It's all downhill from here

My son, Silas, is in the fourth grade this year. This makes it the first year he is eligible to participate in the after-school ski program offered at the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.

Normally my son is not an enthusiastic participant in organized activities. I have spent years trying to persuade him to try Little League, Boy Scouts, YMCA summer camps, swim lessons, peewee soccer. Swim lessons were the one activity that was non-negotiable. No amount of Silas' wheeling and dealing could get him out of them.

"If you ever fall out of a boat, or off the edge of a pool, you need to be able to keep your head out of the water," I told him. I'm not sure how much time I imagined my son spending on boats and the slippery edges of pools, but it seemed like a responsible thing to enforce upon him.

Peewee soccer was our biggest disaster. Silas spent most of the time rolling down the hill on the edge of the field, or lying on his back in the grass, forcing the other 3- and 4-year-olds to jump over him in their pursuit of the ball.

Somehow, through some miracle, I was able to persuade Silas to sign up for the ski program. I really do think he'll have a good time (though I remember thinking the same thing about peewee soccer), but in truth I have no idea; I have never downhill-skied myself.

I think I might have gone cross-country skiing once, when I was 7, but people have informed me that those two activities are quite different. But over these last couple of weeks, Silas has been thrilled to be playing in the snow, and the after-school ski program seems like a good way to get him back up into the snow later this year. Here's hoping the weather and the snowpack bless our little ski resort this year!

Unfortunately, because of my own lack of ski experience, I often feel a little lost in how to prepare Silas for skiing. I know that a ski jacket, warm socks and gloves are important, but that's where my knowledge ends. Should Silas ski or snowboard? Are snow goggles important, and will my son actually wear them?

I can imagine him coming home without them and me having to wait until the spring thaw to traipse up and down the bunny hill in search of goggles. Luckily, I have friends who are much better informed than I in the ways of being outdoors, and not only was I told that ski goggles are extremely important, but also that they could lend Silas a pair. There are many things I am not good at, but knowing when to ask for help is not one of them.

So Silas will be participating in the after-school ski program in January, and I hope he likes it. But honestly, even if he doesn't, I would probably force him to finish out the course. Not only did I already pay for the lessons, but after all, you never know when you could be stuck with a pair of skis on the top of a mountain and have to rescue yourself by skiing down. With our lifestyle, that seems just about as likely as falling out of a boat.

So far, Silas is most excited about the fact that the buses don't return until 9:30 at night and that I went ahead and bought the meal plan, which includes his favorite gourmet specialties: pizza, chicken and french fries.

Zoe Abel is back after taking an unplanned break from writing. She is thankful to everyone who emailed her and stopped her in the grocery stores to encourage her to keep writing. It takes a village to raise a columnist. You can contact her at

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