Ski the East just posted a pretty cool article on their FB, and it seems appropriate considering that the Clap may or may not have knocked some bitch up real good.
I might have been the only skier in New England who was depressed over the sight of snow in October, which may seem strange when I tell you that my recent history includes enjoying an 80 day season in the Colorado Rockies, and an average of 30 days on snow over the course of 6 years. But my depression was brought on by the stark contrast of the last three years which has brought more children into my life (2) than trips to Sugarloaf (1).
With barely 25 days on snow under my belt and a certified Soccer Mom car in my driveway, I started to see myself becoming the Guy, just a few years ago, that I would look at with grave concern over his “priorities” when I saw him showing up to the mountain at 11am, lugging a huge bag of gear in a full lather of sweat, with kids complaining about uncomfortable boots in tow. So in an upcoming season where I knew there would be significant conflict between my ski life and my life as a Dad, a Halloween dump was a worst case scenario. Early snow surely meant a big winter (boy was I wrong), and I was less than thrilled.
This conflict between Dad and Skier doesn't mean you can't get out on the hill, it’s just harder. Actually, with kids, everything is. If you don't know what the word logistics means, just try jetting out of work on a Friday afternoon with a two year old and a newborn. I was a one-backpack-for-the-weekend guy for years, with my gear stowed away at our rental just a few miles from the slopes. Now I need an entire SUV to fit the boot bags, the toys, and the car seats. I joked with a buddy that my skis once could have claimed state residency in Maine they spent so much time there. This year the joke’s on me: those same skis didn’t come out of the bag until February 10, relegated, as an extension of me, to weekends-only status, too.
After my daughter was born in December, I was resolved to make the most of what was turning out to be somewhat of a bust of a season, a fact I strangely relished given the fact I couldn’t just pack up and head to Jay like the old days when the forecast called for multiple feet of snow. But I did hit the road for about 1,000 miles worth of day trips to Mt Snow, Loon, and Killington, and actually found fresh snow at all three. In hindsight I can’t believe I considered this to be a newsworthy stretch of experiences, but in a year where I traded powder for Pampers, it was good to me. Finally March arrived with some snow and the sense of urgency to get more days in was at an all-time high. Then it became beach weather.
There was one clear high note of the season, though, and it was certainly the best day of the year. It happened right before the March heat wave, in a surprising place. My best day on snow in recent memory didn’t happen at the Snowfields or the Chin, but at little Ragged Mountain in Danbury, NH, on a bunny hill. It was the day I started my official transformation from a ski-all-the-time bachelor to ski-with-the-family-Dad.
It started in early March when my son Matthew came up to the hill for the first time with his Grandfather to see what skiing was all about. I explained what a chairlift was and told him that he could "schuss" down the mountain whenever he was ready. Matthew and Poppy walked up the hill a little ways to see me ski down and the look on Matthew's face as I carved big turns before skidding to a stop about a foot in front of him was priceless. It is the same look he gets when we decide to make pancakes on a Saturday morning. Just pure joy.
To be clear, my goal in inviting them up to the hill that day was not for anything else besides an attempt to plant a tiny seed in my son's head that skiing would be a part of his life in the near future. In other words, I was brainwashing him. So when they got to the car and Matthew told Poppy confidently, “I want special boots like Daddy," I felt accomplished. We took one small step for my son skiing; one giant leap for me skiing trees and steeps again whenever I please.
I told my wife that if the situation was right, I’d like to bring him back to not just observe the ski scene, but actually try it out. We spent the following week planning, packing, checking the weather, looking up rental rates and sizes, and then planned some more. When it seemed like we had it all figured out and the forecast called for 50 degrees, we went for it. Dressed in his red snow suit and new Scott goggles, we went down to the rental shop. They gave me a deal on a pair of boots that fit in the palm of my hand, and impossibly small 70 cm skis. We got dressed, made our way outdoors, and gave it a try. It wasn't pretty.
It turns out Matthew had seemingly liked everything about skiing except, well… skiing. My wife and I knew we didn't want to push it too hard, so we left the slopes after just a few minutes. I headed for the 6 pack (the lift, that is), while the rest of the family went in for lunch. After half a dozen runs, I went in, too, and, witnessed the power of a chocolate chip cookie. 20 minutes later, we were skiing. And he loved it.
We pizza-pied our way down for 10 Magic Carpet rides back up in 55 degree sun and perfect bunny slope slush. In the end, my legs were like rubber and my back started to ache, but the last three seasons all started to make sense. I gave up the Jeep when my commute demanded it, the rental house when my wife was pregnant, the ski pass when my son was born. All of that was suddenly ok because here we were, just 1 day shy of his second birthday, enjoying the snow. In a matter of minutes, we had 3 skiers in the house, and I have visions of replacing those weekends away with my ski buddies with school vacations with our family. Load up the station wagon and cue Clark Griswold!
That day at Ragged showed me there is hope for my ski life, as a Dad, and it became clear that the few years prior were just part of a transition. Just like the other aspects of skiing that are cyclical - Seasons, snow patterns, sometimes even fashion - this season for me, and for the collective New England ski community, was a down year. But like the lucky ones sporting a goggle tan in March, I don’t think it was a bad year, and certainly not a wasted one.
We need to remember: it will snow again. And 10 runs with my son between my legs on skis for the first time convinced me that I'll be there to grab it when it does. For my adult life, I was ‘Lower Bobby's’ and for the next few years I'll be ‘Lower Meadows.’ But that’s cool, because as my wife and I teach our little groms how to ski, I know I'll be one step closer to being back in line for first chair. Next season will be a good one, and I’ll be out there once again. Just look for me in the lodge around 11am, walking in with a huge bag of gear and a couple of kids in tow.