Each year, from mid February to late March, my Facebook feed fills with gorgeous pictures of snow-capped mountains serving as a backdrop for my Floridian friends and family dressed in snow gear. In the world of South Florida private schools, this signifies that the season of “Ski Week” has arrived. One week every year (and bizarrely, different weeks for each respective school), we South Floridians beg, borrow and buy approximately 200 lbs worth of ski apparel, reserve our family a week-long chunk of snow-covered heaven, and head northwest. We then post our ski pictures. The problem is, we are so out of our element and two degrees away from hypothermia that we forget to take off our goggles and helmets. If it were not for the name and geotag above the pictures (or the token picture taken by the fire in the lodge), we could easily swap photos and have no idea who’s who.
Coming from cold climates, my parents both deliberately made their home in South Florida to AVOID the ice and snow. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Miami Beach was transforming. What was once a sleepy city/waiting room for the senior-est of citizens waiting to enter the pearly gates, turned into a rapidly growing borough of migrating New Yorkers looking for a permanent place to thaw out and raise families. Short of a Bar Mitzvah/wedding/death, we first-generation Miami Beach natives rarely ventured further north than Orlando’s Walt Disney World. Most of our parents were permanently done with snow. I don’t think I owned a pair of boots until I moved away to college.
Things have changed considerably since I was a child. Miami Beach is still a destination for those looking to thaw out. People still migrate here to thaw, but now they also chill, turn up, turn down and everything in between. The people who call South Florida their home year-round have changed quite drastically, as well. We don’t fear the cold as did our parents before us. We covet it. Growing up in a tropical climate with no seasons other than HOT, our generation dreams of snow days and real winter wardrobes. And now, rather than photo albums, we now have social media to chronicle our lives.
For those beautiful native Floridian friends who crave adventure, are blessed with natural agility and athleticism and, who could probably have qualified for the Winter Olympics in a colder parallel universe, I marvel in awe at your prowess. It also reaffirms my belief that opposites attract since there is no other way to define our friendship.
With every Ski Week vacation, I proved my parents right. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my family ski trips, it’s that I have no business being on or near snow. I could attribute this partly to the fact that the highest slope I have any experience with is in the parking garage at Aventura Mall. I firmly believe that most South Floridians lack the fundamental understanding of gravity’s effect on angled surfaces. Especially cold, slick, angled surfaces. No matter how many cross-fit or spin classes one can attempt in preparation, your knees, hamstrings and quads are one movement away from a “ski story.” Consider each safe landing at the bottom of a run an omen. Repeat at your own risk.
I’ve also learned that no matter how cute little ski clothes are in the store, BORROW clothes for your kids. You live in South Florida. Kids grow. My son’s first ski bib was pink. I told him it was light red so I could save $200. Whatever.
As for your outfit, no matter how much you rationalize, don’t buy the $2,000 Bogner ski bunny suit. I know it looks so good on you in the dressing room. You will never get enough use out of it to justify the cost. True ski aficionados have their own fashion code and next year (or possibly the year after if you’re lucky), you’ll look like an idiot…if you don’t already. Splurge on the most comfortable apres ski boots you can find. Trust me on this one.
Furthermore, if you’re from South Florida, assume that you are unable to remain vertical on even the smallest patch of ice. No shoe ever created will allow you to safely and/or securely walk on ice. For some reason, Floridians are like ice magnets, and when we slip on that tiny two-inch patch of ice, our coccyx bone somehow finds the only other two-inch patch of ice to complete the fall. Assume everything is ice and walk accordingly.
Put your children in “ski school” to teach these little tropical creatures how to navigate quickly on this foreign white flooring. You’ll need that down time after spending two hours dressing them in the fourteen layers of clothing they’ll need to brave the elements. They’ll hate you for something once they hit their teens; it may as well be for blessing them with good ski form.
ski school graduates and black diamond pros
If you are a Floridian with limited ski experience, limited athletic ability and generally can’t ski well (basically, me), don’t even think about snowboarding. It takes the biodynamic element to another level. There will be swelling.
Looking back now on the many family ski trips under my big umbrella, I’m very grateful that we were fortunate to be able to make these memories, as painful and terrifying as they were. In hindsight, this Miami girl had no business ever being on a snow-covered mountain and I’m very lucky that I didn’t ski myself or my children off a mountain or two (although I did come close). Yet now that my older children filled their respective Ski Weeks with friend-filled afternoons at the beach (and my body reminding me that skiing is now just a way to satisfy my insurance deductible early in the year), I’m vicariously enjoying the Facebook timeline of my friends and their kids.
Enjoy your trip, ski your double black diamonds to your heart’s content, and PLEASE take your goggles off for the damn Facebook pictures so I can recognize you.