The Powder Principles: No Kids on a Powder Day

Dec 22, 2011
Outside Magazine

IMG_5759-Edit-1-2  [photo: Grayson Schaffer]

Here in New Mexico, meteorologists promised us a parched El Nino winter, but judging from the storms that have been tracking east from the Pacific all week, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. 

When it dumps snow, certain rules go into effect. These are universal powder principles that should be heeded at all cost. Number one: Any work that can possibly be done after dark should be done after dark, to avoid wasting precious powder and daylight. If necessary, mental health days should be utilized. (Caution: Just don’t claim a “plumbing emergency” to ride the lifts if there is any chance your manager will be riding the same lifts at the same time. You know who you are.) Do not jinx the snow you have; obsessively check the NOAA Now app on your phone if you want, but avoid publicly flaunting a storm that hasn’t yet arrived. Four, do not feel compelled to wait for pokey pals lest you lose all chance for fresh tracks. As they say, no friends on a powder day. 

Which brings us its corollary, snow statute # 5: No kids on a powder day.  

I know it’s the holidays: time to revel in family near and far, to gather your little cherubs close and let the magic of the season envelop you in a warm, fuzzy togetherness. Unless it snows. In which case, you need to go skiing. Pronto. Without them. Sure, this is your gift to you, but when you think about it, it’s also a gift for them. Yes, you want to teach them to ski. You want them to love the feeling of fresh snow underfoot, the wind in their face, the glorious freedom of zipping downhill through a winter wonderland, making perfect pizzas with their ski tips, etc, etc. Just not on a day when it's dumping a foot. Because even tricked out in bomber, tiny Patagonia Capilene zip Ts (just like Dad’s!), they will at some point start to snivel and you may be forced to relinquish your freshies for hot cocoa in the lodge. Remember, the last thing you want to do, according to extreme ski daddy Dean Cummings, is give them any reason whatsoever to hate the sport you love so much. 

5297616512_0486ba65da-1[photo: Dendroica  Cerulea] 

So in the interest of setting them up for success (in the words of outdoor education experts at the National Outdoor Leadership School), best not to push two agendas at once. Better to wait for the next bluebird day for ski lessons. Better still to call in the babysitter or Grandma or your chit with your spouse and sneak out of the house before sunrise while they’re all still sleeping, like I did this morning, and get your powder fix solo. No need to be choosy—any local hill will do: Mad River Glen, Mohawk Mountain, Whiteface, Purgatory or Jackson Hole. And if you're vertically challenged, Nordic laps around your neighborhood park count, too. 

Because sooner or later, the storm track may peter out. And then you will be grouchy and skiing boilerplate and trashing your skis. Which is precisely when you should be taking shelter on the bunny slope. The beautiful thing about kids is that they don’t really need snow to learn how to ski. Or much snow. “Kids are more than happy to slide down a patchy, grassy slope,” says Mark Jenkins, Outside adventure writer who raised two girls on skis in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow backcountry. We adults, not so much. Think of it this way: No matter the snow conditions—knee-deep or dust on crust—it’s a win-win for the whole family. 

So the next time it’s dumping up on the hill and you feel pangs of self-inflicted (or spouse-inflicted) guilt for loading the boards and leaving the kids, remember this: Happy parents, happy kids. And powder makes us very, very happy.  

 —Katie Arnold

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