Our family loves to ski, but with the girls’ schedules, getting out there to ski feels practically impossible. On a typical weekend, M has a track meet on Saturday and a soccer game on Sunday, while J has been going to a diving practice on Saturday and a volleyball practice on Sunday. So when we realized that we had zero firm plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided that we needed to seize the opportunity to go skiing.

The truth is, neither Cute W nor I were particularly enthusiastic. Couch-surfing would have been easier (and cheaper). For years we’ve avoided skiing on MLK Day because we’ve just presumed it will be too crazy-crowded. And conditions were not looking terrific. It was raining in the 40s all day on Friday, effectively washing away much of the snow cover, and then the temperature plunged into the teens and stayed there. But we have learned that skiing in not-so-great conditions is better than no skiing at all. The compromise is that we only did a half-day, mostly because we’ve all felt heavily scheduled and it was very, very cold. We headed to West Mountain, which is only about an hour away.

As expected, many trails were still closed from the recent warm deluge, but the trails that were open were almost all groomed to perfection, and it really wasn’t crowded at all.

We basically never had to wait in line for the chairlift. So that was awesome. We got in quite a bit of skiing, even if we couldn’t really explore the whole mountain as we would have liked. We were so cold that three out of four of us decided to pull off our boots to thaw our tootsies during our cocoa break. In the end, we were all really glad that we’d gone skiing, and we all felt like spending only a half-day was exactly right.

We skipped out on lodge food and instead packed in as much skiing as we could, then followed Yelp to a late lunch at Thai Sushi Aroy Dee in Glens Falls. They were very friendly and our food was tasty, but I didn’t take any pictures because as you might imagine, everyone arrived pretty much starving. Making them pause before digging in while I focused for a photo seemed way too cruel.

The lovely thing about going skiing and even going out to lunch someplace new and tasty is that we immediately shift into Vacation Mode. It feels like there’s almost a shifting in our brain chemistry or something, because suddenly the girls are allies and co-conspirators and Cute W and I are a smidgen less cheap than usual and everyone is chattier. Obviously we can’t be on vacation all the time, but while I always love my family, I both really, really love and like my family in Vacation Mode.

We’re also very excited that J has joined her school’s Ski Club this year. I was sad that M was never able to do it because she always had Friday soccer practices, and last year I’d tried to get J to sign up, but I think she was feeling pretty overwhelmed with her intense gymnastics schedule. This year she’s loved exploring new things, so she signed up right away.

On Fridays, J and her friends take the bus right after school to Jiminy Peak, an hour away, where there’s night skiing until 10 pm. They usually get back to the middle school around 11 pm. J knew that she liked skiing, and she knew that she liked many of the kids who participate, but she didn’t realize how super-fun it would be until she actually went to ski club for the first time. At school everyone’s supervised pretty closely, and for ski club, they’re really free. There are always teachers or chaperones at the lodge, but the kids are pretty much left to their own devices as long as they’re with at least one other buddy. J came home saying, “I didn’t realize we’d have so much freedom,” and she said it sort of breathlessly, like she was awe-struck.

And that’s so good for them! When we’re out as a family, Cute W and I always offer to help with boots, or J will just walk away without remembering to bring her skis with her. Bearing the responsibility of getting yourself ready and keeping your stuff in order for an outing like that really makes kids so much more responsible and mature. And they handle stuff. In fact, last time, some of J’s friends found a girl who’d manage to ski herself into the woods, losing her skis and getting hurt in the process. And they divided up, with some keeping her company while others skied down to notify ski patrol. . . in other words, basically doing just want a conscientious group of grown-ups would do. So, I love ski club. It’s super-fun and super-good for the kids, too.

Poor M, meanwhile, is not getting the opportunity to ski on Friday nights. I had hopes that she and I would get a chance to hit the slopes this week, while she’s got time off from school during Regents exams. Unfortunately, meetings and appointments have pretty much scuttled those plans–more on that later–but it may be just as well since it’s raining again today.

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