Things were going downhill fast for this burned-out mom. Then a getaway on the slopes helped her feel whole again.

By Cari Wira Dineen
Updated October 13, 2015
ski adventure
Credit: Getty Images

Getty ImagesFor the past couple of years, I hadn't gotten around to working out, despite my best intentions. I was consumed with keeping up with my 4-year-old and tending to a colicky baby as I fueled myself with coffee and soothed my nerves with an evening glass or two of wine. I was still carrying the 20 pounds I'd gained from pregnancy, along with another 10 I put on post baby. (Breast-feeding apparently doesn't burn off daily doughnuts and dishes of ice cream.) I felt trapped and depressed, and I regularly fantasized about who I was before I became a mom: a fairly stylish and ambitious woman who never left the house without lip gloss on. Now I frequently snapped at my husband and felt oppressed by the endless household to-dos.

And then, salvation: an invitation to ski at two Wyndham resorts, in Beaver Creek and Aspen, for five days (on a press trip). I grew up skiing but hadn't done it in forever. As much as I wanted to go, though, my motivation was at rock bottom. My husband—fully aware that I was a mom on the verge nudged me, and we moved heaven and earth (and paid a lot of babysitters) to make it happen.

During the week leading up to the trip, I was filled with trepidation: What if I fall and break my leg? What if Im too out of shape to ski? On my first day at Beaver Creek, as I queued up for the bunny slope with another woman on the trip, Sarah, embarrassment struck. I'd skiied since age 4 and yet here I was, surrounded by kids just starting out because I was so rusty. As we stood at the top of the mountain, I felt shaky: Even that small hill looked enormous.

I took a deep breath of mountain air and pushed off. My anxiety was quickly replaced by amazement that I was actually skiing. I felt a bit stiff, but I managed to keep my speed under control and avoid veering into anyone. At the bottom, I high-fived Sarah and we decided to do a green run. As we ascended the mountain, my nerves flared up once more: We're going so high, and there's only one way down.

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ski adventure

Getty ImagesSarah led the way, and I followed her tracks, wobbly at first but warming up. We reached the bottom and did it again, then again. That afternoon, I got up my guts to tackle a few small moguls. As I zipped over the little bump-bump-bump, a guy behind me gave me a “Woo-hoo!” I knew I'd gotten my ski legs back.

By day three, I was flying down black diamonds and literally saying to myself, "Winning!" I started to cry as I came over a crest one morning, and it wasn't just the view of the Rockies. I saw a glimmer of the girl I used to be: brave, athletic and full of life. I couldn't wait for my kids to meet her.

Back home, I hummed as I washed the dinner dishes and laughed while my kids pummeled me with pillows at bedtime. I returned not only a more relaxed mom, but a healthier me. Soon after, I joined a boot-camp class at the gym and started tracking what I ate with an online log, replacing foods like my usual lunchtime grilled cheese with a salad and grilled chicken.

In 45 days, I lost 9 pounds, and I've kept the weight off. Cutting back on wine to just weekends has helped; because I'm exercising and eating right, I no longer need that crutch. And since I'm not dealing with blood sugar highs and lows from sweets, my mood is more stable and I don't get crabby.

My biggest revelation of all: My family can survive just fine without me (at least for a few days). And, wow, is that freeing. Sure, I still have to chauffeur the kids around to activities and vacuum up their crumbs. But I now realize that these tasks don't define who I am, and I'm less resentful. I've since taken several day trips to local ski mountains, and I've been inspired to get my daughter on skis, too.

I love the woman I am when I'm strong and healthy. And I'll be damned if I lose her again.