My parents met over a pair of ski gloves. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that Snoopy skis were strapped to my feet as soon as I could walk. Every Friday after school let out, we piled into my dad’s Audi and headed for Elk Mountain. We either stayed with friends or bunked at a hotel. With the exception of eating, the entire weekend was dedicated to skiing. It took the progression of my father’s disease, the worsening of his balance, for our time on the mountain to finally come to a close.
I was reminded of this while reading a post over at The Saltanstalls’ blog. I am not sure how I crossed paths with this Kodiak-based family I have never met, though I have a sneaky suspicion it had something to do with the wise Ish, formerly of Kodiak Konfidential. Anyway, when I sat down to catch up on my blog feed, I wasn’t looking to be inspired. I had no intention of writing. But seeing a picture of Patrick and Zoya’s daughter Nora being fitted for ski boots, I was immediately brought back to my childhood.
Just before the start of the winter season, my father would take me and Leslie over to the local ski shop to update our gear. It was the same ski shop where he once worked, where he met my mother. It’s also a ski shop that closed decades ago. Thirty years later and I can still recall leaning into a new pair of creaky boots and wiggling my toes while my father slid a pencil into the back to confirm the fit.
There are a lot of sour memories from my childhood. Leslie often jokes that she has blocked out chunks of her youth.
“That totally reminds of me of that time we went to Killington and Mom, freaking out that the chair was too high and I couldn’t get off, yanked the tip of my ski and we tumbled down the snowy slope in a heap,” I said.
“We went to Killington?”
When I read Zoya’s post, when I started thinking back to my time spent skiing, I realized it represented some of the happiest moments of my childhood. In fact, all of my skiing memories are happy. Sure, losing control on a mogul field was rather terrifying. I never much cared for single-digit temperatures, the cold magnified by downhill speeds. And I can't even tell you the number of times I almost peed myself trying to get to the bathroom, an effort that always required navigating down slushy cement stairs in partially buckled boots. But all of that was overridden by the good things.
After a few runs, I’d retreat to the lodge to rest up. There I’d sip whipped hot chocolate to warm my bones. With friends, I’d plot out which trails to tackle next. Then I’d swipe my cherry Bonne Bell chapstick across my lips and get back out there.
It has been a few years since I buckled up ski boots and carved my way down a snowy slope. The nearby mountains have had terrible seasons, even though areas nearby have been pummeled with storms. This year I have been pondering a trip out west. A cousin recently started working at a resort near Vail. She has insisted I visit and sneak in a few days of skiing. And seeing the photograph of Nora giggling while a ski shop employee buckled her into ski boots makes me even more eager to iron out those plans.
There isn’t much of my youth I wish to carry forward to the present. I’m happy to leave behind the constant criticism from my mother and the awkward attempts to appear okay about a father who, thanks to a rare neurological disease, often stumbled and slurred like a drunk. But I look forward to getting back on the mountain. I look forward to reliving the happiness that comes from catching snowflakes on your tongue as you ski down the mountain. I look forward to sneaking in one more run.