I call it “skiing” even when I am on my snowboard. To me it’s the same. What doesn’t count are those silly bikes, snowblades and the ridiculous telemarkers…“Oh look at me, I knee the snow. You stupid snow, I shove my knee at you” (said in my best fake French accent). A corduroy day is best spent on my skis, but powder days are meant for snowboarding. Heading back country or in the bowls with 2 feet of powder is my heaven. It truly can stimulate all your senses at once; the desolate quiet punctuated only by that familiar crunching sound, the smell of pine or cedar, bouncing from one turn to the next by digging in your back foot, the blindingly sparkling whites on a bluebird day and the taste of the snow splashing in your face as you brush by snow laden branches. There is nothing like it on earth.
I wish skiing weren’t so expensive, so more people could find peace on the mountain. I argue that it is the ultimate family activity. It’s a personal badge of pride for me that I taught the girls (starting at age 3) without ever a lesson. Granted those were rough days on my back, but the investment has paid off. When the four of us are blazing down a trail, there is no point when we are all closer. For the most part, there are no distractions. We plan our route, talk about navigating ‘skier’s left’ or right, and where the jumps are. We stop at a precipice to strategize on where the best snow is, who is getting too far in the back seat, who is using their poles, and the best route through the trees. Never am I closer to the girls and Megan than when we spend a day on the mountain. Never are we more a team, all focused on the same goal, all negotiating the same obstacles. Never are we more humble than when Haley takes a ‘superman’ duff with 4 part yard-sale (skis and poles) or when, hey look, “dad took a digger too.” “Tay, you’ve got twin tips, go switch!” “Watch how mom keeps her feet together.”
These are the family times I cherish most. Even the bad stuff is good. We brave the severe cold and I have to take care of the girls by packing extra hand and feet warmers. I can even tolerate Taylor’s adolescent grouchiness with a smile because I know that she uses it to extort hot chocolate from me. These aren’t the hardcore days with my friends when we eat protein bars on the lift because we hate wasting valuable time in the lodge. The four of us NEVER make first chair, but that’s ok because we eat breakfast together and get suited up as a group. “Dad, did you remember the poles THIS time?”
I love the lodge and sitting around a fire at the end of the day with a cup of coffee or a local brew…or both. We talk about the day and joke about our goofs. I can’t tell you what day the girls have soccer practice, but I remember every run, every turn, and every time the girls caught air coming out of a trailside loop. I get accused of being a “foo foo” skier because I judge not only the terrain, but the lodge and its fireplace. For me, the experience is the whole day, including what we do after 4pm.
As an aside, note that one of these days, I’ll be with my buddies and we’ll get stuck on a lift. I will repel myself down, because I believe in the pioneering spirit of NH where you take care of yourself; never be at the mercy of ski patrol. We’ll see how funny my climbing harness is then when you are still sitting up there!
I’ve never done more than 15 days a year, but I can hold my own on any trail on any mountain. I started skiing in 1981 (Jeremy Webb) and picked up snowboarding on a Burton Cruiser 165 (hat tip to Eric Burger) in 1988. All in all, I’ve been to a lot of mountains and there are a lot more that I want to see. My goal is to run at least one new place each year. Despite the fact that this is the worst season ever (of course the year we buy the place at Killington) every day on the mountain is still special. And even though I am the one fighting to get us all motivated to get out of the house in the morning, all of that work is worth every second when I can have just 1 smile from the girls after they giggle with the personal satisfaction of cranking through a steep run. I get bonus points when they race each other trying to catch dad or when Megan shoots video of us taking turns. I am honored when Tom gets to ski with his grand daughters, because he can see that his passion has become theirs.
Every day on the slopes is magical, every image is a story, and every moment is a memory. I love skiing.