Of all the memorable hot tub conversations I've had after a day of skiing, this one was probably the most profound.
We were in Crested Butte, Colorado at a junior ski race.
Our boys had adjourned to the wax room with their coaches, so my husband and I changed into swimsuits, gathered up our towels and dashed across the snowy deck to the public hot tub.
Easing into the deliciously warm water, we began chatting with another couple.
Our conversation went like this.
Him: How was the skiing today? We just got here and we’re so excited. It's our first ski trip together since we had kids.
Her: Actually its our first ski trip together ever and our first trip without our kids.
Us: Wow! That's great. You're going to have so much fun!
Him: My wife has never skied before. Where should she start?
Us: Ski school.
The next afternoon we saw this couple again. Her lower leg was in a cast. Their ski vacation was over.
But hopefully their marriage wasn't.
Defer to the Less Experienced Skier
Nothing brings out the fracture lines (sorry) in a marriage quite like shared activities that can't really be shared. For example when one spouse is a better or more dedicated skier than the other.
Just as when skiing with beginner kids, couples need to keep their eyes on the prize and this means setting up the less experienced partner for success.
Here are some easy ways to do this.
1. Sign up for lessons. While you may think you can teach your partner to ski or ride (and possibly save some money along the way), don't do it.
Skip the frustration and turn the instruction over to a professional. Ski instructors have the knowledge, patience and communication skills necessary to efficiently and effectively teach skiing and snowboarding.
What they don't have is an emotional connection to your spouse. While the instructor definitely wants your spouse to succeed, he or she doesn’t have a personal stake in your partner’s progress.
So spring for lessons for your partner and spend the day skiing on your own. Your spouse will progress more quickly and you'll both have more fun.
2. Let your spouse set the pace and pick the runs. Successful skiing and snowboarding depend upon confidence. And nothing kills confidence more quickly than finding oneself at the top of a mountain staring down a piste that is too difficult.
Remedy this situation by letting your spouse pick the terrain and runs. Yes, you may have to dial back the stoke for a while, but in the end it will be worth it.
3. Go your separate ways. Not permanently of course, but it's important for each of you to spend time skiing with your friends. The energy amongst a group of friends is different and mixing up the ski days makes winter more interesting and fun.
Taking time to ski with friends is important even if you and your partner have comparable skills. And it's especially crucial if you spend much of your time skiing with young children.
Just as it is sometimes good to ski as a couple without your children, sometimes it's good to let your spouse ski with the kids while you strike off on your own. Just remember to reciprocate. You don't want your partner to make all the family memories.
4. Take care of one another. Or as my husband says, have each other's back. This means being aware of how your partner is feeling and making sure you are both safe and making good decisions.
If your spouse looks tired, suggest a break. Carry snacks and make sure you both stay well fueled.
Other commonsense ways to have one another’s back include waiting for each other at trail intersections, not skiing too far ahead, helping one another up after a fall, and digging through deep powder to find a lost ski (more common in my home state of Colorado than you might think).
5. Most importantly, treat one another with courtesy and patience.
This will ensure that skiing together can be “for better” rather than “for worse” in your relationship.
Hailing from Colorado (USA) Kristen Lummis, or as she is better known, the Brave Ski Mom, is an avid skier and true family mum in every sense of the word. www.thebraveskimom.com