It started with a series of texts.
“I’m taking a mental health day next week.”
“Just letting u know.”
I was traveling on assignment in Finland’s frozen Lapland when Stella, my fifteen-year-old daughter, ping-ed me from the other side of the world. She’d been studying like crazy lately and needed a break. This was the first time my industrious sophomore had ever suggested such a thing. Who was I to say no?
Initially, I intended to take her to the city. We live just outside of Manhattan and it’s always fun to go in and walk around and have lunch—especially right before the holidays. But Mother Nature had other plans. The forecast was calling for a foot of snow to blanket much of New England from Tuesday into Wednesday, meaning Thursday promised superlative conditions on the slopes. Now it was my turn to send a text.
“I have a great idea—VT is getting a bunch of snow today and tomorrow. Want to go skiing Thursday? I can take your skis to have the bindings put on today.”
She wrote back seconds later.
Her reply delighted me. Though the years of parenting small children equates, on many levels, to slavery, at least when they’re little they still think the sun rises and sets on you. Teens? Not so much. That my daughter seemed enthusiastic about spending a whole day together made me giddy. And though her enthusiasm was likely inspired more by the forthcoming day of skiing than by the prospect of my company, I’ll take what I can get.
Mental health days usually involve sleeping late, but we rose even earlier than we would on a normal school morning. After reading the snow reports at the southern Vermont resorts and analyzing routes on Google Maps, I decided we’d head to Mount Snow. The mountain had the most open terrain and excellent online ticket prices. It was also just over three-hours from home. I slapped together a couple of peanut butter sandwiches for our breakfast and we hit the road, aiming to be on the hill by ten.
Again, Mother Nature had other plans. Morning snow and slippery travel prompted me to take the interstate instead of the twisty Taconic but I-84’s notorious, teeth-gritting traffic slowed our progress. We shucked and jived on backroads and by ten-thirty we were winding through winter’s wonderland on Route 100. The flakes stopped falling just past Springfield and by the time we crossed into Vermont the storm clouds had taken their leave, making way for the cold sunshine and bluebird skies that serve as backdrop for a perfect ski day.
School schedules meant that since we started skiing as a family a few years ago, our time on the slopes had been limited to weekends and holidays. Surveying the scene that morning, it was instantly obvious why people love midweek on the mountain—we parked a few steps from the base, booted up in a virtually empty lodge, and jumped onto Mount Snow’s bubble chair with zero wait time. If I wasn’t careful, playing hooky to ski could become a habit.
Despite intentions to play it cool, I donned my mom hat on the ride up, appealing for a selfie and emphasizing the importance of skiing a few warm-ups. She humored me with the photo and had no qualms about hitting Long John, a classic, meandering green, for our first run. Stella is a strong skier, but unlike her younger sister, she doesn’t feel like she needs to go out there and kill it on every run. She’s faster than I am, but like me, she favors wide groomers over the trees.
On a typical Saturday, Long John resembles the highway during rush hour, but that morning, we had the trail almost to ourselves. The previous day’s storm dressed the evergreens along woodsy Little John in white and the blanket of fresh snow spread across South Bowl sparkled in the morning sunshine.
Stella’s new skis—a shiny pair of Rossignol Temptation 80s—had arrived the previous week and she was thrilled to christen them on the fresh pow. She’s always rented in the past and I loved watching how excited she was to cruise the slopes in her very own skis. An added bonus of our impromptu ski day was that it provided the opportunity for an early-season gear check. While getting ready the night before I took stock of what needed to be purchased or replaced, noting sock, hand-warmer, long john, and mitten shortages with the knowledge that the coming holidays would give me the chance to stash some ski goodies under the tree.
Though the sun shone brightly all day, temperatures hovered in the single digits and both Stella and I appreciated the way the Bluebird Express sheltered us from the elements during our many rides up the mountain that day. The snowfall resulted in lots of dropped ropes and delivered even more available terrain, including fun trails like Drifter and Choke. The Sunbrook area opened for the first time that afternoon and we took a couple of runs down Thanks Walt before spending some time cruising through Carinthia. Though the Superpipe hadn’t been built yet, there were plenty of fun jumps along Nitro and in The Farm.
We took our last run around three o’clock and got back down to the Bluebird in time to catch the last chair at 3:30, but Stella’s toes were just too frozen to do one more. We’d gotten in a ton of skiing thanks to the mellow mountain vibe that day and climbed into the car pink-cheeked and happy.
When we pulled into our driveway at seven-thirty we found dinner ready and a fire in the fireplace. I’d stopped at a small market near Mount Snow to pick up a six-pack of Switchback, my favorite après ski brew, and my husband was happy to have a memento from our quick Vermont escape. All in all Stella and I did seven hours of driving for about four hours of skiing, but it was totally worth it. After a day away from work, school, phones, and responsibility, our mental health was restored and we were ready to take on the rest of December.
Gina Vercesi is an award-winning freelance writer with an adventurous spirit and unwavering wanderlust. Despite growing up in New England, Gina didn’t don a pair of skis until February 2014—the result of being raised by a beach-loving dad who eschewed everything having to do with snow and cold. When she finally took her first lessons and hit the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort, she became an instant convert. As an All Mountain Mama, Gina loves sharing the joys of Vermont skiing with powder-lovers and novices alike.
Chronicling journeys on land, water, and snow, Gina’s words and images have appeared numerous print and digital publications including National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Sierra, the Boston Globe, Delta SKY, Afar, Yankee, and many more. She is passionate about helping families (including her own!) unplug from electronics and the frenetic pace of modern life and believes that travel and adventure are the best ways reconnect to one another and the world around us. Gina lives in a friendly village on the Hudson River with her husband, three daughters, and a good dog. www.ginavercesi.com