond. The older one is rolling his eyes at this confidence.

By the time 3:30 came around, neither of them wanted to stop, even with the lure of going out for dinner and dessert awaiting. My wife’s knowing smile relayed what I had already figured out; that the anticipation of raising them to love the sport had finally subsided. It’s now a reality.

My kids are skiers. (Well, two out of three ain’t bad for now.)

Best vacation week ever. No doubt.

 

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