ALTA — Five-year-old Ace is trying not to cry.
After several runs down the beginner's slopes at the Alta Ski Area, his first with ski poles, he can only nod when asked if he's a good skier.
"Oh, man," he said as he starts sliding backward on his skis. A few moments later, the tears start coming. "My forehead hurts," he cried.
His father Jason Ehrhart patiently adjusts Ace's ski goggles to ready him for a little more skiing before the family heads home for Thanksgiving dinner.
It's a tradition that started for Ehrhart when he was just a boy himself. His parents both were ski instructors at Alta and spent the holiday giving lessons to locals and visitors.
"We were always here for Thanksgiving," he said, "and the mountains were our day care."
Now, he knows many of the staffers and the skiers there Thursday. "They're also my family. So I get to say happy Thanksgiving to them by being here."
Nearby, 8-year-old triplets Jacob, Matt and Zack Bean are taking a few tumbles as they takes turns tearing down the bunny hill.
"Skiing is one of my favorite sports," Jacob said after his father, Ben, helps him untangle his skis and stand up after one incident. "I'm really good at it already."
Pulling him back to the tow rope, Ben Bean reminds Jacob that there is more to Thanksgiving that skiing. Dinner at grandma's house is at 2 p.m., so they'll have to leave soon.
As Jacob barrels back down the bunny hill, Elizabeth Pratt takes her eyes off her 2-year-old nephew, Charlie Wilde.
"This guy's a bomber," Pratt said, nodding at the fast-moving Jacob. "Every time I see him, I get out of the way."
Charlie, meanwhile, is scooting along on his skis. His mother, Jessica Wilde, asks if he wants to go to the top of bunny hill again.
The little boy, bundled in a fluffy down jacket, raises his arm as much as he can and points up the hill.
"I like to ski," Charlie said.
Pratt, whose family also grew up skiing at Alta, is pleased. "We've been talking this up for a month," she says. Why Thanksgiving? Why not, Pratt said.
"It's the one day during the week you're all off and you're with your family. What else would you rather be doing?"
Alta's president and general manager, Onno Wieringa, said the Thanksgiving holiday is not as popular a ski day as it once was but still attracts plenty of business.
"Now it's kind of a like a weekend extra day of recreation," Wieringa said. Friday will be busier. "Not everybody wants to go shopping, thank goodness."
He said he was a little disappointed it didn't snow overnight to soften up the slick slopes. "We're spoiled by soft snow," Wieringa said after personally skiing all of the open runs.
Thanksgiving was just another workday for the resort's 100-plus employees, but a special turkey dinner was being prepared for those who live on site, he said.
Jana Goldfarb, a New York City administrator, was skiing with a new friend, Leni Chevasson, the owner of a restaurant in the south of France.
Goldfarb said she tries to get to Utah several times during the ski season.
"I'm here for six days this time. The earlier I start, the more I can come, right? Everybody gets vacation time," she said.
Chevasson said she and a local chef were cooking Thanksgiving dinner for Goldfarb and other friends, including a stuffed turkey and homemade orange marmalade.
Others on the slopes Thursday had items stashed in their cars that they planned to bring to family dinners.
"I have the desserts ready to go, so it's great," said Ellen Mason. Once the family got to Alta, she said she packed a little snow around her pies and apple crisp.
That way, the family could ski until a half-hour before they were due at her sister's house in Sandy for dinner. "So we can ski until 3:30," Mason said with smile.