skiing with kids

Best small talk of the season. Most impressive skier I’ve ever seen.

Looking for spring skiing with good snow, we landed at Killington in Vermont on Sunday.  I heard there was a 30-foot base of snow.  The forecast was for 39 and sunshine. Mountain weather changes faster than Midwestern weather.  It was cold, snowy, icy, and cloudy.  The top of the highest peak was never seen from the base lodge by Malcolm eyes that day.  In fact, the slope was barely visible from the parking lot as Bill and Will started the day trudging toward the gondola line.

We split as usual: 3 to the big mountain and 1 to the littlest mountain.  In the gates to the quad chairlift for my second ride up the little mountain, I asked a mother/daughter combo if I could ride with them to the top.  If an employee isn’t telling people how to load, I believe, from observation, that the socially acceptable thing to do is to ask if you can join a group.  As we three approached the front of the line, we left an open space between me and them.

Just as we started moving toward the loading zone, where the chair would scoop us, a person zipped into the spot.  We loaded and settled.  Pulling the safety bar down in front of us, I glanced to the side to make sure no one’s poles were jammed in an uncomfortable position.  I noticed our 4th joiner’s coat.  It was a tatted trench coat that came down to mid-shin.  The seams were ragged.  The material was canvas-like.  My eyes moved up to the head.  It was covered with a black helmet which was covered with gray duct tape.  A gator (half ski-mask) covered the mouth and nose.  I could only see eyes through the goggles.

The eyes stared straight forward.  No words.  Shifting my eyes to straight forward, I chewed on the visual.  This looked like a homeless person on a ski lift.  I didn’t know if it was a male or female, young or old.  All of us were silent on the quad, looking straight ahead.  This could be the quietest five minutes of my life where small talk is supposedly still alive.  Or, as with every other ride up, I could start the small talk.

“Is this your first day at Killington?”

“Who, me??”

“Yes, you.”

“Oh no, I’ve been skiing for two weeks!  This is my last day.  I pay $59 for a season pass.  Can’t beat it.  This is the best mountain east of the Mississippi.”

“Oh!  Where are you from?” I asked the man.  And, how is it that you only pay $59 when the average adult season pass is over $1,000?


A little more ski talk moved to me asking, “Are you originally from Connecticut?”

“No, I was born in New York City,” ah, yes, I can hear that accent, “then I moved to Pennsylvania, before I moved to Connecticut.”

“Oh, I was born in Iowa and live near Boston now.”

“IOWA?  I used to work in Iowa!  I worked in Cedar…  Cedar…”

“Cedar Rapids?!?!”

“Yes!  I sold industrial machinery to the corn mills.”

I chuckled, for I don’t know much about Cedar Rapids other than the mills.    Or rather the smell of Cedar Rapids because of the mills.  The city eternally smells like earthly grains being slowly baked.  It’s the first Iowa smell that hits us after we land in the Cedar Rapids airport on our way to Mom and Dad’s.  “Do you remember the smell of the mills?”

“Oh, yes!  They used to tell me if I was hungry just to inhale!”  Indeed, he knew Cedar Rapids!!

As we continued with our small talk, I noticed a plastic card fluttering on the sleeve of his jacket.  It was his season pass with his head shot.  The petite, gray head was that of an 80-year-old’s.  But, surely no… could he be?  Above the photo, were the words, “BEAST PASS.”

We wished one another well as we prepared to disembark.  Did I notice the chair slow slightly as we approached the off ramp?  We both skied to the right after exiting the flying chairs.  I stopped as usual to sort myself out before heading down the slope.  I tried to adjust my poles and gloves quickly so I could watch this skiing enigma move down the mountain, but he disappeared over the hill on a blue slope.

I scooted down the hill, thinking by chance we might pair up again on the lift, but he was long gone by the time I made it to the bottom of our little mountain.  On the way back up the mountain, I spotted him skiing down right under the chair lift.  He looked like he was born on those skis.  As if he had sprung forth solidly from the mountain.  With his long coat, he resembled a tree trunk traversing confidently, gracefully down the mountain.

With a little research, I discovered that there is only one way a person can pay only $59 for a Beast Pass to this mountain: as a Super Senior in the 80+ age group.

Greatest small talk of the season.  Most impressive skier I’ve ever seen.

Skiing Smuggler's Notch, Vermont

This is February school break week, and we are skiing at Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont.  I booked the trip in early fall, superseding Bill’s trip to China this week.  He will make that trip early March instead. Good material for writing, but everyone in my family is within ten feet of me this Tuesday afternoon, so I’m writing in sentences.  Not stories.  Not even paragraphs.  Perhaps more fragments than sentences.

We skied in the northernmost part of winter storm Rex today.  Rex sat on top of the highest mountain here for most of the morning, looking like a gray mountain on top of the mountain upon which he cast his shadow.  That’s the mountain where Will and Bill skied.

I can be openly happy about snow here.  It’s a ski resort.  Happiness is snow.

There was no line at the entrance for the magic carpet (aka: conveyor belt up the bunny hill), so I skied the bunny hill after putting Liam in lessons.  Lessons that would take him halfway up the mountain with Rex howling.  I felt a little guilty about that.

I nearly fell over once, making my premiere entrance on the magic carpet.

After five or six times down the bunny hill, I nearly cleared out a class of 4-year-olds.  I felt a little guilty about that.  I crossed over to the chair lift.

New stress: Please, don’t let me wipe out my chair mate when I get off the chair.  I didn’t.  Manhattan and I rode up together twice.  His wife was on the same big mountain as Bill, and their 8-year-old son was in lessons.  We agreed skiing green runs is relaxing.  And this green was lovely and gentle.

I fell over once, tripped up the steps going to the condo to get my phone.  Ski boots work best in skis, not on narrow stairs.

Red-cheeked Liam was waiting with his instructor after my second and last run of the day.  Gloves off, Liam was eating snow.  This child has been eating snow since his first winter in the U.S., 2007.  I joined him last snowfall; I had forgotten how a big mouthful of fresh, white snow makes a snowball in your mouth.  Liam lies dazed on the ground sucking these as if they are the sweetest candy ever concocted.  While asleep, his vision of sugar plums must be pure white.

More fragmented thoughts from now, Wednesday morning.  At the dinner table last night, we shared highlights of our day.  Liam only ate snow after ski lessons; his group of 13 worked on turns, particularly j-turns which bring you to a stop if you are going too fast.  No, I did not make a special request to the instructor for Liam’s lesson.

Will skied through trees and needs poles.  He skied through the “glades” where you aren’t allowed to go unless there are three of you.  He knows triple-black diamonds are out of the question because there also need to be three people skiing together to go down those.  I don’t think he’s worked out why “three” is the magic number.  I just did.  Ski math.

Tonight, Bill and I are taking a chairlift to the top of Sterling Mountain and having dinner in a cabin with no power – a candlelit dinner heated with propane burners.  Then, we will snow shoe down the mountain.  40 minutes in the dark with floppy shoes.  I will find time and place to write that story.

Take a look at my "shredder" persona in Glamour Aside & the Recap of Smuggler's Notch.