It’s that magical time of year: notski season. Non-skiers who live with or love skiers must practice the self-defense techniques that enhance survival until green grass returns. Dedicated, card-carrying non-skiers consider cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding as appealing as skinny dipping with the Polar Bear Club in the Schuylkill.
Here are 11 tips to help ytou cope with your ski-bum family and friends:
1. Sell your skis.
As soon as I got him to marry me, I quit skiing. He proposed on Chairlift 6 at Vail, on a sunny spring Sunday. The next day I met former President Gerald Ford and won the snow-snail award in a ski race. Could the sport improve? No, it could not. I sold my skis and poles.
2. Say it with body language.
When you see that tacky nightshirt that says, “Just because I sleep with you doesn’t mean I have to ski with you,” buy it. Wear it. My pre-nuptial agreement stipulates that I accompany the family on annual ski trips. Do as I say, not as I did. My gang doesn’t care if I sleep, throw snowballs or hunt elk while they’re skiing, just so we enjoy evening togetherness. (For your sons’ girlfriends, you can buy nightshirts that say, “Just because I ski with you doesn’t mean I have to sleep with you.”)
3. Choose your own adventure.
If they insist on your company, you choose the destination. Pick Cortina in Italy so you can practice Italian while they practice their turns.
Once, wandering Chamonix parlez-ing français, I ran into a high school friend. He was lecturing in three European medical centers, and he and his wife had taken the day off to see an Alp. Over dinner Michael Brown told us about his research on cholesterol. Six months later, he won the Nobel Prize for that research.
Or demand Innsbruck, where the tourist office gives free, day-long, guided mountain hikes to non-skiers. One day I was the only hiker. My 70-year-old guide had learned English as a prisoner of war in in Massachusetts during World War II. The 10-kilometer hike included a late-morning stop for coffee and pretzels in a tiny restaurant where we were the only customers. The owners’ 3-year-old daughter and her dolls sat on my lap.
4. Stock up on books.
Beginning at Halloween, explore the Kindle store for captivating titles.
All day, all night. Next year, they’ll make you stay home.
6. Make the ski lodge your eminent domain.
For 13 winters, Tug McGraw, former relief pitcher for the Phillies, tucked his sense of humor in the pocket of his parka and trudged to the mountains with his wife and kids. While his baseball contract prohibited skiing, “I was in charge of the command post,” he told me when I interviewed him for Skiing magazine. “My job was to make a frontal assault on the ski lodge. I would barge in, clear out a table and set up our fortification. All day long, it was my job not to let anybody steal our seats.”
“I got everything ready so they didn’t have to waste their valuable time,” said McGraw. “I took food orders and stood in line and bought what everybody wanted. Then I put on my moon boots, walked outside and found a strategic position on the mountain, a place where everybody would pass often. I was the official family photographer.”
7. At least get some good pictures.
Many resorts let you ride the lift one round-trip for a reasonable fee, so you can take panoramic shots at the top.
8. What’s the exchange rate on lift tickets?
Invest the price of a day’s lift instead on a massage, a turtleneck or a gourmet lunch alone.
9. Get fired up.
Master fire-building. Spend as much time as necessary and learn to do it right. Or turn the condo into a practice kitchen for recipes you haven’t had time to try. Your family will adore you.
11. Get a job.
Once I talked myself into a week-long job in a ski shop at Vail, beginning 9 a.m. Christmas Day. I didn’t earn commissions, but I rated a 30 percent employee discount.
Like skiing, notskiing is what you make it. Whether you’re sidelined for a torn tendon or fear of chairlifts, make the best of a day with your family. If all else fails, schuss up to the bar and order a fuzzy navel. You might meet Kate Hudson, LeAnn Rimes or Antonio Banderas.