Friday, January 27, 2012

The Nine Minute Winter, Golf and Kids.

For those of us able to remember 1979, if only because age-wise we’re  in that sweet spot somewhere between untenable youth and impending infirmity, the year was  sort of a mixed bag. There were a few bummers: the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor threatened to melt down, about a dozen fans were trampled to death at a Who show in Cincinnati, and perhaps the most shocking of all, Britain’s first nude beach was established in Brighton. On the up-side though, Three Mile Island’s coincidental timing guaranteed boffo box office for Michael Douglas in The China Syndrome and the Who disaster guaranteed boffo ratings for a subsequent “very special” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

I can’t imagine, however, any up-side to a nude beach populated by a cluster of pasty, doughy Britons shivering on a rocky, overcast shoreline. Yeah, I know.

Anyway, 1979 was also the year that Steve Martin published Cruel Shoes, a collection of whimsy which included a shockingly prescient piece called The Year Winter Lasted Nine Minutes.  Which sounds rather a lot like this very year, I’d say. As a kid that story struck me as worst case scenario, but as an ostensibly grownup dad, the notion of a winter-that-never-was sure is appealing. And now with the roughly nine minute snowfall of last week well behind us, it continues to be a season with plenty of opportunity to get out with the kids and pretend it’s spring.

If, for instance, you’ve never gotten around to teaching the kids how to hit anything longer than a nine iron, now’s the perfect time. There are ranges still open and waiting, some of which even have heated stalls. Moreover, it’s a big bonus that there’s never a wait for a bucket this time of year. (Presumably  most of the old retired guys are busy dodging gators in Florida.)

And even better, some ranges have mini golf on site in case you have little ones to amuse while the older siblings are busy shanking the afternoon away. And if the kids don’t hit balls yet, now’s the time to get a lesson, because there are plenty of pros sitting around busy hoping they won’t have to spend the winter running from gators. Do it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kids, Snow and Gravity = Perfect Family Time

It was a crisp morning above the frost line on Whiteface Mountain during, lets say, 1988. The air was still and a few inches of fresh powder were a nice change from the usual late January ice that makes skiing in the northeast a more of a chore than it really needs to be. It was, all in all, a fine morning, right up until my buddy Dave and I found ourselves facing a drop so sheer that we weren’t really sure that we were supposed to be there. Clearly we had missed a trail marker while we were chattering and trading stories about the previous night that had started at Lums and ended up, well, never mind.

Anyway, retreating back up the lengthy trail wasn’t an option, so we decided to face this nasty bit of black diamond the way only real men would: we took off our skis and started sliding down on our butts. Genius? Absolutely, and we were feeling pretty good about the whole business until we heard the telltale swish of a skier flying down the hill behind us. Needless to say it turned out to be a kid, all of six or seven years old, and not only was he flying down the hill in perfect form, he even spared a second to glance back at us with an expression of pity I’ll never forget.

It had never occurred to me until that moment that kids and skiing not only mix well, but are a perfect match. And it was just that combination of fearlessness and ability to pick up new things that I was counting on years later when we took our boys to Ski Big Bear when they were about six or seven. Since then, the three of us have had a lot of great days not just skiing, but enjoying some of the other benefits of a day on the slopes: getting a chance to shoot the breeze while standing on line, talking music and whatnot on the lifts, and just generally having a good time away from the pressures of school and the distractions of home.

So even if you’ve never been skiing or are looking for an excuse to get back out after some time away, now’s the perfect time to pack up the kids and take advantage some of the resources out there. There are, for instance, late season packages, discount ski passes offered by retailers such as Costco, and the very tidy And… now’s the time to start thinking about your fourth or fifth grader for next year because there are skipass and passport programs available for free lift tickets wherever you may be. Do it.