I am flying down the snowy trail behind my daughter, Lucy, our first run of a gorgeous day. The spring skiing conditions today at Wildcat – our home mountain nestled in the heart of Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire – almost make up for all the icy, cold, snowless days we’ve had during one of the toughest ski season I can remember. The sunshine is intoxicating and the snow feels like butter under my skis. In a flash, I see her brother, RJ, bump into Lucy, who crashes. When I reach her she is crying and pointing to her leg. I un-click her skis, and we scoot to the side of the trail, out of the way of other skiers.
She’s not seriously hurt, just upset. A ski patrol happens to pass by, and he is silly and distracting when he chats with her. After promises of hot chocolate at the bottom of the run, she clicks her skis on.
Back in the lodge, hot chocolate steaming under her nose, she begs me to let her be done for the day.
“Lucy, we’ve only taken one run. It is our last day to ski on our vacation, and we have only skied two days. We finally have a sunny day.”
“But my leg hurts. I don’t want to.”
Though I generally attempt to see things through my kids eyes, this time I knew I needed to get her back out there, to not be afraid, and to enjoy the beautiful day. Cue the getting back up on the horse speech. I opened the map of the mountain, and showed her the trail we were going on next.
“It’s green all the way down, I promise. It will be really easy to ski.”
She wasn’t happy, but she came back out with me. Flashes of her teen years ran through my head.
We road up the chair lift with my husband and other two children behind us. We all turned and headed down Polecat, the longest green trail in the East at 2.75 miles long. A gorgeous view of Mount Washington weaves in and out as you wind your way down, with Tuckerman’s Ravine – the famous huge white bowl that zealous skiers hike up and ski down to earn bragging rights – taking up a third of the sky. (My husband skied it three times last year, he would probably want me to casually drop here). Having grown up in the Midwest, it is impossible for me to take this view for granted. The fact that my kids get to fills me with a kind of breathless gratitude.
We eased our way down the hill, and the conditions were just what I thought they would be. We were floating on hero snow, so you could get into a rhythm and let your mind wander along with your skis. It was such a contrast to the icy and cold and bare runs we had been skiing all winter. We had had a few inches this week, the mountains had made what snow they could, and all of our shlepping skis and kids and gear finally paid off to get to this day.
I skied a little ahead of Lucy, gushing about the sunshine and the mountains and the snow. She barely cracked a smile. We got to the end, and we didn’t ask her if she wanted to go again, we just got in line. I waited for her to protest, but she didn’t. When we got to the top, her dad and siblings wanted to go down another trail, but I told them I would go with Lucy down Polecat, because I knew she needed easy.
My husband’s passion for the sport had infused first me, then our oldest son and daughter with a strong love for skiing, all of its ritual and tribe and tired muscles at the end of the day. I know there is a chance that when Lucy grows up, she might not have the same passion that we all do. (I comfort myself with thinking that if that happens, she is passionate about cooking, and perhaps she will have a delicious dinner waiting for us if she doesn’t want to ski.) But right now, I was going to do my best to try to show her the joy of skiing.
We kept traveling down the trail, and as I looked back at her, her skis gliding easily under her, shoulders square and in control the whole time, I smiled. Hero snow makes everyone ski well. I gushed some more when we made turns that opened up new views of the mountains.
“Hi Mountains! Hi Trees! Hi Sun!”
I saw her crack a smile.
“Wait a minute. Is that a smile? I think I see a smile.”
We raced down the last stretch of the trail, and met up with the other part of our family in front of the chair lift.
“They want to go in for lunch,” my husband said. We had started the day late, and each run was a solid half hour, so their bellies were pulling them. But the gorgeous day was pulling me.
“I’m gonna take one more run,” I said. My husband and I always tried to let each other take solo runs when we were skiing with the kids so we could go as fast and hard as we wanted. “Go ahead, Lucy, you can take of your skis and go with Dad.”
And then it happened.
“I wanna take one more run too,” she said.
I stopped and turned. Small victories.
I reached to give her a high five. “Well alllright. Let’s go,” I said. “Lucy and I will be in after one more run.”
One of the best thing skiing teaches me is how to overcome fear. An icy ledge to negotiate at the top of a trail. A tight mogul patch your only option down. Getting up after you take a bad fall. Seeing my kids learn this too makes every early wake up, every two hour drive, every ride up the magic carpet, totally worth it.
We rode to the top of the mountain, the whole valley stretching out below us. We took off again down Polecat. Flying down the snowy trail behind my daughter, her blond hair flying, looking as golden as the sun to my happy heart.