We spent the week of New Year’s in Morzine, a small village and ski resort in the French Alps south of Geneva. After a train ride, we arrived at a small family hotel called l’Hermine Blanche which provided breakfast and dinner for all. This was the first time either of our kids had ever put on skis, and we wondered how we would do. Michael in particular has been resisting the idea of becoming a ski family (not without reason, given the expense, the schlep, and the cold). Our Berkeley babies reveled in their first encounters with the snow, wanting to skip dinner in order to play in it. Gradually, reality began to set in, especially for Daphne who began to ruffle under the constraints of her winter gear: “My socks are uncomfortable.” “Something is wrinkled inside my sleeve.” “My boot buckles are too tight.” “There’s cold air under my mittens.” As I velcroed, latched, and zipped, I wondered how she was going to do when snow got inside her turtle neck or when her breathe froze the front of her scarf and all of the other little discomforts I remember feeling when I grew up in Minnesota. I started having her practice saying to herself, “Hmm, this is a little uncomfortable, but …I’m OK. This feels a little different to me, but…I’m just fine anyway”–a little behaviorist parenting.
Gradually, Daphne and Jack’s enthusiasm for their first ski vacation put all doubts to rest. Michael and I were actually amazed by how fast children can progress. Both mastered the snow plow the first day, and by the second, Jack could do a snowplow slalom down a beginner hill. By the end of the week, they could both ski down the easier intermediate hills and were proud to have mastered all forms of ski lift and gondola apparati for getting up the mountains. While the children took lessons at the Ecole du Ski Francais, Michael and I did as well. We had a wonderful moniteur named Catherine and were well-placed with some other French and Belgian skiers at the same level as us. Catherine gave us a range of tips and challenges throughout the week. She also proved to be a great tour guide, taking us up to higher less crowded mountains and talking to us about local traditions (providing samples occasionally too of local distillery traditions!). While the ski school provided lunch for the children, Michael and I got in an extra hour of skiing for ourselves and occasionally enjoyed a lovely adult lunch on our own as well.
L’Hermine Blanche organized a delightful New Year’s Eve celebration with a view of Morzine’s fireworks and a separate table for the children (Jack and Daphne were glad to be sitting next to Nathan and Camille respectively). While it was hard to get up the next morning, we were so glad that we got ourselves onto the slopes. The snowfall the night before had left a perfect, untrammeled powder, and Catherine took us up to one of the highest mountains in the area for a gorgeous view and the most beautiful skiing of our lives. A terrific way to ring in the new year. We’ll see if we become a ski family after all.