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Family Travel: Confessions of a Ski School Dropout at Granby Ranch

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I love skiing and even made a living promoting its virtues at a popular Utah ski resort. But I terminated my love affair with the slopes when I had children. Or rather, it fired me. There were a number of different reasons: cost, breastfeeding, babysitter hassles, I-70’s gridlocks and those $400 ski boots that no longer fit because pregnancy had inflated my feet an entire size [insert sob here].

Oh, and my snow pants are too small. But that is a different issue entirely.

After a few years of darkness, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel: my firstborn is old enough to learn to ski! So when I heard about Granby Ranch’s fourth annual Kids’ Totally Insane Winter Blast at Granby Ranch, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured I could swallow my pride long enough to rent some Big-Foot appropriate gear.

I resolved shortly after our arrival that Granby Ranch would be where our children learn to ski because the resort is devoid of crowds, has a slew of family-friendly events, a tubing hill and a ski school that is renowned for its innovative Direct Parallel teaching program. The newly-renovated Base Camp Lodge is located at the bottom of a natural bowl that features mostly green and blue runs – perfect for young families but so different from the more challenging terrain to which I had grown accustomed. You know, back in the days when I could squeeze into my ski pants.

Upon arrival, Jamie and I dumped dropped off three-year-old Hadley at ski school and jumped on the chairlift. We spotted a few alien deer tepidly making their way across the giant sweeps of snow that covered the earth like a moonscape. The slopes were nearly empty as we made first tracks on groomed runs, powder playgrounds and bruising bumps terrain.

We then watched the pitiable ski instructors round up the multitude of jabbering and whining preschoolers. I figured they had to be nuts. Or masochists.

Keeping track of them all was a challenge and Hadley sometimes got left in the dust. Not wanting to be one of those parents, we simply cheered or pushed her along whenever we got the chance.

“Hadley, you have the biggest audience!” her teacher wryly commented.

This is ski instructor speak for “Overprotective Parents, GET. OUT. OF. HERE!!!!!”

And so we did, dining at the delectable Seven Trails Grille. That afternoon, the weather took a turn for the worse. We skied a few more runs before heading in to retrieve Hadley. I was greeted by a frenzied staff member.

“Oh, we have been trying to reach you on your cell phone and posted messages all over the resort! Hadley had an accident.”

Now, I’m sure most parents would have panicked. But as the mother of a potty-training-challenged kid who was enrolled in a ski school where it is required, I just groaned. While the rest of the kids skied that afternoon, she pooped in her ski pants and passed out on the bench. Because evidently defecation is draining.

After Operation Cleanup, Jamie and I took her out for a few runs where she finally started catching on. There was the glory of victory. And the agony of defeat.

And the promise of many more outings to SolVista’s ski school. If our little Potty Training Dropout is ever readmitted, that is….

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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  • comment avatar Heidi February 4, 2008

    Well, at least you had a nice meal before you were “found” 🙂

    Seriously…she is beyond cute. I’m sorry about the ‘accident’, but glad you’re not letting that stop you from trying again. We’ve had many similar issues..and now we are finally getting to the point where we can all ski together. It’s so much fun. Until next year, when the boys and Mike will all be better than me, and I’ll be the one heading to ski school. Ack!


  • comment avatar Carol February 4, 2008

    The agony of defeat! HAHA! That reminds me of some of my skiing experiences when I first learned… only I was older and more breakable. Very cute pictures! 🙂

  • comment avatar lori February 4, 2008

    We haven’t checked out Solvista yet. But we had our almost-three-year-old in ski school up at Sunlight (outside Glenwood Springs) a couple of weekends ago and it was awesome! A. He isn’t potty-trained yet (we’re working on it) and they didn’t mind. B. They combined a two-hour PRIVATE lesson with a full day of daycare for $120! Still pricey, but a lot cheaper than other places we looked at! And at his age, he was tuckered out after two hours on skis….

  • comment avatar Annie February 4, 2008

    Baha! Defecation is draining!

  • comment avatar MommyTime February 4, 2008

    Adorable. I wanted to badly to get my 4 yr old son out on cross country skis this year (SE Michigan doesn’t much have the other kind of terrain 🙂 — and I literally couldn’t find them anywhere! Not to rent, not to buy, not to buy used. NUTS. I was really sad. On the other hand, I got to do my own little x-c thing on my own, which was fun. But no adorable skiing pictures… This seems like a great start.

  • comment avatar Angie February 4, 2008

    I remember when we would take our potty-training-challenged 3-1/2 year old little boy (6-1/2 now btw, but still has to be told to GO PEE often). I would cringe at the thought of dropping him off at church nursery or other drop-off services (aka IKEA) for fear of the ‘page of shame.’ “Excuse me, would the lying mother of the urinary-challenged child please stop shopping and come get your kid. He stinks and we now have to close the nursery for the next half hour for sanitation.”

    On a totally separate note, my 3 year old little guy dropped out of the ski part of ski school at Lake Louise last year. I went to watch the afternoon session and never saw him. Went into the club-house and he was happily playing with the staff and the 2 year olds ineligible due to age. He didn’t feel like it, they said. They didn’t charge me for that portion, they loved him (he is a charmer) and so I let it slide this time. I figure I can wait until age 6 to start living out my dreams in them, er, I mean encouraging them not to give up.

  • comment avatar Lisa February 4, 2008

    My first thought when I read that you had dropped her off and went about your merry way was “What about potty training?” Haha! Too funny!

    My kids are older and we still haven’t taken them skiing. In fact, I lived in UT for 3 years and never went skiing. I know, my head is hung in shame. My hubby loved it and now we are talking about going for spring break. So Cal has gotten glorious snow this year, and I think I may be able to manage my hate for the cold to roll around in the snow for a while. Because I know that is what I will be doing-more time falling than standing, I’m sure. Way to go Hadley!

  • comment avatar Paige February 4, 2008

    Funny! As one who doesn’t ski (well, I did ski downhill ONCE, and ended up hitting my friend in the face with a pole) and doesn’t even own any ski pants in my size I feel like a bad parent not teaching my kids to ski. Perhaps ski school is the way to go. I could sit in the lodge and drink hot chocolate.

  • comment avatar Peanut Butter and Jelly Boats February 4, 2008

    OH my does this post make me miss Colorado. I learned to ski on Copper Mtn. I think it is SO VERY COOL that Hadley can learn to ski at such an early age. It almost makes me want to curse Florida. Then I remember that it’s Feb.4 and 80 degrees outside and I know that Colorado can be our favorite vacation spot! ; )

  • comment avatar Mitch McDad February 4, 2008

    Too funny. I was going to write up SolVista for MHM’s but I haven’t had a chance. We went there a couple of weeks ago. I did a generic ski post on my blog — and was going to to a local one for you but you beat me to the punch.

    SolVista was great. I wasn’t overly impressed with the ski school, I’d call it more of a daycare with some skiing, but Lilly doesn’t do great in group instruction so maybe it was more about her shyness.

    The skiing is great for novices like me and for kids.

    The Margarita pizza at the restaurant was outstanding.

    And it’s very affordable–sans the $400 ski boots. 🙂

  • comment avatar Guinevere Meadow February 4, 2008

    I’m reminded of the song “beauty school dropout” from Grease:

    “Skiing-school dropout,
    No more snowy slopes for you,
    Skiing-school dropout,
    ….(Ok so I’m not so good at making parodies of songs…or rhyming…or coming up with anything even remotely clever…but I TRIED!)

  • comment avatar Joan Dalton February 4, 2008

    I haven’t ever tried SolVista before. I’ve been planning on taking my children on a ski trip the end of this month. After reading your blog I think I’ll give it a try. Sounds like fun!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson February 4, 2008

    Interesting comment, Mitch. I suppose in some ways ski school is a glorified daycare for the younger generation but I think they have designed it well. They have two one-hour segments where they are actually skiing. The rest of the time is play-leaning about it, eating inside and playing.

    Most of those kids could not handle more than one hour at a time. Trust me. I saw many a meltdown at the 45-minute mark!

  • comment avatar Lisa February 4, 2008

    You are very brave! While the Chicagoland area has been getting some snow, it’s definitely not the place to ski. I’ve been skiing once. Yes, once. My first time down the slope (I believe it’s referred to as the bunny slope…as in for beginners and little ones like Hadley), my skis crossed, I did a flip, and broke my finger. I ended up in the first aid hut with the school pricipal and the class nerd bringing me hot chocolate (he had a crush on me) for the rest of the day long trip. Scarred me for life. I’ve never been skiing again.
    She looks so cute on those skis. It almost looks fun. Almost.

  • comment avatar diana/sunshine February 4, 2008

    i’ve heard solvista is a great place – and not just for young families. i haven’t been up there in years.

    just pull her ski mask over her face. they’ll never know it’s the same little girl :]

  • comment avatar Stephanie February 4, 2008

    I used to teach skiing to 3 to 5 year olds at SilverCreek when I was in high school. (SilverCreek has been renamed SolVista). It is the perfect little resort to learn to ski at. I know they have done a major face lift on the place since I lived there, but the small resort is perfect for kids!

    Hope Hadley has a better time on your next attempt. Hang in there! Learning to ski when they are young is ideal. They don’t have far to fall!

  • comment avatar Heather C. February 4, 2008

    It does get better. I used to teach the three year-olds at Snowmass and had to delicately comment to over attentive parents about their attentiveness. But now that my three year-old skis in the same program I have to keep myself inside lest I go and do my own bit of hovering. Skiing is a tremendous pain in the rear for small people but it makes us/them all the stronger for it. Keep it up!

  • comment avatar Lizzy February 5, 2008

    Awww. You can tell Hadley that I embarrassed myself a lot more on my first day of ski school, and I was 16!

  • comment avatar Gina (mannyed) February 5, 2008

    Haha, you can obviously tell I’m not a mom because when you said “accident”, I thought she took a nasty spill on the ski slopes. It took me a minute to realize that she actually had a nasty spill in her…err…ski pants.

    I never skied before…maybe Haddie can teach me someday.

  • comment avatar Catherine Dix February 5, 2008

    See now I would have FEIGNED defacating to get out of ski school. But Hadley actually looks like she’s enjoying herself in that first picture. 🙂

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  • comment avatar pocker November 4, 2008

    lowered Allison,velocities lecturers undoing emotionally?… Thanks!!!