Taming the ‘Ski Bum Guilt’ with a toddler

I decided to take Levi skiing yesterday, by myself.

The thing is, I still get Ski Bum Guilt (SBG) whenever I miss a powder day. Even though I am pushing 50, my fear of missing out dominating my thoughts like a forlorn teenager. I think of my friends up in Aspen who have made great sacrifices to obtain residences there, to live within walking distance of the gondola, to log their 100 days, to never miss a powder day. Later they will post photos of this can’t-miss powder day on social media, boasting via hashtag-speak about how they scored, like they somehow won some kind of contest. I never understood how having fun could become a competition, but there you have it.

I guess when you devote your life to having fun, the stakes are higher that you fulfill that requirement.

I guess the question then is how you define your fun. And how do you rectify the obligatory-fun paradox?

Here are some of the things I tell myself when I am homebound with a napping two-year-old and confronted with this age-old Aspen problem:

“I’ve had many powder days in my life, and I’ll have many more.”

“It will snow again. Today is not the last time.”

“This time in Levi’s life is so fleeting. I want to make the most of it and be with him as much as I can. I can snowboard more often once he’s in school.”

“I have a lot of friends who have to work today and can’t go skiing. I am not alone.”

It’s not like I’m not having any fun, after all. It’s just that my definition of what is fun has changed.

What’s fun is sitting with Levi on the banks of the Roaring Fork River throwing different size rocks into the water and imitating the sound they make. That makes Levi laugh, and hearing that laughter, rising like bubbles, is fun.

What’s fun is going to the park with our little plastic sled and pushing Levi down the short, steep hills all bundled up in his puffy coat and snow pants. He can hardly move but he loves the ride, wanting to go again and again. Seeing that big smile spread across his little face like sunshine is fun.

What’s fun is cuddling in bed just before naptime, reading books and having quiet conversations that get more interesting every day as his vocabulary expands exponentially. Watching this little person blossom, witnessing the unfolding of a human life, is fun.

This week was a tough one though. Maybe because it hadn’t snowed in so long and because I miss being active every day and I miss my snowboard. I also miss just being up there, in that element, sitting on a chairlift and running into friends and enjoying a beer at the bar afterwards, cheeks still flushed with the cold.

Screw it, I thought, as the snow piled on the deck railing outside for the second day in a row. We’re going skiing.

It’s true that two is a little early to start skiing, what, since they don’t make ski boots small enough for his tiny toddler feet. Or since he’s not strong enough to stand up on his own with the force of gravity pulling him down the slope.

I began to rationalize: I can hold him between my legs. He’ll love the gondola ride. I just want him to be in the element. I just want him to feel the glide. I just want him to get used to the sensation. These plastic skis will work just fine for now.

I was partly right. He loved the shuttle bus ride and the gondola ride. He loved seeing all the kids skiing at Snowmass, fascinated by the hordes of groms swarming all around us, clomping around in their ski boots and helmets and goggles.

“Tunnel?” Levi said, pointing at the magic carpet with excitement. He is all into trains and tunnels, so this was an exciting prospect for him. He was excited to put on his skis, though I began to sweat with the effort, the plastic straps awkward and hard to get on over his tiny Sorels.

I managed to get my skis on while holding him upright by his jacket like a mamma bear holding her cub by the scruff. As soon as we stepped onto the magic carpet, he fell forward and one of his skis came off. I tried to grab the ski and him at the same time, and stepped off the conveyer belt with one foot, the other foot still moving forward. Suddenly I found myself face down in a full split with the babe in one hand, a fist full of his jacket in my grip.

“Help!” I squealed, somehow breathless so my voice was barely a squawk, like an injured bird. “Help!”

When it became clear that the thing was not going to stop, and boosted by adrenaline, I somehow managed to get both myself and the baby back up in one fail swoop. When we got off at the top, I acted like everything was fine, and that I hadn’t almost just had both my legs ripped off like a rotisserie chicken.

I managed to maintain my composure, as much for Levi’s benefit as for my own, and salvage the day. We glided somewhat effortlessly and smoothly back to the bottom for one run.

Technically, he skied.

Later, I asked, “Did you like skiing?”

He replied, “Levi fall down in tunnel.”

He sounded proud more than he did traumatized. But maybe I had jumped the gun a little. Next time I would go with Ryan. Or try real skis, even if they were too big.

Or maybe I should go back to our new definition of fun: living in the moment and seeing the world through the eyes of a child. There will always be another powder day.

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