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Ski days: finding flow as a family

| 09 Dec 2022 | 10:59

In the early days of our family’s skiing adventures, we would just go to Mount Peter in Warwick, to have a lunch picnic in the Sunrise Lodge and wave at my father as he skied past. My son cried when I tried to put some borrowed ski boots on him, so the first year he never even clicked into his skis.

But the picnics in the sunshine, in the middle of January, were fun. Ish. They were fun-ish. I had a whole blue Ikea bag filled with kids snow gear, plus two small children, who refused to put the snow bibs on. I would return home tired and my kids would wake up from their naps as soon as we got home, so there really was no break. But that was every day with two kids under 5 years old. And on “ski” days we got some sunshine and fresh air.

What it looks like now is me packing a hot lunch and a pile of snacks and never enough coffee, while my kids fill water bottles and find their gloves. We have been hauling two Ikea bags of gear (because we all still hate driving in snow bibs) and skis on the roof. And then we are out the door for a day of skiing together.

And “together” is the big difference. I am not hauling around kids, I am skiing hard to keep up with two people who love the snow and the jumps and even the rough landings. There are so few things that I do with my kids where I don’t have the upper hand, where I am not teaching or guiding. Yes, they could use some pointers on their form, but I need those too. We get to learn together and be equals on the slope.

There are not a lot of places that the four of us – ages 48, 41, 11 and 8 – can all be challenged together. Athletes talk about being “in the zone,” which overlaps with the psychology concept of “flow state.” You are so immersed in the activity that you lose track of time, you are being challenged and are meeting the challenge with all your focus. It is a state that makes people feel more alive, more connected to themselves. When people achieve the flow state together, it builds connection and strengthens relationships.

It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of a challenging run, coming out of the best kind of tunnel vision, greeted by huge smiles from my kids and husband, that I began to think that maybe we are finding flow together on the slopes.

It’s an expensive sport for sure, but during Covid it was really our only winter activity, and since it is outdoors and socially distanced by necessity, it gave us the assurance that we would be able to go every week. It was one thing we had some control over in a winter that gave us little control outside of our house. So the math became very different. It wasn’t in addition to the other stuff, it replaced a lot of stuff.

And that’s pretty much still true two years later. Skiing is the winter activity for my family. We haven’t tired of it, we itch to go more often. Even at the beginning of this season, when I was struggling after two runs – my back and thighs screaming at me to just stop with the squatting nonsense, it was still genuine fun to be out there together.