So, last week I managed to get up to Winter Park Colorado to make some last turns of the season. Being a Thursday morning in mid-May the place was nearly empty save for the abundant amounts of snow we’ve been blessed with this season still hanging to the branches and leaving every run still beautiful to rip.
Spending the morning on the chairlift solo, gives one lots of time to reflect. To feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and appreciation for the mountains and the many experiences skiing has made possible over the years.
Why do you love skiing or boarding? I guess the answer is as varied as the people who do it. For me, the more I thought about it riding up the chair, the more ways I realized just how much I’ve been impacted by it and how important is to make time to spend outside.
As a kid, I remember the very first time I clicked into an old pair of hand-me-down skis. Even at the time they were still considered relics. It didn’t matter. Nor did it matter that my friends and I learned to ski on a 300 vertical foot hill of bullet proof ice serviced by 3 rope tows and a T-bar that sometimes worked. To us that hill was a mountain! Just like the pictures we’d rip out of ski magazines from our school library and hang in our lockers at school. — It’s all we knew. Our parents would drop us off every weekend at our local ski hill. Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday. Skiing was the bright spot in our otherwise cold, dark winters. While most people dreaded the coming of winter in the mid-west, we saw it as a time to play every weekend.
I left skiing behind when I went off to college as I could not afford the price of a lift ticket. The passion that burned in me as a kid for the sport started to fade.
Several years later after I had saved enough money to take a trip out West for the first time with some buddies. It was then that I was reunited with my old passion. I was introduced to the mountains that I used to stare at in pictures of as a kid for the first time. We all were immediately transported back in time to when we were kids at our local hill. Not because skiing in mountains compared to our little hill back home, but because we felt like 12-year old kids again! Not a care in the world save for which line we were going to take.
And that was it, we were all hooked again. So much so that we spent the next decade traveling as a group of buddies every year to new destinations in the US and abroad. Through skiing friendships deepened, we experienced new cultures and made new friends. We never again forgot how important it was to make time to get outside and play. To be in nature, to feel the weather, to get scared on line that pushed us to the limits of our ability.
I’m now 52 years old and largely because of skiing I still feel like a kid every time I click into my bindings. So I guess skiing to me still means spending quality time with my friends who are now spread all over the country. Hanging with my son and no screens. And making new friends every season.
The feeling of freedom and escape remain with me several days after being in the mountains… just long enough until the next time I’m able to ride a wide open snow filled bowl, chute or run through the trees.