Where I’m from, skiing for many people means hopping in their overpriced SUV, on a Friday night an arriving at their overpriced, modernized ski condo at the base of some sort of Vermont “Hollywoodized” condo stricken ski hill. They wallow out onto the slopes at around 10:30 in their brand new North Face jacket holding their skis and poles in their arms like a stack of wood. An hour later they can be found sitting in the lodge sipping a cup of watery overpriced hot cocoa complaining that the top of the mountain is too icy and they’d rather call it a day.
My dad grew up in Ludlowe, Vermont. What is now the Okemo Mountain School was his residence throughout his childhood. So when he returned to Okemo 30 years later he ensured that I would not follow the average trend of the Connecticut gape show decked out in a new hot chocolate stained Patagonia jacket.
Many began their ski careers at a very young age, 3 or 4 years old. Considering that Ice Hockey occupied the majority of my winters at a young age I didn’t click in to my first pair of skis until I was 7 years of age.
It was a relatively warm, December day, slush at the bottom of the hill, hard pack at the top. Blue skies, a parking lot full of New Jersey and Connecticut license plates. I stand in line in a pair of hand-me-down boots, an old L.L. Bean fleece and a pair of relatively steezy Wallmart issued snow bibs. My Dad, stands at the counter, cracking jokes about the influx of tri-state skiers that fill the lift ticket office. Of course, at this point I did not understand the concept of a “gaper” or “joey”, in fact I probably looked and acted like one but I went along with my dad’s commentary as we walked out onto the hill below the South Ridge Quad. We met my group for my first lesson. Discouraged by the flashy North Face apparel that surrounded me I shyly sat at the back of line as we prepared to get on the chair lift.
I watch the skiers and snowboarders rip down the hill below me. Looking behind me at the Green Mountain landscape my situation seemed to improve. No more nagging mothers, no more muddy parking lots, no foul smelling, cold locker rooms to dress in; just the fresh Vermont air and my pair of skis.
Overwhelmed by this new feeling, I make a right hand turn promptly as I get off the lift tuning out the bellows from the ski instructors while my speed increases as the hill gets steeper. It’s a little different than skates, a lot more to work with but it felt natural. Coasting from side to side with the occasional pizza stop I completely forget about the overpriced lesson my father had just paid for.
Then by nature of reality, my ski begins to shake and a catch an edge, 270 to face plant, I hear a group of adolescents taunting me from the chairlift above. I don’t quite remember what they were saying but if I had heard them today it probably would of been along the lines of demeaning profanity referring to the main component of the female anatomy.
I proceed down the hill to find my Dad standing with the group of Patagonia and North Face jackets, pointing at me. I skied with my Dad the rest of the day, spent most of my time eating shit at uncontrollably high speeds for a 7 year old but that was a good day, one for the books.
Last winter I quit playing Ice Hockey, I could no longer stand watching all of my buddies pile onto the busses on pow days. This year I’ll most likely rack up around 90 days on the hill. Summer sucks.