When my husband’s intrepid stepmother broke her neck skiing, the accident scared me more than it did her. Weeks afterward, with one of those horrifying steel halos framing her head, Jacquelyn herself was philosophical: it had been a gorgeous day and she had simply taken one run too many.
That’s unlikely to ever be my problem. Since I first lurched down the J-bar slope at Black Mountain in New Hampshire at the age of six, I’ve been timid and complaining. My gripes were many, starting with my secondhand skis, which came engraved with their original owner’s name, and so my wiseguy brother called me Joan Fitzpatrick on and off for the next decade. (I hope he doesn’t read this; I’d hate to remind him.)
Over the years, I’ve never sought out a ski trip, but I’ve learned how to get down the easy side of a mountain somewhat gracefully. That’s because I don’t seem to be able to escape the sport. First my sister and her husband headed to Aspen for the summer—and never left. Then, on a train in London, I met a very intriguing guy from Denver. Ted asked me to marry him when we were at the midway point on a slope called Sheer Bliss. Need I tell you that our two kids inherited their father’s downhill bravery?Both are hotdoggers who would like it if we lived at the base of a chairlift—or within walking distance of Echo Mountain, a Colorado park entirely devoted to stunts and jumps.
And so, in our family, when it comes to discussing winter, or even spring, vacation options, there are always three votes for snow country. I myself have come around a bit: eating frozen candy bars with my gang in a gondola is undeniably wonderful, as is racing them down a meandering, tree-lined groomer—my kind of run.
Last Christmas, we spent a week in Winter Park, Colorado, with my husband’s family—Ted’s father, Jerry, and Jacquelyn, by then fully mended and undeterred even after heart and knee surgery—leading the pack. Call me selfish, but I peeled off for the final days (thank you, Ted!) and joined my mother, sister, brother, and their clans on Maui. They were staying in a rental house in Paia. It was the perfect place to recover from so much skiing.
Snowboard and ski duffels are made for lugging boots, wet socks, and grubby clothes. In other words, they’re ideal family suitcases. This one is by Burton (burton.com; $200). Tip: Hit a ski store in the off-season, as I did, and the owner might almost pay you to leave with a bag.