Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold

The boys are on the floor playing legos.

Olivia has her earbuds in, celebrating her Christmas with Taylor Swift and the boys from One Direction.

Savannah is making electronic cupcakes and David is programming his new running heart rate monitor.

We are snug and happy in the lap of a huge mountain.

A mountain we were nearly lost on forever just yesterday.

We took the kids skiing and after getting everyone's ski boots and skis on (surely the hardest part) we were making remarkably good progress.  The girls were independently skiing and taking the lifts by themselves.  Caleb was competent, if timid, and Ethan was wildly careening and crashing, but happiest when tearing as fast as he could down the icy slopes.

It was snowing lightly all morning, but after lunch, conditions deteriorated quickly.  The flakes got bigger and faster and the wind started blowing.  I could no longer see the girls skiing down the mountain from the lift.  We decided to head for home.

We were on an unfamiliar mountain, but eventually figured out there were two ways home:  the gondola or the "short cut."  The gondola was a gentle enclosed ride to the bottom.  But since the short cut involved skiing to the bottom, and the kids were doing so well, and we had already paid the lift fees, we decided to get our money's worth and ski down.  How hard could it be?  We'd just follow the green trails all the way to the bottom. 

Trouble was, pretty soon we were lost.  There was so much snow and wind we couldn't read the trail signs or the map and even the green trails became treacherous with all that new powder.

There was crying.  (The kids.)

There was screaming.  (Me.)

There was gnashing of teeth.  (David.)

There was fervent prayer from all of us: Get us off this mountain.  

At one point Savannah lost control and ended up in a huge snow drift with so much powder that she lost one ski and both poles.  Only her head was sticking out.  I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe while she screamed.  She saw me laughing and started laughing herself, until she had to dig four feet down to find her ski.  We never did find one of her poles.

Olivia went somersaulting down a particularly steep section of mountain (who knows where we were at that point--green or blue or black diamond, all we could see was white) and lost both skis and had to try putting them back on in the powder at a 65 degree angle.

The ski patrol came by several times to ask us if we needed help, but apparently they only send rescue snowmobiles to help the bleeding and broken and since we were only desperate and in over our heads we were on our own.

Unfortunately, when you are in this situation, on a foreign mountain, in blizzard-like conditions, with four panicked and inexperienced skiers with you, there is only one way home:


A long way down.

At the lowest point (emotionally but not vertically) we were huddled together on the mountain. I was sitting in the snow.  Too tired from digging for skis, and trying to get them back on the kids' feet, and pulling kids out of snow drifts, and dumping out boots and gloves, and trying to bully children down the mountain, to stand any longer.

The youngest two were crying.

Caleb was trying to put a positive spin on things, "Well, we'll never forget this Christmas Eve."

The ski patrol came by one last time. "Are you in trouble?"

David just stared at him.  Because, um, yes. 

Olivia asked, "How much farther to the bottom?"

"Only a mile or two.  You're almost there."

Olivia started weeping.

David gave everyone a pep talk.  There were protests.  I put things more starkly.  "Unless you want to die on this mountain, there is only one way off it.  Get up and put your skis on.  Now!"   I could be a motivational speaker. 

Needless to say, eventually we found the bottom.

All of us in one piece, er...six pieces.

We only lost one ski pole and believe that to be a supreme triumph, considering.

Funny enough, the kids were so delighted to be down that they are only looking back on the whole thing with fond reminiscing, as if fear of imminent death and blinding snow with all that screaming and crying only added to the fun.  By dinner, everything was hilarious. 

Merry Christmas, from us, alive and well, far over the misty mountains cold.