We moms all know the dirty little secret of family vacations.
No, I'm not talking about the piles of laundry when we get home, though that's certainly no fun. I'm talking about how moms whisper on the beach, on line at theme parks and at ski resort lifts that family vacations are really no vacations at all for them, especially when young kids are part of the equation.
Many moms joke they need a vacation after the vacation because just like at home, guess who more often than not is mediating squabbles, planning activities, navigating unfamiliar turf, keeping kids safe (and taking care of them when they're sick), searching for that missing bathing suit top or mitten and that everyone has clean socks? (Whenever possible, go for a condo with a washer and drier).
And if your family are snow lovers like mine, there's no vacation that requires more parental effort than a ski/snowboard trip -- all the gear (the helmets, the long underwear, ski socks and mittens, not to mention skis, snowboards and boots), the logistics of ski and snowboard school (racing to get there on time, what to do when kids balk at going), the effects of the high altitude and my least favorite -- getting off the plane and having to head straight to the grocery store so there's food for that first breakfast.
These days, when every snow sports resort is courting the family market big time with special deals as well as activities (check www.takingthekids.com to see what's going on around the country), Utah's Park City Mountain Resort is going the extra mile for moms.
My daughter Reggie and me in Crested Butte, Co, during extreme ski competition in 2003. (Photo courtesy of Crested Butte Mountain Resort)
Spearheaded by Park City executive Krista Parry -- a snow loving mom herself -- the resort has launched www.snowmamas.com -- a first for the industry -- and a place where moms can trade tips (even recipes for easy, healthy après-ski dinners), share experiences and even vent their frustrations. Full disclosure: I was so taken with the idea that I signed on to help edit the website.
Now Park City Mountain Resort is looking for more Snowmamas and papas to join the inaugural group with a "Become a Snowmama" contest kicking off Sept. 28.
"The Resort is looking for snowmamas and snowpapas from around the country who are passionate and excited about family winter vacations and want to share their experience and insider tips," says Parry. Entries will be accepted until midnight on October 15.
Yes, Park City is searching for snow papas too. Plenty of dads, of course, do their share and then some on vacation -- including my own husband who likes nothing more than whipping up a big breakfast for the gang at a vacation ski condo and then chasing them down the mountain (long gone are the days when he led the way.)
"My husband is happy to take the lead in making sure the girls' equipment and gear is appropriate and always is first on the scene when one of our girls has a wipeout," says Linda Jager, a Snow Mama from Park City, Utah to two daughters.
It's just that moms more often than not are the planners, the packers -- and the worriers. "I think moms take on way too much and don't delegate as much as we should," suggests Amber Johnson, a snow mama from Denver and mom of two young children.
If you're chosen, you'll get a four-night/five day family vacation including lodging, airfare, ski and snowboard school, equipment, lift tickets and even lunch vouchers, $1000 and an all-expense-paid invite to the Snowmamas Summit in early December and another conference in early July (ski resorts are great summer vacation venues too).
Your job: Answer couple of "Ask a Snowmama" questions every week and write some posts about your experience during the season -- not exactly a tough gig.
"To be able to share several hours on the mountain with my kids among amazing scenery and challenging ourselves...it's what family vacation memories are made of," says Jager.
"My fondest memories as a child were our ski vacations," adds Amber Johnson. "I'm so grateful to be able to provide my kids with the same wonderful memories that were the foundation of my own childhood," she says.
And that, after all, is why we're going on vacation in the first place, suggests a new survey from the travel research firm Ypartnership. Nearly nine out of ten adults surveyed said they plan vacations to create memories and three quarters think back often to those memories (I'm guessing when the kids are being particularly difficult).
All the more reason to "Let yourself enjoy the small things like seeing your child accomplish something for the first time ... It's OK if everything isn't perfect," suggests Snow Mama Katja Presnal who lives in suburban New York and has three kids aged 10, 8 and 7. Moms, she adds, should take time for themselves too -- on the slopes as well as off.
She discovered that first hand last season when she tackled her first-ever expert run at Park City Mountain Resort. "The feeling of accomplishment was huge," she said. "We moms owe it to ourselves to test our limits and get that "I did it," feeling, just like the kids.
That's why I'll go take a lesson rather than try to keep up with my gang. See, the drawback to all those years of schlepping the kids and their gear to the mountains, racing to ski school in the morning and back down the mountain to pick them up on time at the end of the day is that my three kids have become such experts at the sport that they love nothing better than jumping off cliffs or hiking to the toughest terrain they can find. That's all way beyond my ability and what my bad knee can take. Two have competed. One daughter built a pair of bamboo-core skis for a high school science project -- and skied on them in South America.
Yes, I'm proud to be a Snow Mama. I just don't ski with my bunch beyond a couple of runs on blue-sky days anymore. "Love ya. Mom!" they say as they race out the door to get to the fresh powder.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
Eileen Ogintz interviews families and experts around the world for her widely syndicated column Taking the Kids ™ and is the creator of www.takingthekids.com She's written seven family travel books most recently The Kid's Guide; NYC and The Kid's Guide: Cruising Alaska. For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow TakingTheKids on twitter and like us on Facebook, where Eileen welcomes your questions and comments.