I can’t wait for ski season to begin. Like walking my dogs or enjoying a quiet Sunday with my wife, whenever I go skiing, I wonder why I ever bother to do anything else.
Just last week at around three in the morning, coyotes woke me up yipping and howling on the other side of the wall around our yard, so close the dogs didn’t bark. When I went to bang on the window, I could see Orion in the sky above the mountains to the east.
It’s my favorite constellation, The Hunter, with his mythological belt of the stars Alnilam, Mintaka, and Alnitak, aligned as straight in the heavens as if the angels had hung a traffic light. It’s the earliest sign winter is coming too, before the leaves start to turn and October casts the Northern Hemisphere aglow all gold and bright.
The world starts seeming softer in the coming cold, so that friends in texts and phone calls start to ask, “Did you have your first ski dreams of the season yet?
Community of the Cold
It’s friends that make the winter better. Sharing the season and the powder and jokes on the chairlift. Even the “imaginary friend,” which is how I sometimes refer to the sport of skiing. How even skiing alone, you can often feel like you are enjoying an adventure with something much greater than yourself.
I love how the ski season brings so many people together. How I have friends in town who I hardly ever see in the summer, but in the winter, we carpool to the ski area together; race each other down the mountain; and, at the end of the day, toast beers on the deck.
Or the friends back east from college who I make plans to see for a long ski weekend in Alta, Snowbird, or Taos. Making turns and tracing back the tracks of our lives. Creating new memories at each snow-fueled reunion that remind us why we became such good buddies in the first place.
Like my old pal Billy, who I moved to Jackson Hole with right after graduation. We taught ski lessons during the day and lived on pasta and ramen at night. Sometimes I think we hardly fed ourselves, but every time we talk, he says, “I’d go back to those days in a minute!”
And each season there is the chance to make new friends and become good ski buddies with people we haven’t even met yet.
A Way of Life
Skiing is our family sport. It’s why my Mom and Dad moved to Colorado and had my brother and me on skis when we were 2 years old. So early that I don’t even remember my first turns other than a vague, thrilling memory of the wind on my face and the world sliding away beneath my feet.
Dad and all his buddies worked as volunteer ski patroller at Vail every weekend, back in the days when every patroller’s family would get a season pass.
He and Mom were beautiful skiers, softly porpoise-ing through the powder in the Back Bowls and on the frontside sticking to the sides of the runs where the snow stays soft. As methodical and rhythmic as pistons arcing through the bumps.
My brother and I still joke that nobody ever asked what we wanted to do on a weekend in December, January, February, or March. It was understood that on Friday right after school, or first thing in the dark of Saturday morning, our butts would be in the back of the Volkswagen hatchback heading west.
For Every Season
Through junior high, high school, and college, our big family vacation always involved skiing. We would head out, checking off all the fantastic areas in Colorado until I was living in Jackson, and the whole crew would come see me up north for a week.
When my brother and his wife moved to Washington and had kids, Mom and Dad followed to enjoy their time as grandparents while watching the next generation take to the slopes.
It was only when Dad’s Alzheimer’s was diagnosed, and quickly worsened, that I realized his skiing days were probably finished. Mom agreed. But my sister-in-law thought one more day on his skis was what he probably needed the most.
She had been a children’s ski teacher in Vail and used the same kid-friendly tactics she’d honed with those classes to get Dad in his gear, feeling safe in his environment and onto the lift. And after a couple of warmup turns, all the muscle memory of so many seasons on snow came roaring back.
He skidded to a stop at the bottom with happy tears in his eyes. Mom asked him how he was doing. “I’m doing something I love with people who love me,” he replied.
Which is about as good as it can get. Being in love with the people who love you, and with this beautiful sport. I wish all that love to you this season and hope that skiing loves you right back!
—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of the God of Skiing. Buy it here: amzn.to/35AfxlL