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Bonding on the slopes


I’ve got Low Rider snow pants from Betty Rides. They include a crotch gusset (I don’t know what that means, but it scares me), a radio clip holder, articulated knees (glad that something’s articulate), and “Hot Seat” butt insulation. Good. I’ve got the matching jacket. It features kick-butt hoods, a magic draw cord, and a music pocket system. Decked out in my new winter gear, I’m ready to face the elements of northern Vermont. My 14-year-old son and I are heading out for a mother-son ski trip, at America’s family resort, Smugglers’ Notch.

We’re packed: the gloves, the ski boots, the socks with enough technology behind them to fuel a rocket. We’ve got the hats and the face masks and the long underwear and the neck gaitors. We’ve got toe warmers and hand warmers and packs of hot chocolate. Snacks for the plane. Check. Enough underwear for a week. Check. Cash. Check.

It’s a Thursday afternoon, and we’re rolling.

“Let the fun begin!” I shout.

Five miles down the road from the home, I glance over at Zach. He’s wearing sneakers.

“Um . . . You did pack boots, right?” I ask.

“Oh, shoot!” Zach says. He smacks his forehead. “They’re at home. Can we go back? Please?”

With nary a disparaging word, I turn the minivan around and we head toward home. Everybody forgets things, right?

“Will you run in & get them?” Zach implores, giving me his best perfected puppy-dog face. “I’ve got the laptop on my lap.”

“Okay,” I say. I’m feeling like Mother-Of-The-Year. I didn’t reprimand him about having to turn around & go home. I’m running in for the boots. Aren’t I wonderful?

I dash back outside, holding the boots high in the air with a Mom-of-the-Year smile on my face. “Here we . . . Go . . . Oh, no!!” I’m sliding on the snow in our front yard. I fall hard on my insulated butt.

Zach’s laughing hysterically. He thinks that I don’t see this. I’m crying. He’s trying to stop laughing. I hobble inside to check my flesh. The bruise is huge: purple, the size and shape of the state of Vermont.

We giggle during most of the hour-long drive to the Philadelphia Airport.

“What a way to start a ski trip! Falling in my own front yard!”

“Hey, maybe you won’t be able to ski. Well, you can’t really ski anyway, but you know what I mean.”

Unfortunately, I do.


All goes well on the plane trip, and soon we’re landing at the Burlington Airport. A shuttle driver is meeting us for transportation to Smugglers’ Notch.

“What if he doesn’t show up?” Zach asks.

“He will.”

“What if we can’t find him?”

“We will.”

And we do, immediately upon descending the stairs to the small baggage claim area of Burlington’s airport.

Archie is friendly and helpful. He finds a cart for our luggage. He lifts the luggage. He leads us outside.

“Oh . . . My . . . God,” I chatter. “It’s fr . . . Fr . . . Freezing.”

“15 below zero,” Archie informs us.

But Archie’s van is warm. So is he. We have a great transport over snow-coated winding roads, and within an hour, we enter the gates of Smugglers’ Notch.

It’s after midnight, but the reception desk employee is chipper and cheery. He checks us in, informs us that we’re in Tamaracks 23, gives us maps and packets of information. Zach and I are hyped, and we race one another back to the shuttle van.

Archie drives us to the North Hill of the resort, where our condo unit is nestled among the mountains. He once again lifts luggage, and makes sure that the key fits.

The key fits, and when we open the condo door, my son and I squealed with delight. Tamaracks 23 was an oasis of comfort, with a gas fireplace, a fully-equipped top-of-the-line kitchen, a spacious living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a Jacuzzi, and four – count ‘em – four TVs. It was a home away from home, only newer. And much, much cleaner.

“Holy crap, this is so freakin’ cool!” Zach enthused. Our mother/son bonding trip was off to a great start.

After seven hours of sleep (the condo was so completely quiet that we didn’t hear one sound from other units), we were ready to hit the slopes. Zach and I started off on Morse, the easiest of the three mountains within the Smuggs resort. The weather was bitterly cold, but the chair lift attendants were warm and grinning. One man literally had icicles growing from his nose, for God’s sake, but he was helpful and patient with vacationing skiers. The temperature by now had dipped to 20 below, without wind chill. It was refreshing and invigorating, though, in an odd kind of way. This computer recluse was out of her element, decked out in my Elements series Betty Rides gear, and I was loving it.

After a short ski stint, we returned to the condo, which is easier than one might think at Smugglers’ Notch. You see, they have on-demand shuttle service. That’s right: on demand. One simply picks up one of the many easily-accessible house phones, dials 7000, and informs the operator of the pick-up and drop-off points. It’s a wonderful service, and the shuttle usually arrives within 5 minutes.

Back at the condo, Zach beat me to the Jacuzzi. He watched one of the many channels on the many TVs as I Jacuzzied. Then we hit the Fun Zone.

The Fun Zone is a fun place. It bounces with inflatable obstacle courses, sliding boards, and jumping stations for all ages. There’s mini-golf and shuffleboard and pool and a few interactive arcade-like games. There are friendly attendants and music. I embarrassed my son by doing a few moves of the Macarena with the resort’s mascot bear.

“Mom, please,” Zach implored. “Stop. Let’s go do that obstacle course.”

We got in line. I was the only adult. A teenage attendant grinned at me.

“Can somebody – like this – go on the obstacle course?” Zach asked. He pointed not-so-discreetly at me.

The attendant chuckled. He nodded.

I’m proud to report that I beat my kid at the obstacle course. Heart pounding, panting, I was the first to slide down to the other side.

“Hey, kid, you let somebody like this beat you?” shouted the attendant. We all had a good laugh.

The next morning, we arose earlier and had a great breakfast at the Morse Mountain Grille. This was a real breakfast buffet, a bountiful and beautiful breakfast buffet, with eggs and pancakes and sausage and French toast with real Vermont maple syrup. The mood in the place was jovial despite the early hour, with families fueling up for the day ahead.

After breakfast, Zach and I parted ways. He went to the Notch Squad (for ages 11-14), and I headed for my own private ski lesson. Smugglers’ is famous for their Snow Sport University, which guarantees that each member of a family will learn to ski or snowboard, or will improve technique, no matter what his/her current level of ability, or the resort will refund the entire lesson portion of the vacation package.

The guarantee held true. I can’t wait to see if I fit into my Betty Rides Low Riders this year. Smugglers Notch is waiting, and the snow is on the horizon.

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