Great Expectations.

Great Expectations.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 12/20/11 •  4 min read

Sad, but true: For some people, the most wonderful time of the year just isn’t all that wonderful.

Sometimes it’s a matter of expectations. All around us, we’re bombarded with images of the way the holidays are supposed to be: sort of like a Norman Rockwell painting crossed with a Hallmark card and a Walton Family TV special. There’s no way real life can possibly measure up.

This is especially true with a holiday ski trip. For months, you’ve been waiting to take the fam on the slopes. You can see it now: the snow glistening as it slowly drifts down, the kids gaily laughing as they execute perfect turns, the conditions Warren Miller perfect, and of course, the empty, uncrowded slopes. Apres ski, you sit around a roaring fire, hot chocolate in hand,  bowls of popcorn at the ready. The kids never whine or complain. Nothing and no one gets lost.

I hate to burst your bubble, but chances are, this ain’t gonna happen.

Nonetheless, a ski trip doesn’t have to be perfect to be great. It’s simply a matter of adjusting your expectations. Be flexible and roll with the punches. And follow a few handy tips. Things will go a lot better if you do.

• Prepare for the worst: Sorry, I don’t mean to start out sounding negative, but a little advance planning can go a long way in saving you a ton of aggravation. If you’re flying, bring your boots and a change of ski clothes in your carry-on. If you’re driving, do yourself a favor and invest in a GPS; it’ll help prevent the dreaded “where do I turn” arguements. When you’re on the slopes, establish a meet up place in case you get separated. Put ID information in the kids’ helmets or jackets. Give everyone a few bucks so they can at least get a hot chocolate if they get cold. Bring extra mittens, neck warmers, goggles, hand and foot warmers. Believe me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

• Be flexible: Don’t be so rigid that you’ll be horribly disappointed if things don’t go exactly as planned. If conditions are lousy, come up with alternative activities: a nature walk, seeing a movie, browsing the ski shops, going out for a nice lunch, enjoying the hot tub or pool. All these offer their own kinds of fun.

• Expect it to be busy. It’s the holidays. You’re not the only ones off. Yes, there will be lift lines. Yes, it will be crowded. Know this before you go and take it in stride. Smile at people. Be nice to the employees who are working to make your stay enjoyable. Things will go a lot smoother if you do.

• Try a small, local area. If you have a problem with crowds, scale down and go to a smaller, local resort. You’ll spend lot less, encounter fewer crowds, and the kids will probably be just as happy.

• Take turns. While one of you goes to conquer the black diamonds, let the other stay in the lodge with the kids, or take them on the appropriate slopes. You’ll get the gnarly skiing you want, without feeling deprived.

• Put the kids in ski school. Let them learn from the pros. It’ll free up some time for you to ski by yourself, and it’ll make them better skiers, too. Don’t teach them yourself. There’s far too much baggage associated with that, and you’ll all have a better time.

• Enjoy the little things. An hour spent bonding over a cup of hot chocolate can sometimes be even more fun than an hour on the slopes. Take in the view. Tell each other stories. It’ll be fun.

• Laugh. Make jokes. Tease one another. Try not the let the little things drive you nuts. Remember, sometimes the biggest screw-ups make the best memories.

Remember, you chose to vacation with these people because you love them. So if tempers run high, if people get on your nerves, take a step back. Breathe. Maybe go off on your own for a few minutes. Adjust your expectations and simply expect to have a great time, no matter what happens.

And have a happy holiday.



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