Kidding around the Gorge When skiing with kids leave them wanting more

By Ruth Berkowitz

For The Hood River News

December 6, 2006

“We’re not done, Mom, can we ski a little more?” pleads my 5-year-old son Kai, as he maneuvers down the hill on his cross country skis. This is our first ski of the season. The sun spreads pink in the sky and we continue down the hill. We skied up and over the east ridge above the Old Dalles Road in Hood River. Since there’s snow on the road we could continue. How can we resist? The moon is out and there’s still some light.

“Ok, but only for a few more minutes,” my husband Tim responds. We’re both super excited that our first ski has been a success. Our children, now 5 and 7, have been skiing since they were two years old and we’ve adopted the “always-leave-them-wanting-more” plan. We learned our lesson by skiing too many runs and leaving with our kids wet, cold and screaming to go home. Since then, we’ve vouched to keep the last memory of the ski day a positive one and to always leave with them wanting more.

Skiing with our kids is one of the most enjoyable outings we do as a family. It’s even better when their friends or grandparents join us for the adventure.

We’ve found that the best way to teach our kids to ski is to keep it fun. For our cross country excursions, we rig a harness to our dog so she can pull one of the kids. We also have a SkiAlong, a belt with a retractable handle, that enables us to cross country ski with our children while they either downhill or cross country ski. When they need a boost, our kids hold on to the SkiAlong’s handle and we pull them. They can release the handle whenever they want to ski unassisted. We use the SkiAlong at downhill resorts to help them ski the flat areas.

“Mom, the snow sounds like a zipper,” says Maya, as we play with various ways of describing snow which is a little crusty after last Thursday’s rain storm. But we don’t care because it’s such a treat to be able to ski so close to our backyard, especially so early in the season.

“Watch me fall,” laughs Kai. He bundles some snow in a ball and nibbles away.

Sometimes we pretend that our ski poles are magic wands. Sometimes we take off our skis and build snow creatures. Then we look for our creations on subsequent runs. Other times we’re owls flying and hooting with our arms outstretched. We’ll occasionally get strange looks from other skiers, but we’re usually having too much fun to care.

Sometimes our games are designed to improve their skiing technique. To work on wedges, we’ll make pepperoni pizzas on the way down the hill or try to squish blueberries between our knees.

But we’re not overly concerned about whether our kids are bending their knees or making turns while whizzing down the hill. We want to make sure Maya and Kai love the snow and want to come back. They’ll naturally improve with time.

In fact their technique often improves when they do not realize that they are skiing. Last winter, we found ourselves with four feet of powder at the top of Cascade at Mt. Hood Meadows. At first our kids resisted. “We don’t want to ski down this, it’s too hard.”

Tim started playing a game, “follow me, I’ve got the snitch and we’re playing Quidditch.” They followed him and skied down easily. When we made it to the bottom, we wanted them to turn around and marvel at what they had mastered, but they were too busy flying with their broomsticks. They wanted to ski another run, but we insisted on heading inside for hot chocolate.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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