Robert, of course, loves to ski, but he hasn't gone skiing since January 2008. This year, as a surprise to him, I planned our first family ski trip--just a quick two-day weekend trip to Loon, in Lincoln, New Hampshire, only a two-hour drive from Boston.
We got a Zipcar minivan from the Prudential and carpooled up with Sarah and Sean on Friday night. Along the way we stopped for excellent barbeque at the Smoke Shack. Brisket burritos, bbq sundaes, and everything else was great.
Marcus fell asleep at dinner, spread out on the booth, and transferred to the car. He was still sleeping when we pulled up to the Mountain Club, the on-mountain hotel with ski-out access. We carried him up and transferred him to bed, where he stayed sleeping and Samantha leapt into bed wide awake just to be near him.
The next morning we were up bright and early, eating cereal and fruit and peanut butter in the room and then taking the little wood-burning steam-powered train from the base closest to our hotel to the other base, where the rentals and ski school area were.
First a train, and the a tunnel--you had to walk through this neat corrugated tunnel under the road to get to the ski school, and it provided a lovely echo when the kids made soft owl sounds in it.
We dropped Marcus off a few minutes before 8:30, and they said they'd get him outfitted with boots and a helmet and skis and then into his snow gear (including his brand-new goggles, which he was wild about) before his two-hour lesson in the morning. The kids' program also included lunch (pizza and hot chocolate--he was pretty happy with this, of course) and then another two-hour lesson in the afternoon, and then a snack before pickup.
Samantha helped Robert get his boots on, and then Robert and Sean headed out for a day of skiing together.
There was a lot of snow--it had snowed the day before we arrived, about 6 inches, and there'd been 18 inches the week before. The mountain was 100% open and mostly packed powder.
Sarah and Samantha and I sat and read books by the fireplace in the lobby of our hotel ("This fire needs. . . marshmallows!" Samantha said), and then we took the gondola to the top to meet Robert and Sean for lunch. After lunch, wiped out by all her fun, Samantha fell asleep and I transferred her to the bed in our room while Sarah and I talked.
At 3:00 we picked up Marcus, who had had a wonderful, wonderful day. He had graduated to the "big" magic carpet lift from the small one during his lessons, and he went on a chairlift with Robert for one run after the lessons.
Marcus, Sean, and Robert all wore helmets, of course, though Robert had to be talked into his by a friendly mountain guide who gave it to him for free for two days in the interests of safety. Samantha kept asking where her helmet was--in fact, she kept asking where all of her skiing gear was, as she was pretty sure she'd be skiing too. We had to talk her down with treats and pancakes and train rides and gondola rides, and promises of skiing next year, when she's older.
On Sunday, Marcus went back to ski school and Robert went off to ski by himself, finding a friend in an older, athletic guy he was well-matched with. Sean was exhausted so skipped skiing in favor of driving the rest of us to Polly's Pancake House, about 40 minutes away, for a great breakfast--buckwheat pancakes with walnut, oatmeal-buttermilk pancakes, or cornmeal pancakes, with beautiful creamy maple butter. Samantha devoured every bite of the sausage patties that came with my meal, and we had a lovely time.
We got back to the mountain in time to meet Robert at midday and hang out at the base a bit and then go get Marcus. He had another fabulous day on skis--just a great time!
Together we all watched the soapbox sled derby, with very elaborate cardboard and duck tape sleds made by teams of kids. Marcus had loved skiing so much he was mad that we had to pick him up early, and pouted until the sledding race caught his attention. He shared a sandwich with Robert while we watched, and then we headed into the car.
We drove to Manchester to watch Sean's favorite hockey team, the Hershey Bears, play the Manchester Monarchs. Sarah completely burst my bubble when she told me that the Monarchs weren't butterflies, but rather lions. With our kids dressed in Bears gear, though, we clearly rooted for the Bears (who lost). The game itself was a wild spectacle worthy of a Simpsons parody--it was Girl Scout day and Star Wars day and also the lion mascot's "birthday" party day, so there were Girl Scout troops singing patriotic songs with Star Wars figures in the background making gestures with light sabers, and a crazy assortment of other mascots (some from other hockey teams, some from universities or local businesses) who came to join the lion mascot's "party." The half-time show was a dance troop approximating Sparklemotion, and the visiting mascots kept roaming the stands, utterly terrifying Samantha, who would first clasp one hand over her mouth in silent terror, then a second, and then recoil against Robert. Meanwhile the baby behind us had a homemade Princess Leia hat on, in the spirit of things, and a remote-controlled blimp flew above us in the stadium and dropped free tickets for future games. I was in awe.
From there we drove a couple minutes to a Nepalese and Tibetan restaurant in Manchester, Cafe Momo. The service was slow and sad, the restaurant was empty, but the momos (wild boar and then goat) were great. It was a tasty end to a wonderful weekend.
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