First, the planning: When Sports Authority was going out of business Joe came across great deals on their rental skis - skis and boots were only $10 each! He bought 3 pairs of skis and 2 boots, all kids sizes because that's what they had left. All of a sudden, skiing wasn't going to cost a million dollars just to get the family into skis! We got those set to Caroline, Eli, and Patrick on Christmas day (Eli ended up needing to rent boots). We looked up a few of the closest ski resorts and settled on Crystal Mountain because all kids under 10 ski free, and even though it's 2 hours away it's still the closest place. We would rent skis for Joe and and for Ethan, and I would wrangle kids in my regular winter boots and not ski.
Second, the packing: We dragged out every pair of snow pants, jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, and ski goggles because the forecast said it would be a high of 20 degrees but feel like 10, and I know the quickest way to ruin a ski day is to be COLD. We loaded up a huge lunch, because another way to ruin a good day is to be HUNGRY. The two hour drive back was sure to be a time for rumbly tummies and boredom so I made sure we had extra snacks for the drive home, and I brought along our portable DVD player so we could rest our parental ears from any potential "when will we be home???" whining.
Eli is prepared for the cold
Third, the patience: Caroline and Ethan had never been skiing before, so they would need LOTS of help and probably get really frustrated. Eli has been skiing twice before and based on his two previous experiences, would definitely needs lots of help and get really frustrated. We're pretty sure skiing is NOT the sport for him, but he likes to think it is. Patrick would likely be no trouble in the physical portion, but he is a kid and kids can get whiney, so we needed to keep our wits about us and not lose our minds, like "we drove two hour to get here and paid good money for this skis and you will have fun so help me!!" We didn't want to be THOSE parents.
We spent the morning in the beginner zone, where they have a never-before-seen-by-me contraption that takes the kids around in a circle on flat ground. Genius! Get the feel for skis before you head down a hill! Caroline and Patrick really enjoyed this.
They had ropes for skiers/snowboarders to hold onto, and then a few tubes attached for kids who needed a break and just wanted to sit and have fun; Ethan really enjoyed THIS.
Ethan was even a step below the merry go round so I pulled him with my scarf. At first he screamed and screamed, like being pulled along at 0 miles per hour with your mother at the helm meant certain death, but he calmed down eventually and by the end of the day had devised a little "stop/go" game for me and enjoyed me taking him down hills.
So in the end, all our planning, packing, and patience paid off! Caroline ended up LOVING skiing, and Joe took her down the real bunny hill TWICE, and (with the help of Joe) she never fell! Patrick went down the bunny hill tons of times and never fell (all his own skill). Eli enjoyed the Magic Carpet zone and never broke down crying - WIN! Ethan ended up having a wonderful day with 1/3 skiing, 1/3 tubing, and 1/3 just running around in the snow. Joe had a fun day with whoever was ready and able to ski, and I had a fun day running around in my boots and not feeling frustrated that I was missing anything (like getting my money's worth, because I hadn't spent a nickel to be there myself). It was an adventure, to be sure, and took us from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with 2 meals on the road and 5 hours of driving (thanks, ski traffic), but now we can say WE DID IT.