As anyone who loves skiing will tell you, there is nothing like the thrill of plummeting down a near-vertical drop in sub-zero temperatures with waxed blades and inflexible boots clamped to your feet. You haven’t lived unless you’ve lived on the edge of a quadruple black diamond!
I say that in jest, of course. I am, after all, risk averse by nature and prefer both my bottom and my pride in an unbruised state. But I do love skiing for its challenges and its thrills. For me, downhill (or alpine) skiing is a blend of daring and mastery. It’s the thrill of the descent at hair-raising speeds combined with the comfort of knowing how to move your body so that you can slow yourself down if and when you need to. It’s a mix of letting go, knowing that you can pull back.
Speaking of things that are blended and combined and mixed (a convenient little segue if ever there was one)…
My family is a blended one. Between us, my partner Peter and I bring a total of three junior members to our fledgling clan. There is fourteen-year-old Hannah, twelve-year-old Lucas and eleven-year-old Christopher. Our gaggle of kids are as similar as they are different. They share a love of sports, of online gaming, of YouTube vines and of smartphones. Yet they have different personalities and idiosyncrasies which mean they express their shared interests in notably different (and sometimes… er… shall we say “less-than-sympatico”) ways.
Don’t get me wrong—our journey into the land of Blended Familyism has been a joy, but it certainly hasn’t been without its challenges. For one, getting used to sharing the same space has been a learning experience for all of us. The question of “Whose toy is it?”, “Whose room is it?”, or even “Whose turn with the gaming console is it?” becomes not just a matter of playing referee for Peter and me, but of establishing boundaries, setting expectations and navigating new territories in what is an emerging, but still fragile, dynamic.
It was when my family and I had the opportunity to go skiing together this January at Dagmar Resort in Uxbridge that we discovered a new forum through which to strengthen our young bond. You see, going skiing at Dagmar has been a tradition that my son Christopher and I have looked forward to every winter since he was about five years old. Our annual day on the slopes was time for him and me to reconnect—away from household chores and home work, away from extra curriculars, and away from all things electronic. So being able to share that tradition with our new family members was a moment of pride for us. It was a way for us to invite them to be a part of something we’ve treasured for many years.
But also, having a destination to go to, like Dagmar Resort, gave us the opportunity to get out of the house and out from under each other’s feet for a day. We had a shared purpose, a shared pleasure, and we were on neutral territory. It was no one’s slope, no one’s exclusive chair lift. We alternated which kids went up the chairlift with which parent, and for one glorious day it was about being together and appreciate one another.
Our day at Dagmar was loads of fun. Hannah and Lucas have not had much experience with skiing—it was only Hannah’s third time out and Lucas’s second. Despite this, they progressed rapidly. As a parent, it was a pleasure to step back and watch them encourage one another. Though Christopher had more experience with skiing, he never would have tackled the black diamond slope “Bomber” if he hadn’t seen Lucas fearlessly take it on with Peter. While the boys tested their newfound limits (or lack thereof), Hannah and I were content to hang back on the leisurely and picturesque Lovers’ Lane slope. It was time we don’t normally get to spend together on typical weeknights, when I’m making dinner and she’s crunching through high school exam prep.
[Edit: Miss Hannah, in her fourteen-going-on-twenty years, wishes to make it clear to all and sundry that she did not spend the entire day on the leisurely and picturesque Lovers’ Lane slope, despite having given the black diamond a pass “That one time!”, and that in all else she was just as adventurous as her younger sibling counterparts.]
Peter and I had a bonding moment as well, sharing a mutual pride as we stood back and watched all three kids peer over the edge of the terrain park. They marveled as a unit at the experienced skiers and boarders attempting Olympic-looking tricks, and then one-upped each other good-naturedly over who was going to be the first to get good enough one day to try it.
Dagmar is my favourite ski resort. It has been since I was brought here by my junior high school for our epic eighth grade ski trip. I have fond memories of wiping out in front of my pre-teen crush (who teased me about it for the rest of the year, and I pretended to be offended but of course I was secretly thrilled), and of hot soup and hot chocolate in the lively chalet with all my pre-teen friends. But as a youngster I was always a cross-country skier. Downhill skiing is relatively new to me. At thirty years old I learned how to carve on skis. I learned how to “pizza” and how to “French fry”—slow down and speed up by angling your skis inward or keeping them parallel. I learned that I’m never too old to learn something new.
Because Dagmar’s slopes are not intimidating, and accommodate all ranges of skill, I was not afraid to learn. In speaking to owner Caroline Yli-Luoma, this is a feature which make Dagmar one of the top winter destinations for skiing as recommended by BlogTO. “We have easy, gentle hills,” she says. “That makes it easier for families to get out, when they’re not so intimidated by huge hills. And you certainly can’t get any closer. You’re going to be coming to a family-fun resort with lots of smiles and great customer service.”
Family fun is what we got on our visit to Dagmar, as well as a new winter tradition for the five of us to indulge. The chalet was charming, the food was delicious, and the fun was unforgettable. Best of all were the memories we made. They are the building blocks that will help our blended family come together. Memories of sub-zero temperatures, of waxed blades and inflexible boots. And also memories of laughter, delight, thrills, a few spills, and a newfound passion that we as a blended unit can share for years to come.
Written by: Katherine Ryalen