First, let me say that I adore my son Liam. He is 14 — and everything that goes along with being 14 — but for the most part he is a terrific kid. Late Saturday night he returned home from an exhausting (emphasis mine) spring break week in Palm Springs with his good buddy. They spent the week wakeboarding, fishing and hiking. I’m in grad school and had a different spring break than my kids this year so Liam went off with another family and the rest of us had a stay-cation.
Since yesterday was the last day for us to ski at Mt. Rose I insisted (again, emphasis mine) that he come along on a family ski day. His friend, H, wanted to come with us so off we went for a beautiful day of slushy spring skiing. The boys did one obligatory run with Liam’s sisters, Rob and me…and then they begged us to let them go ski on their own.
I have to admit I had mixed feelings about this because I knew where they were headed: The Chutes. This terrain at Mt. Rose is insanely steep — 45-degree pitches — and strewn with all sorts of obstacles. When the conditions are good, the runs are amazing but for the most part I avoid the area unless there is a ton of new snow.
Since we’d had some snow on Thursday and Friday I knew it wouldn’t be too icy, so off they went. Liam raced for 5 years and is a beautiful, technical skier. H is even better. The boys are both significantly better skier than I have ever been but…did I mention they are 14?
Anyway, off they went with instructions to not doing anything stupid and to meet us for lunch 90 minutes later. Exactly 90 minutes later this is what they looked like when they found us on the sun deck.
Apparently the snow was amazing. It was the best snow of the whole season. The powder is at least a foot deep. It’s like winter in there. Got it.
When they couldn’t convince me to go back to the Chutes with them after lunch they graciously agreed to take a few “granny” runs with me. Granny runs?! And then they were gone again. Have I created a monster or what?
It was hard to decide: church in church or church on the hill. The hill won:
I can’t think of a time that I feel more grateful for all the blessings in my life than when I am skiing with my family.
One of my favorite things about Reno is the weather. We have four distinct seasons but none is so extreme that you get sick of it. At least I don’t. My favorite season is winter, of course, but it’s hard to beat spring skiing.
We timed our arrival to Mt. Rose today just right. During this time a year the snow can be so firm that it’s hazardous…at least for skiers like me who never learned to ski on the east coast. But today was a glorious sunny day at Mt. Rose. We were skiing by 10:00 just when the snow had softened enough to make it pleasant. By 2:00 it was slushy enough to be hazardous but we’d had our fill. We stopped by the “church” service at the top of Lakeview chair and then headed home.
So will you ever ski again? It was a question I was asked countless times during the months that I hobbled around on crutches. My answer for 266 days, until the morning I finally limped out my front door without a cast on my foot was, “Of course.”
That day, though, I had a moment when I wondered: Is it really worth it? Being on crutches for seven months and in a cast for nine…unable to drive for half a year…three surgeries and thousands, upon thousands, of dollars in medical bills….leg muscles so atrophied that I feared I’d never get them back. Oh, and I had a toddler and a preschooler at the time. It was a major inconvenience.
Today I happen to be thinking about those long months because it’s the 10th anniversary of the day I skied into a tree. Back then, when I explained to people who asked what had happened – that I had lost my balance when I veered into a tree-well while skiing in deep powder – the observations that followed ranged from “You’re lucky that’s all you hurt,” to “Skiing is just an accident waiting to happen.”
Yes, I was lucky. And the sport is relatively risky. But so is riding in a car without a seatbelt. What about smoking, skydiving, sitting on the couch and watching television for 15 hours a week. I don’t do any of those things. Skiing is my calculated risk. And I still love it.
I can be riding a chairlift to the top of Mt. Rose, the resort closest to my house, 35 minutes after pulling out of my driveway. In less than an hour, I’m at Squaw Valley. I’m a lifelong skier yet I still feel the thrill of anticipation before each run. Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud as I tear down a slope, or whooping with joy.
I was never more patient with my children than during their earliest days on skis.
Before my accident, without fail, I would stop at least once during the day, take a deep breath, look at the snow-covered Sierras surrounding Lake Tahoe and think, “I am the luckiest person on the earth; I have parents who taught me to ski as a child; I live in this beautiful place; I am healthy.” That hasn’t changed.
These days, though, I also feel the pinch of one of the pesky screws that remains in my right leg every time I push against the tongue of my ski boot. This is what my not-so-bionic leg looks like:
One of these days I’ll succumb to another surgery and have all the hardware removed. But in the meantime, that pesky screw is just another reminder of how lucky I am to be out here.
Have you ever been injured doing a sport you love? Did it change the way you do things?
Two winters ago my husband, Robert, and I chased our three kids, then 5, 9 and 12, down Upper Lakeview, one of the easier black diamond runs at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe (our local hill). When we all gathered at the bottom, he looked at me and said, “Thanks for doing that.”
I almost burst into tears.
You see, I was the one who had schlepped the kids up the hill to Mt. Rose just about every weekend, for years. Rob would come along occasionally, but he snowboards and is much pickier about the conditions than I am. Read: It must be sunny. It must be 35 degrees out (at least). There must be at least 6 inches of fresh snow. And he doesn’t like Saturdays because it’s too crowded.
Bottom line: the kids and I ski at least 25 days a season and he’s lucky to get 5.
(This is a photo we took just after our big run.)
As any ski-parent knows, the early years of skiing are FILLED with tears. And the tears are not only the kids’.
There have been many, many days when I’ve thought: Why in God’s name am I doing this? Skiing is expensive. It can be dangerous (more on that later). It can be very, very cold. In short, it can be a huge, huge hassle.
The kids sometimes seem like they could care less. But the fact is, they love it as much as I do. Maybe not every-weekend-love-it, but they do love it.
I wanted to make sure that my kids learned how to ski, properly, early. I’m self taught, but they’ve had enough lessons that their bad habits will not stick with them the way that mine have stayed with me.
A few weeks ago I read this essay about the family ski trip by the astute David Carr, the media reporter for the New York Times, that summed it all up. He does a great job of capturing the drama that is family skiing.