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Skiing

These Christmas stories are supposed to be short on words, as much for my own sake, as for yours. So I'll try.

When we moved to Montreal from the Gaspe peninsula 18 months ago a lot changed. I've chronicled many of those changes here on the blog.

Our life is all about raising teenagers now: socially, spiritually, academically, we are heavily invested in this phase of family life. And for us, that means we no longer have a one day a week practice. It's just not feasible for us at this stage of family life, with homeschool co-op, social engagements (the life of teenagers), and a commitment to and involvement in a church body (something our kids want as much as, if not more, than Damien and I).

I have mourned the loss of this part of our family life and history. We grew our kids up hiking in the woods, summiting mountains all over the east coast, in New England and Quebec. Family life evolves and life in the city is full of good things and bountiful opportunities but I miss this.

Skiing together is something we've managed to hold on to, though it too has evolved over the years.

We started out as backcountry skiers, with a hodge-podge of equipment designed for gentle slopes. The following year we got more serious about climbing mountains (on skis) and we decided to improve our skill and work on technique with a ski pass to our local hill, which we happened to live at. (Yes, we lived at a ski hill). That particular year we did a lot of skiing.

The winter preceding our thru-hike we trained for our hike by regularly climbing up the ski hill (on skis) and skiing down. The winter after our thru-hike we decided we'd stick to the ski resort skiing, a couple people in our family were tired of climbing mountains.

This is our second winter in Montreal. We're currently a crew of 2 snowboarders, 2 telemark skiers, and one alpine skier. We haven't been in the backcountry together as a family for a while. But we still make an effort to ski together. And we juggle homeschool co-op, work (someone has to earn the money to pay for all this), church commitments, and social engagements to make this possible.

This is our sixth year on skis as a family. Because we are self-employed homeschoolers we take advantage of the deeply discounted mid-week seasons pass at Bromont. (And this year we purchased the passes in October to make it even more affordable.)

Depending on Celine's plans for next year this may be the last year we are able to do this once a week, all together. (I don't want to talk about it.) It will be another evolution, another change. I'll face it when the time comes. This winter we're all still together in the outdoors, and hanging out in the ski lodge, one day a week.

We had our first family ski day of the season yesterday.

In December, we bought mid-week season's passes for a local-ish ski resort at a reduced price from full season's pass rate.

The resort is Bromont, about an hour and fifteen minutes from the city. Mid-week passes give us access from Monday night thru Thursday night and the hill is open from morning till 10pm. Our plan is to ski one day a week, morning to late afternoon or lunchtime through evening. Night skiing here we come.

Returning to what has become our winter habit, we will once again be skiing through the season. And I couldn't be happier.

When we moved to Montreal we lost easy access to the outdoors. We moved here for very clear reasons, for everything the city could offer our family at this stage of life - homeschool community and resources, socially engaged and culturally relevant church, post-secondary and other education opportunities. But we left the beautiful Gaspe Peninsula to do so.

It's been months since our family has spent a day together in the outdoors, and a ski resort isn't exactly the nature-focused outdoors experience we are accustomed to.

Since coming home from our thru-hike (if you're new here, in 2014 my family hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, hiking was our life for nearly six months), we've gone hiking all together three times and the kids and Damien went hiking once without me. That's four family hikes in fifteen months.

When we came home from hiking the Appalachian Trail, some of us, ok Brienne and I, weren't sure if we'd ever want to hike again. Both of us are prone to hyperbole so that was an exaggeration of our hiking fatigue, but not by much.

These days, as adventure ideas get bantered around the dinner table Brienne remains uncertain, interested in travel and not wanting to be left out but not eager to sign up for privations of any kind, especially as related to personal presentation and hygiene.

I understand. I'm ok with certain physical privations; sleeping in tents, having one change of clothes, pooping in the woods, these things don't bother me. However, I shudder at the idea of intellectual and creative privations and quite frankly I'm not up for the challenge of pushing myself physically and mentally the way I did while hiking the trail.

Maybe someday when Damien and I figure out how to resolve some of our fundamental differences in how we engage with nature (he seeks challenge, I seek beauty), when I feel secure and confident in who I am, and when I have re-trained my cognitive patterns to respond in healthy ways when beset by challenge I will be ready for another long distance hike, but not yet, not now. (It's not on the radar but it's always in the back of our collective conscious.)

The intensity of our thru-hike, the fall-out after that, a season of physical rest, and moving to the city closed the door, for the time being, on one day a week. Something that was a bedrock of our family life for nine years. The end of an era.

This isn't to say we won't hike or backpack together again as a family but with three teenagers who have diverging interests our years of rallying the troops together around a common interest, recreation or hobby are coming to a close.

But skiing continues to stick because skiing is fun. And I cherish that.

I cherish this thing we do together, in an age when together interests are hard to cultivate. (This is one reason I've become a fan of video console gaming. No, not for myself, I still have no interest, but the other four love it. As they rally around their common quests and campaigns I see the value in supporting that connection. Plus, it gives me time for my evening hobbies and interests.)

The kids probably think I'm an overly sentimental mom (I am) when I exclaim, while waiting in the chair lift line, "isn't this so great to be together out here?"

They might roll their eyes, they're usually wearing goggles so I can't tell, but I'm still happy to be standing in line with them.

They have no idea how fleeting these years are and I do.

Damien was gone for nine days this month and I have to admit winter was harder in his absence. I realized a lot of my joy in this season comes from doing fun stuff together. (And having someone to snow blow the driveway helps too.)

Damien returned early last week, he made it home in-between two storms. Winter storms, or at least snow fall, means better skiing conditions, better skiing conditions means more fun. So unlike a lot of winter-cranky northerners we welcome snow. Because by our way of thinking (and living) snow=fun.

With each fresh snowfall, Friday morning skiing is an activity I anticipate all week and Sunday is a day to get in as many runs as possible. And this year, on my alpine touring skis, I feel confident, and am having fun, on everything but the double black diamonds.

Mid-winter is the time for many activities - playing hockey, crafting, enjoying hot drinks, making soap, walking in the woods. And it is most definitely the time for skiing.

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