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‘Mental health’ day on slopes worth it – Boston Herald


Perhaps unpopular revelation: I never had a problem letting my children miss a day or two of school for a ski experience.

Mind you, my now-teacher daughter scolds me for it today, but I point out to her not just how memorable those gifts of a day were for her; I also point out how much she and her sister learned. Because I truly believe a day or two on snow gives a touch of all that school does: Math, history, science, social studies and of course, gym.

Let’s break down why – particularly in this era of super busy weekend and holiday ski days – it could be beneficial to give the family a mental health day and head to the slopes.

Geography: I’ve always liked to check out the geographical history of a spot before visiting it, and I did the same with my kids. Understanding how the earth shifted and formed to create which ever mountain we were escaping to didn’t just teach them out of a book; they saw it – -and felt it as they glided down slopes—first hand. How many school aged kids know how the Green Mountains, the Rockies or even a local monadnock hill (and what that word means) were formed?

Bonus Geography: Learn the name of at least three other peaks or valleys or lakes you can see from the mountain and point them out on runs.

History: there are stories to read and tell ahead of time: The 10th Mountain Division and how it brought skiing to America is a great example. And every ski area has some kind of history. Easy to research and share – like when I took my kids to the adorable cider doughtnut hut at Wachusett having shared with them it’s long history, or when we skied Cranmore and they learned about the Skimobile, Ski Train and how ski lessons evolved there.

Bonus History: before heading on your adventure, look up a non-ski related famous person who frequented or lived in the area and learn about them. Example: Calvin Coolidge and Vermont.

Math: There are so many ways to weave math into a ski day. When in the lift line, look at what chair number you see first, consider the crowd and then try to guess what chair number you’ll be loaded on. Another fun activity is using a run tracking AP (I love the Ski Tracks Ap, as well as the Epic and Ikon aps for tracking). Kids can get an idea of how much vertical a run is and a day includes, as well as take looks at altitude. Math can continue apres: Let the kids learn how to figure out tips.

Bonus math/geography activity: At the end of a ski day or a trip, look at your total vertical on your tracker and then, using a map, help your child find out where they’d end up if they skied that far from their front door.

Science: Snowmaking is science; science with a touch of the artistic. Particularly in today’s climate challenged world, it’s pretty neat for kids of all ages to learn (as best they can at their age level) just how snow is made. Before you go, and while you’re on the hill, help them learn about things like wet bulb, where the water comes from at that resort, ideal snowmaking conditions and how to best preserve it via grooming. It’s fascinating, on what snowmaking systems are best 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 dense. Take some time to feel and study the snow where you are and then, back home, look into what and why it was that way that day.

Social Studies: I use “social” here in the getting along in the world kind of way. Send your kids to ski school, at least for an hour or two lesson. There they will experience interacting with new friends, getting along in a group, listening and learning from a new “teacher” and more.

Bonus Social Studies: “The Skiers Code of Conduct” should be required reading for all skiers and riders. No matter the age of your children, read it, learn it and then put it in practice out on the hill. It matters, and it’s a great lesson for life in general.

Gym: What better gym day is there than a day out on the snow? Your kids will practice balance, speed control and focus. They’ll use muscles they may not already use and get used to an activity that most don’t experience in a school gym class. Plus, they’ll be outside in the fresh winter air.

Bonus Gym: Apres ski swimming, sledding or snowshoeing is a blast.

There’s more: Merging in trails is a driver education lesson. Planning and packing is a management course. Knowing how to behave in a lift line and out on the hill overall is an etiquette course.

To me, that’s a lot of learning. And better yet: it’s just so fun. My successful adult children are proof: missing a day or two for skiing is good for the mind – and the soul – of every child and family.


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