By Nadine Jolie Courtney
As a lifelong skier, I eagerly anticipated my first day on the slopes with my now three-year-old daughter, Aurelia. I set the scene as we prepared for a trip to Park City, Utah, and the Montage Deer Valley: snow angels, giggles on the bunny slope, and post-ski hot chocolate by the fire.
The ski-in/ski-out resort seemed ideal for both my toddler and my never-skied-a-day-in-his-life husband, Erik. Draws include access to more than one hundred trails, an on-site ski outfitter, and rental service, plus shuttles regularly run to Deer Valley’s base lodge, about five minutes away.
But as fate would have it, a couple of weeks before we left, disaster (for a skier) struck: I severely sprained my ankle.
“Should we cancel the trip?” Erik nervously asked after we learned I’d need twelve weeks of intensive physical therapy. He reminded me that his age of 44 was a bit old to be learning, and my immobilized ankle meant I would be back at the proverbial ranch, rather than coaxing and cheering my family on during their lessons. It took some convincing on my part, (“Yes, you’ll be fine. No, you won’t break a leg on the bunny slope.”) but the trip proceeded as planned.
On their first day of lessons, I hobbled with Erik and Aurelia to Compass Sports, the resort’s ski outfitter and, as they were fitted for ski boots, repeatedly assured them that all would be fine. I doled out kisses and hugs and as the shuttle drove away, Aurelia cheerfully waved and said, “Bye, mommy!” out the window. Erik looked forlorn.
Alone at last.
Mothers dream of “me-time,” but rarely does it take a sprained ankle to achieve it.
If you’re going to have a ski vacation without the skiing, the Montage is a great place to have it. The resort expertly walks the line between luxurious and family-friendly: This is a place where you’re as likely to see Gorsuch boots and monogrammed Goyard bags as you are to see children ready to hit the slopes or cuddling next to Monty, the property’s Bernese Mountain Dog.
I checked myself into Spa Montage, hiding my phone in a locker while I used plunge pools, the sauna, and then melted into a contented puddle in my massage therapist’s hands. I didn’t want to know about any issues. Mommy was officially off duty – at least, for the afternoon.
We reconvened at the Montage’s game room inside Daly’s Pub & Rec before dinner. Erik taught Aurelia how to play Pac-Man as I scrolled through the day’s photos and videos. While I wished I’d been there to witness her first time on skis, I was thrilled to experience a few of the resort’s delights in peace.
“Mommy, I ice skated!” Aurelia proudly (if erroneously) told me, grabbing the phone from my hands and pointing at a shot of her on skis. Once she toddled over to the video game section, Erik whispered, “She made it ten minutes before calling it quits.”
Each day, Erik and Aurelia returned to the slopes while I created my own version of a Montage Deer Valley Groundhog’s Day: spa, Champagne yurt, s’mores, fireside lounge … spa, Champagne yurt, s’mores, fireside lounge. Of course, we enjoyed togetherness time, too – a sleigh ride around the property, old school arcade games and shuffleboard in the lounge, and silly pictures in the photo booth. And every night, we retired happy (if exhausted) to a Montage room with heated bathroom floors and sweeping views of Deer Valley.
At the end of our long weekend, my daughter had yet to fulfill my mini-me ski fantasies, but Erik was zipping mightily down mini inclines – muttering “pizza, French fries, pizza, French fries” (skiing vernacular for ways to position your skis) the whole way.
“So? Verdict?” I asked Erik on our last night, while eating rolls and uni at Montage’s Yama Sushi. “I loved it, but next time, you’re on Aurelia duty so I can take the chairlift up.” He’s already planning our return trip.
Of course, my vacation fantasies didn’t go exactly as planned (do they ever?), but we made the best memories. And next time, though I plan to be present to cheer them on during lessons, I’m still reserving alone time at the spa.