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Carolyn Hax: How to deal with sister-in-law’s pressure for big family ski trips

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: I don’t want to be a family who goes on expensive ski trips. Neither does my husband. Both of us have suffered injuries that never really went away, and while only his was from winter sports, both of us are acutely aware of the lasting, life-altering impact of injuries medicine can’t fully heal, and of the high likelihood of such injuries occurring on crowded slopes. There is also the cultural issue: That level of affluence, of casual dithering away of funds on a dated symbol of wealth, among mostly White people of a mostly similar political stripe, isn’t the kind of environment we want our (still-tiny) kids to be exposed to with any degree of regularity.

But our sister-in-law loves it, and we know she’ll pressure us for big miserable expensive ski trips. (Husband is not super close with his family and is exasperated by spending more than a day or two with them.) We already anticipate having to wriggle out of events we don’t want to go to. How do we do so politely, with minimal drama? SIL is the get-drunk-and-sob type if drama arises, so that is the last thing we want.

— Not a Snow Bunny

Not a Snow Bunny: Wow. Skiing just yelped and slunk into a corner.

And it got the muzzle-swat even though it isn’t your actual problem.

The actual problems are: your contempt for your sister-in-law, your husband’s low exasperation point with his family, your different tastes in vacations, their preferred price points (which effectively rule out your going along to get along), your physical risk aversion, their poor taking-no-for-an-answer skills, and your poor no-saying skills.

Ha, kidding. It’s just the last one. Because here’s the only fix you need:

“Ski trip? No thanks.”

In an effusive mood, you can add: “But if you decide on something different, let us know, otherwise we’ll see you next time.”

Done. The keys to minimizing drama are choosing not to be cowed by the threat of it, and not to respond to it except with calm, polite and noncommittal, “Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that”-type sounds. You can live as you choose, and they can drunk-sob as they choose, but they can’t drunk-sob you into a ski trip unless you choose to let them. So don’t let them.

Generate goodwill instead by inviting them on trips you would enjoy.

I could stop here, but it feels like advisory malpractice not to point out that high-horse riding may be free, but it is just as dated and insufferable a symbol as the one you deplore. If not more so.

Skiing has its privilege issues, yes. Undeniably. But any winter sport will be 1. expensive, thanks to the gear; and 2. fun even for some people who aren’t jackholes. There are ways to economize. And plenty of rational people are both fine with recreational risk and fine with your not taking one. And snowy vistas are glorious. And you can injure yourself on your sidewalk.

My point being — with skiing or anything else — if you take big broad judgy swipes at others to justify yourself, then you cede the high ground upfront. Cringy mountaintop joke here. Plus, even with a “polite, minimal drama” veneer, people will see your contempt, which in itself can merit a chicken vs. egg roundtable on being “not super close” with one’s family.

Again: Don’t want to ski? Then say so kindly, ignoring pushback. “Not our thing” does all the explaining you need.