After a four-day weekend, anchored by a snow storm last Friday and this Monday, I believe today is Hump Day. Or was it yesterday? Snow days trick the mind and mess with the schedule a bit – but the snow was a welcome sight! We skied at Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire over the weekend. With temps in the 50s last Thursday evening, we weren’t sure there would be snow, but thankfully, Friday’s storm swept across the mountain and dropped a few inches of fresh powder.
Both days were glorious – temps knocked at 40’s door while the sun lit up the mountain as well as the view from the top. For most of the skiing last year, we were hunkered down in below zero air, snow squalls swirling, with not a speck of skin showing. Now, our cheeks were pink from the sun rather than from the wind.
Friends went with us; none of the three kids had skied before that day, so they started off with an hour and a half ski lesson. At the end of the lesson, the instructor suggested, with the help of two other adults, he show them how to get on and off the two-person chair lift so they could move to green runs on the mountain. End result: the 12-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls skied until five o’clock that evening. After one lesson. They have amazing potential with the sport.
That was Liam’s catch phrase for the weekend. For me. “We just want you to live up to your full skiing potential, Mom.” For my family, the sport is about coaxing. Bill coaxed me to ski when I was 23 years old. The hills in Wisconsin and the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, Michigan) were my training grounds. Ski across the mountain. Stop by making a pizza wedge. Getting up from a fall? Turn your skis perpendicular to downhill and push the poles into the upside of the mountain to return upright. I skied greens and blues, and I would usually end a weekend of skiing with one black run.
We coaxed Will into lessons at Pico Mountain in Vermont when he was closer to the ground, probably around 3rd grade. At that age, or rather size, confidence is easier to hone on a slope. It’s like a bush in a hurricane as opposed to a full-size maple. Closer to the ground, the bush is sturdier and compact with fewer branches to catch in the swirling wind. With unstable strong movement, trees fear crashing to the ground or at least limbs breaking off. A tight little bush might lose a few leaves. Now, Will coaxes Liam to follow him on tougher runs.
As for Liam, he never wanted to ski. He still doesn’t want to ski. Frankly, with Liam, if it isn’t his idea, he doesn’t want to do it. For anyone watching a Malcolm pre-skiing episode, it appears that we are beating our heads against a brick wall, forcing a child against his will to put slick boards on his feet and turn them down a mountain. For Liam, the idea of skiing is repulsive. The layers of clothes and heavy boots make his skin crawl. I imagine it would be like putting a layer of wool clothing next to my skin under the ski gear. I cringe at the thought.
Finally, on this trip, I dig out the prescription cortisone from his dermatologist. A half hour before we go out, I smooth on a thin layer all over his body to numb those sensitive nerve endings. While the rest of us hitch on ski pants at the hotel, we pack Liam’s in his ski bag. He will put his on at the last-minute to avoid over-heating. All this amidst, “I said I DON’T want to ski!!!” Once up the lift, he’s the first one to zip to the bottom of the mountain. Skis turned downhill and poles tucked under his elbows.
Bill, who has maxed out on his full skiing potential, skis with the boys. Growing up in England, he either skied on fake green turf in England or traveled to the Alps. Here, Bill and the boys usually have blues and blacks, medium and difficult runs, on their agenda. We meet for lunch at the lodge. Bill looks like he has been through a war zone. Liam greets me. “Mom, it’s time you do a blue! We know you can do it!”
And the thing is, I too know I can do a blue. And a black. However, that doesn’t mean I need to do it. I have met my full skiing potential: I learned to ski nearly 25 years ago, and at nearly 50, I’m still strapping onto my feet smooth boards that have no other purpose than to slip on snow. And with those securely anchored to my feet, I’m flying up mountains 2,000 feet high on a chair lift.
And at the top, I stop and look out. The scene is exhilarating. I meander on gentle, easy, wide, green slopes and stop at turns to take another look at the vista. I’m grateful for my coaxing coach who made this sight possible through my eyes. The scene is euphoric. I catalog it with sunsets over cornfields, lying directly under fireworks on the 4th of July, and blown sand dunes covered in wildflowers at the beach.
On a couple runs, we all skied green together. I was the last one down the hill. My ski-life coach, Liam, is waiting for me, “Where have you been? We’ve been down here for ages!” True, my ski party of seven stood at the entrance of the chair lift.
I’m an oak tree that has seen a few hurricanes, and I know how I want to live to my full potential. Now, when I fall, I don’t try to use my poles to push off the mountain to stand up. I click my skis off, stand up, and put them back on. I take runs slowly so that I inhale the views. Because I know a photo will never do them justice.
I stand firm on my slippery boards when I answer Liam. “I’ve been skiing.”