Moms group at Northstar California

Moms group at Northstar California

By Eileen Ogintz

LAKE TAHOE, CA (Day One) — Why shouldn’t  moms have some fun?

No reason, concedes Nicole Reitter.  No reason except time when you’re trying to juggle work, kids and managing a household.

That’s why it felt so decadent when she took a day — along with four other women — entirely for herself.  She didn’t go to the spa; she signed on for a day-long new 4 Her program at Northstar California resort in Lake Tahoe designed to help moms carve out time for themselves on the mountain.

“A lot of time moms get cheated,” said Andy Buckley, the head of the resort’s ski school.  This Vail resort, with its slope side Ritz Carlton, is known for catering to upscale families.  It’s initiated a new “primo private” this year where coaches meet the family right at the car and help take stress out of the experience from the get go, helping with equipment, lunch and dinner reservations.

“We know how important their business is to us,” said Beth Howard, the vice present and general manager of the resort.  She explained moms were asking for something more customized to their schedules — starting after they dropped their kids at ski school and ending before pick up.

While women — especially the upscale crowd who frequents this Tahoe resort — don’t skimp on their kids, they do on themselves, suggests instructor Mary Ellen Pearlman, who teaches private lessons to many families. “Money isn’t an issue,” she said.  “They are just always focused on the children.”  Some of these moms will pay $800 for a private all-day lesson for their kids, she noted, but are wearing their husband’s hand-me-down ski pants and using old equipment.

The fact that the coaches are women is key.  “A lot of women are intimidated skiing with men,” Pearlman said.  “They absolutely have more fun with women.”

Champagne toast at the end of the day

Champagne toast at the end of the day

I know that first hand. I’ve always thought ski trips are the most labor intensive family vacations — all of the gear, getting kids to lessons on time, figuring out meals and shopping for food.  Is that a vacation?  I often wondered.  Add trying to navigate an unfamiliar mountain.

The ski industry realizes that women are dropping out of the sport far more often than men.  And with so many options for family vacations, if women aren’t having fun, they’ll go elsewhere.  There are multi-day women’s ski and snowboard camps but those aren’t aimed at moms.

That’s why Vail Resorts this year has initiated this program brand-wide — a different day at different resort.  Because families tend to come here from the Bay Area for long weekends, Andy Buckley said, Mondays were seen as a good bet, though the coaches immediately told this week’s group they could opt for a different day if it were more convenient.

Nicole Reitter said she typically was either skiing with her five year old or her husband who is far more advanced.  “When I ski with him, I always feel like I’m chasing rabbits down the hill,” she said with a sigh.  “I never have time to slow down and work  on my technique.”

The camaraderie among the group, she added, came as a surprise.  “We were giggling at women only jokes,” said Reitter, who like the others in the group is in her early forties.  At one point, she noted, one of the moms had to take a call from her daughter and the others in the group waited patiently.  In a regular class, she noted, the rest of the group might have gotten impatient.  “But we’re all moms… we understood… when something comes up with your kids, you have to deal with it.”

“Everything just clicked,” she said, the supportive coaching, the camaraderie and, most important, not having to focus on anyone else for an entire day.  “I’m always wearing my mom hat… my wife hat.. my work hat… I realized I’m still me and I had the rare opportunity to wear that hat yesterday.

“It felt decadent to take the day for myself but this was so worth it,” she said.  Her group, she said, is already planning a second day on the mountain.