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Ski Train - our family's learn to ski formation!

Here's a tip on how we skied together as a family when our kids were little. Our family skied in formation. I am not talking about making powder eights in the snow – although we have tried that too – but we’re a Maine ski family so that doesn’t happen often enough.

We skied in a particular order and it proved highly effective over the years.

Our ski train started with my husband as the conductor. Any of you who know Greg, and have skied with us, know what I mean. He leads the pack, has for years, and steers us to the best snow, keeping a consistent tempo. My daughter was typically next on the ski train, eagerly following her dad just a turn or two behind. My son would flank in and I was caboose. It’s a motherly detail, making sure someone is there if you make a wrong turn, or fall - a four letter word. We all try to avoid falling. Yes, I recognize that no one was watching me from behind, until very recently – more on that in a minute.

Family skiingFrom the time our kids were just learning to turn at the ripe age of three, pacing them and placing them between us kept their speed and skiing in control. This may all sound very contrived to you, but parents often ask me how we did it. That’s how. And when I see parents speeding down the hill to catch little Joey whose pizza pie has turned into full speed French fries with no stopping in sight, I think our train formation could prevent that, or at least catch it before the freight train speeds off its proverbial tracks.

You and your spouse can coin toss over who is lead and who gets caboose duty, maybe have a ski off (or not, on second thought). My husband memorizes trail maps so he plots our ski day, and naturally wants to be in front touring us along his well-researched trail picks. I have always been glad to be in the back since I love watching my family ski.

Sunday RiverThere were times when our kids were pretty tiny that one of them would just implode in the snow and take a hard headfirst fall, for no apparent reason – just a snow snake or a mogul mouse in their path I would explain to them. I was glad to be the sweep, see the whole thing and be able to respond with goggle wiping and promises of a hot cocoa break.

The obvious side benefit to the parent skiing sandwich, with the kids in the middle, is that you can protect your kids from fast moving skiers by blocking them from front and back. I don’t mean to make skiing sound like a defensive contact sport – but small skiers (not yet four feet tall) are not as visible and there are a few knuckleheads out of the slopes that just aren’t paying as much attention as they should. I highly recommend the ski train to new skiing families.

Sunday RiverOnce our kids turned teens, they wanted to bust out, branch out on their own, and ski independent of us. In fact, at 16 my son taught skiing at Sunday River – which gave him a whole new respect for our orderly ski formation and legacy of follow the leader. My daughter skied with freestyle friends and loved the freedom. On the occasions she skis with us she now vies for the lead spot, ahead of her dad, with limited success.

But just last week we found ourselves back in our good old ski train and it was like a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold day. Our turn rhythm was in synch, and it was awesome. Just one minor tweak to the train: my son has taken the tail position as caboose. I would like to think it’s because he now cares about me like I have for him all these years. I’ll rest on that thought.

All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke.

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