Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Inheritance that Can't be Taxed

I barely remember the hill. I think it was called Sunburst and it may have been out of business the next season. What I do remember though is, by the end of that awkward and probably frustrating first day, thanks to my dad, I became passionate about skiing. Through the years, I found that same ardor in almost everyone I met who also skied. Most skiers are "disciples", not fair weather fans. Religious parallels aside, one of those devotees I had the pleasure of meeting was an affable coworker that was the first friend I made upon moving to Idaho in 1999.  Rod was an Idaho native who worked at the TV station with me. While his skills weren't typical of my usual ski partners, his passion was, and I always enjoyed skiing with him.
Rod and I at Brighton in 2002

Rod left us too soon-- a year ago this month. But in addition putting a smile on the face of all those those lucky enough to call him a friend, he also passed on his passion for skiing to his daughter Maci. Lexi and I had the privilege of skiing with Maci last weekend at Bogus Basin and her love of skiing was no different than any other skier I've met.

Rod got into skiing relatively late in life, and by today's standards, so has Maci, but like most 13 year-olds, enthusiasm is a great tonic for inexperience. The night before we planned to ski, I texted her and said we would pick her up at 8:30. When she suggested that we might want an earlier start due to traffic, I realized her desire to get up to the mountain early was about more than beating the red snake like it is for me in the Wasatch, she was genuinely excited. While winding our way up Bogus Basin road, she shared a story about the last day on the mountain with her dad. Rod forgot to put in his contacts and when he realized he didn't have them, they had to turn around halfway up the road, delaying their day of skiing by a few hours. When Maci told me that, I could tell she wanted to make the most of our day skiing together. I had to smile after hearing the story too. I could just picture the look of "doh" on Rod's face when he had to turn his Blazer around. Probably in his haste to get up to them mountain, something as simple as putting in his contacts was easy to forget.

Maci's energy persisted as we walked through the parking lot. Her days skiing were low, and I woud have excused her for lagging behind as she walked in ski boots while carrying her skis, but she was outpacing Lexi. And before I could even get into my bindings, she was ready to go, asking to do a warmup lap on the bunny hill.
You can't teach fun.
 Unsure of her ability, I tried tempering her bravado, but from the moment we got off the Deer Point quad, she knew exactly where she wanted to go. In low visibility, I had to make sure I kept her in sight as she zipped down the long cat track that led to the backside of the mountain. Skiing didn't seem uncomfortable to her. Throughout the day, I tried to provide some instruction and guidance, but I have to admit, it felt a little unnatural doing so. I've never really felt comfortable instructing people on the finer points of skiing anyway. Plus, she was having fun. Why try to teach "fun"?

As the skies cleared in the afternoon, Maci started eyeing more advanced terrain from the lift. I would relate. At her age, I wanted to challenge myself too. I might see an awesome looking glade from above and feel like I had to ski it. Never mind the sharp, off camber fall line leading into the glade, or the narrow gully at the bottom of it. For Michelle, Maci's mother's sake, I suggest alternatives, but we did make one rather challenging run off the top of the Pine Creek chair. In order to get to the long, ridge top track, we traversed across a slope where Maci learned the value of side slipping. Lexi and I talked her through it, and she did great. Then, when the remaining part of the run was more at her skill, she asked if she could ski straight for the rest of it. I think was most fun, seeing her work hard to get herself through a difficult part of the slop and then, when she realized that the worst was behind her, open it back up and get back into her comfort zone.

A great day to be above Boise
It was a long day with all sorts of snow conditions, visibility and challenges. When she started turning with her upper body more and more, I got the idea she was getting tired and I  knew we needed to call it a day soon. That was pretty tough, but I think she would have skied until they turned on the lights for night skiing if I let her. Unlike the original trip through the parking lot, now those ski boots seemed like they weighed 50 lbs on her feet. Maybe because she was tired, maybe because leaving the mountain is always tough.

I thought back to my days skiing at age 13. So many things I remember. Some clear, some unclear. But while many of us may struggle with the hazy memories of those early days on the slopes, one memory is crystal clear in both my mind, and I'm assuming Maci's mind, and that is, how grateful we were that our fathers' introduced us to skiing.

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