Written by Ryan Dunfee who is still happily married even after taking his sea level in-laws skiing.
So, you moved out to Utah, fell in love with the Wasatch, stayed, got married, and now, after years of dispelling myths about Utah liquor laws at Thanksgiving, your flatlander, sea level in-laws are finally game to visit and come ski. It’s your big chance to show them what all the hype is about so they can stop asking questions about why you never caught the weekend football game, since you head to the mountains every CHANCE you get from December through April. They may even enjoy it themselves, too, and in extreme cases may exhibit signs of jealousy about your outdoor-centric lifestyle which you can then gloat about for years to come in conversations with your spouse.
Of course, for all its pleasantries, there are many intricacies of mountain life that remain foreign to sea level visitors and which we season-pass-buying addicts take completely for granted.
Things like proper layering, long skis that carry speed, pizza v. French fry, why you don’t eat a gut bomb at lunch on a ski day, and utilizing trees to provide definition during a white out are all concepts you alone are familiar with, and which you will lightly teach your visiting spouse’s family over the course of their visit, ensuring the best time possible had by all – including yourself.
Mind the flats, seriously:
While you may be incessantly focused on finding that perfect slope that is steep enough for your visitors to push themselves on while not so difficult that their sea level legs give way to an exhausted mogul-filled tumble, you must also keep in mind the other enemy of the family visitor: the flats.
If you want to get the full day in, your visitors can’t be wasting precious I’ve-barely-acclimatized-to-the-elevation energy hopping across pancake-flat groomer intersections on their snowboards or painfully rowing away at their ski poles until the next downhill. Pick stopping points where plenty of pitch remains, realizing that your guests are likely to stop several hundred feet below you and out of shouting distance because, you know, in-laws.
Keep them drugged:
As the official guide for your visiting brethren, keep in mind your responsibility to maintain the ability of the group to actually ski every day they intend to.
This means you must don a backpack full of chocolate, water, and ibuprofen, and force-feed your in-laws all three at a minimum interval of once an hour.
They may refuse this incessant resupply, but you will be comforted knowing that you are keeping the pain and fatigue at bay until they board their red eye home and settle in for a sleepless flight back east with quads burning like they’re made of fire.
Alternatively, if this is your opportunity for revenge following a summer visit faux pas, let them skip the water the first day and go big at après. When they wake up unable to move, you can go freeski as they determine the only physical activity they’re capable of pursuing is walking to the hot tub.
Coach them on the light lunch:
Yes, Mr. Wife’s-Sister’s-Husband, the chili bread bowl with a brownie the size of a child looks like a pretty tasty lunch after burning so many cals crushing pow, but you’ll have as much of a chance of getting back out there to session the mini park as I do of moving to Kansas for the skiing.
Let’s eat just enough to keep us from complaining about starving, then we’ll actually feel light enough to get back on the hill. Once the lifts close, we’ll be that much more entitled to crush a plate of après nachos the size of the table.
Seek the sun:
Utah storm days may be god’s gift to those of us who live in Salt Lake or Summit counties, but when the only goggles that fit over your mother-in-law’s glasses are darkly tinted Scotts from 1994, they’re gonna be needing the light to make the most of their day. Even if a bluebird day turns all your favorite pow shots to wet mank and you know the moguls on Dalton’s Draw so well so you could rip them in the dark, do your guests a favor and take them somewhere they can see; they don’t know the first thing about low-light lenses or skiing near trees when it’s pea soup out there. Oh and seriously, spring is your friend, a better chance of warmer temps and longer days.
Anticipate the layering quagmire:
When the in-laws visiting from North Carolina haven’t seen snow in six years show up in the Wasatch and see snowbanks that reach higher than the roof rack, survival instincts will kick in and quickly overwhelm any layering logic that’d come from a weather report indicating a high of 40 at the top of the mountain that day, and your brother-in-law will be covered up in everything in his suitcase that isn’t a bathing suit.
Bring your backpacking pack from the summer so you can fill it up as your visitors dump neoprene facemasks, down jackets, and scarves as they quickly realize that exerting oneself on the slopes, does in fact, raise one’s body temperature.
Drink Agua: Water does a body good, especially for those flat landers at elevation. Or, spice up their water with a little PepPod boost which that delivers plant-derived trace minerals with vitamins, electrolytes, amino acids and a little shot of caffeine which helps combat altitude sickness.
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