A potentially unpopular revelation: I’ve never had a problem letting my kids miss a day or two of school to try skiing.
Mind you, my now-teacher daughter scolds me for that day, but I point out to her not only how memorable those day’s gifts were to her; It was also noted how much she and her sister had learned. Because I really think a day or two on the snow gives a touch of everything the school does: math, history, science, social studies, and of course, the gym.
Let’s break down why — especially in this age of super busy weekends and holidays — it might be worth giving the family a mental health day and heading to the slopes.
Geography: I’ve always loved learning about the geographic history of a place before visiting it, and I’ve done the same with my kids. Understanding how the earth was transformed and shaped to form whatever mountain we would flee to was not content to teach them from a book; They saw it — and felt it sliding down the slopes — firsthand. How many school-age kids know how the Green Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, or even the local Monadnock (and what that word means) was formed?
Bonus geography: Learn the name of at least three other peaks, valleys, or lakes that you can see from the mountain and point to when you run.
History: There are stories to be read and told beforehand: The 10th Mountain Division and how it brought skiing to America is a great example. And each ski area has some kind of history. It’s easy to search and share — like when I took my kids to this wonderful cider shack in Wachusett after we shared its long history, or when we skied to Cranmore and learned about the Skimobile and the ski train and how ski lessons there evolved.
Bonus Date: Before you head out on your adventure, find and get to know a famous person unrelated to skiing who frequented or lived in the area. Example: Calvin Coolidge and Vermont.
Math: There are many ways to weave math into a ski day. When you are in the lift line, look at the number of the chair you see first, think of the crowd and then try to guess the number of the chair that will be loaded on it. Another fun activity is using the AP to track your runs (I like the Ski Tracks Ap, as well as the Epic and Ikon aps for tracking). Kids can get an idea of how much vertical running is and what’s involved in a day, as well as a look at the elevation. Mathematics can complement: Let the children learn how to spot tips.
Extra Math/Geography Activity: At the end of a day’s skiing or trekking, look at your head total on your tracker and then, using the map, help your child figure out where they would end up if they skied too far from that front door.
Science: Making snow is a science; Science with an artistic touch. Especially in today’s climate-challenged world, it is very good for children of all ages to learn (as best they can at their age level) how to make snow. Before you go, and while you’re on the hill, help them learn about things like the wet lamp, where the water at that resort comes from, ideal conditions for making snow, and how to best preserve it by taking care of it. It’s cool, about the best snow making systems for the environment, and then see what you find at your host resort.
Bonus science: Different regions have different types of snow—sometimes fluffy, sometimes heavy. Take some time to feel and study the snow wherever you are, and then, back home, see what and why it was that way that day.
Social studies: I’m using the word “social” here in coexistence in the world. Send your kids to ski school, at least for an hour or two lessons. There they will experience interacting with new friends, fitting in in a group, listening and learning from a new “teacher” and more.
Additional Social Studies: The Skaters Code of Conduct should be required reading for all skiers and riders. No matter how old your kids are, read it, learn it, and then practice it on the hill. It’s important, and it’s a great lesson for life in general.
The Gym: What better day at the gym than a day out on the ice? Your kids will practice balance, speed control and concentration. They’ll use muscles they may not actually use and they’ll get used to an activity most of them don’t even try in school gym class. Plus, they’ll be outside in the fresh winter air.
Bonus Gym: An Apres swim, bobsleigh, or snowshoeing is a blast.
There’s more: merging into lanes is a driver education lesson. Planning and Mobilization is a management course. Knowing how to act on the lift line and out on the hill in general is an etiquette course.
For me, that’s a lot of learning. Better yet: It’s so much fun. My successful adult kids are proof of this: Missing a day or two skiing is good for the mind—and soul—of every child and family.