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The Full Suburban: Final family ski trip of the season is a game-changing success

Julia Ditto gets ready to hit the bunny hill with son Emmett.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
Julia Ditto gets ready to hit the bunny hill with son Emmett. (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

I did it. I survived the winter season. The snow pants have been washed and put away. The piles of perpetually damp gloves have been lit on fire (just kidding, but maybe that’s not a bad idea). My biggest triumph was not just surviving the winter season but specifically surviving ski season.

We took our final trip last weekend to the Brundage ski resort in McCall, Idaho, where we were joined by my brother- and sister-in-law’s family and my sister-in-law’s parents, Roger and Jeanne. Little did I know that all the adults in the group had conspired to make me their project for the weekend, kind of an “Operation Make Sure Julia Has a Good Time” situation.

It’s no small secret that skiing is not my favorite activity – and I promise that this is the last time I’ll whine write about it this year – but this particular trip needs to be documented because, against all odds, I actually had fun.

There were several factors that made this trip enjoyable. First: the outsourcing of the little boys. I’m often the one who gets to stick with our two youngest kids, Emmett and Hyrum, because our ski levels are about the same, and I’d rather be with them on the bunny hill than staring down the face of a black diamond run.

But skiing with those two also entails lots of cajoling, lots of hiking sideways up mountains to retrieve lost skis and lots of trying to convince a stubborn 6-year-old to please stop skiing directly into tree wells.

It’s exhausting, to say the least. That’s why I was so surprised when, as we finished lunch on our first day at Brundage, Jeanne offered to take Emmett and Hyrum skiing with her for a couple hours. “Are you serious?” I asked. “Why would you want to do that?”

“Mom used to be a ski instructor,” my sister-in-law said. “She’s taught all her grandkids how to ski.” “Yeah, she just promised me $5 if I did 50 turns on the way down our last hill!” chimed in Jeanne’s youngest grandson, Lincoln.

I stared at Jeanne, unaware until that moment that angels could appear wearing puffy pink ski jackets. Emmett and Hyrum happily went off with Jeanne while the rest of the adults and older kids made our way up the chair lift to the top of the mountain.

Now, I’m not the worst skier in the world – I’d say I’m a solid intermediate – but I was having a little trouble keeping up with the others who tend to be more in the “advanced” to “insane” range. Roger, an avid skier like his wife, glided up next to me and started offering some friendly pointers.

“Bend your knees more,” he said, “even if you think you look ridiculous.” I tried it and after a few minutes felt like I had finally unlocked the key to skiing without believing I was constantly going to die. “Try to keep your upper body pointed down the hill instead of turning so much,” he suggested.

Again, his advice was a game-changer. By the end of the day, he had me literally eating out of the palm of his hand. At one point, he held out a Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cup, which he handed to me like a trainer working with a baby seal and which I took without shame, almost seal-clapping my hands with delight as I took the first bite.

So, yes, our final ski trip of the season was a success. I had fun, nobody broke any bones, and we didn’t lose a single ski pole off a chairlift. But still, I was counting down till closing time, taking “baby steps to 4 o’clock” like Bill Murray in the classic movie “What About Bob?”

When we finally got back to the car, I felt the same level of exultation as when Logan and I finally paid off our student loans. “I did it!” I yelled in the parking lot. “I’m done with skiing!” “At least until next winter,” Logan piped up, trying – and succeeding – to irritate me. I looked at him sideways. “Let’s get out of here,” I said. “I need to set some ski gear on fire.”

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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