I wrote this essay a few years ago, but I felt it was appropriate for today.
I don’t know how old or exactly where I was, but the first time I saw people skiing in a movie I knew that was something I had to do. The whole idea tempted me. It was exciting to think of rushing down a hill over a blanket of beautiful white snow. I could almost feel the sting of the cold air rushing against my face as I carved turns. It was appealing to picture myself at the end of the day wearing a warm fashionable sweater sitting next to a crackling fire, drink in hand, enjoying the camaraderie of good friends. I fantasized about the captivating conversations that would take place. The oneness we would all feel about our love of skiing and winter.
But I was born and raised a flatlander. I grew up in Indiana where hills are few and far between and a mountain is something you might see in a picture. Sure, there were families who traveled away for vacations to Colorado,but mine was not one of them. I remember going to an acquaintance’s house, a friend of a friend. We were all sitting around chatting. Suddenly, there in the basement in a corner, I saw snow skis. My mouth dropped open and I rudely interrupted the conversation.
“Oh yeah, we go every year.”
Then, just as abruptly as our conversation began she ended it and changed the subject. I longed to know more. What was it like? Was it scary or fun? Was it hard to learn? I never really got to talk to her again about skiing, but whenever I saw her in school I was impressed.
As I got older my obsessive flame to ski turned into a smolder but it was still there. Recently, I found a family photo. I am the one in the sweater with a skier on the front. My dream laid out for anyone willing to recognize.
Away at college I met lots of great guys. But the ones who drew my attention were the skiers. In my mind they were a rare breed, exciting, different from the, oh so many basketball players that are prevalent in the Midwest. When I met Paul I knew he was exceptional. I was smitten with his twinkling eyes and devilish smile. Much to my delight he was from New York State where apparently they had mountains. He spent many hours talking about skiing and how much fun it was. I could tell skiing was his passion. I was hooked; but in the ways of life it took us four years to get around to dating let alone skiing.
Eventually our dating turned to something more and in 1985 we celebrated our marriage and moved to upstate New York. Paul kept his promise and taught me how to ski. Before I even hit the slopes he bought me all kinds of equipment. He purchased hats, mittens and a coat and ski pants. He even bought socks made specifically for skiers. He thought if I was cold on my first times out I might not return. What he did not understand was my drive to be a skier. The skier I had envisioned. And, I have become good. But what I took to almost immediately, was the après ski.
Just as I imagined, the camaraderie between skiers does exist. Because our daughters grew up skiing they soon turned to alpine racing. They were members of the Gore Mountain team. We spent many days at Gore and quickly became great friends with the families of the other racers. As parents we experienced many sub-zero days on the slopes. Sometimes skiing, sometimes standing on the side of a race hill watching our children fly past us. At the end of the day we would get together and discuss the day’s events. We may not have always been in our fuzzy, warm, sweaters. In fact, frequently, after a long day of skiing we were known to sit around in our very comfy sweats and PJs. No matter, the friendship that I sought was still there. The drinks warmed us along with the fire and we laughed at inside jokes and funny things that happened that day on the mountain.
Recently, Paul and I attended a fund-raiser for the Gore Mountain ski team. Our daughters no longer race, they have moved on to college, but we still feel a connection. So apparently do many others. In attendance that evening was several of our friends from over the years. Half of those enjoying dinner and drinks no longer had a child in the program. But we appreciate we are a unique group. We have a secret connection. We enjoy the rush of cold air on our faces. We love the silence you hear on a ski slope on a frigid day. We appreciate the awe you feel as you stand at the top of a run and look out over the snow covered mountains, the clouds sitting in the valleys and the sun glinting on the lakes below. It is thrilling to rush down a slope carving turns. We love to play hard during the day, and at the end of it, enjoy a warm fire and our friends. Skiers are optimistic. Who else sees delight in an upcoming snowstorm? They certainly are fun-loving. They laugh at the weather, and each other. They ski outside in the cold all day, most days not realizing the temperature is below freezing, making them a very hearty crew.
I still have that image of skiers in my head from the first time I saw them in the movie. I have never been disappointed. We are everything I dreamed we would be.