Skiing with family is the best gift of all
By Bob Berwyn
Christmas morning dawned snowy and cold, just the way it should in the mountains of Colorado. After all, skiing a few inches of fresh powder with loved ones is the ultimate gift for anyone obsessed with sliding down mountains. Who needs anything more?
I tried to explain that to my son, Dylan, as he rummaged through the pile of presents under our tree. He turned to me at one point and said, “Where’s yours, Dad?”
How to tell him that making turns together during a radiant Christmas Eve sunset under the lights at Keystone the night before was by far the best gift I could get?
How to make him understand these hours of family time are immeasurably more precious than any trinket or bauble? Will he realize it before he has kids of his own?
I’ve tried hard to pass along my decidedly non-materialistic values, but my then nine-year-old was obsessed with stuff like baseball cards and PlayStation games. The concept of finding happiness through love, inner peace and caring about others seemed about as distant as the burnished stars that hung high above us as we carved our way down Spring Dipper and River Run.
It makes me wonder about how I’m doing as a parent. I’ve tried spend time talking about values and choices , but I still sometimes feel like I’m losing out to the mainstream media and peer pressure. How can I compete against what sometimes seems to be an overpowering message that more is better, that you can’t be successful and happy unless you’re accumulating money and stuff?
It’s not easy. Even I sometimes feel like if I don’t make sure Dylan gets his share of loot, he’ll be disappointed, and that I’ll have failed as a Dad if I don’t keep up with the latest and greatest gadgets.
We arrived at the mountain in the late afternoon with inky shadows settling across the Snake River Valley. People were streaming off the slopes to get home and hang their stockings, but for us, living just 10 minutes away, it was a chance to spend some quality time and enjoy wide-open slopes. We had the mountain nearly to ourselves and as a bonus, the sunset colored the sky pink, purple and orange.
As we rode up the gondola, I talked with Dylan about the roots of the Christmas holiday and how the gift-giving tradition developed, trying to explain — without being a Grinch — that the holiday is about much more than just getting a batch of new toys.
The time for talking ended when we unloaded at the top of the mountain, with the Continental Divide shining in the alpenglow and the sun just winking out behind the Tenmile Range. We latch into our skis and point ‘em down the fall line, lazily at first, then purposefully carving high-speed GS arcs across the broad cruisers on Keystone’s front side.
There’s just enough light left in the sky to dodge into the trees at the edge of the trail and cut through some untracked fluff. We stop for a minute at a a ridge overlooking Jones Gulch and watch a few chickadees bustle through snow-covered branches, looking for a place to stay warm during the chilly night ahead.
We load back up on Montezuma Chair and enjoy the view of snow-covered pines against the fiery sky, talking once more about what it means to be a family and how lucky we are to be in the mountains. Just before we reach the top, I tell him, for whatever it’s worth, that there nowhere else I’d rather be at this moment, and nothing else I’d rather be doing. Although he doesn’t say it, I’m pretty sure he feels the same.
Our last run of the evening is a screamer down Spring Dipper, where the snow is consistently good, top to bottom. The trail is empty, so we ski fast enough that it takes our breath away and brings tears to our eyes. Riding a pair of second-hand Volkl Race Tigers that we recently picked up at Recycle Sports in Frisco, Dylan skis in a relaxed and confident stance, shadowing my turns until we skip to a stop at the base of the mountain.
For once, I don’t need to lecture about how a feeling of happiness, a shared hour of joy, is the most valuable gift you can have for Christmas. Dylan’s smile says it all — “Can we go again tomorrow, Dad?” he asks as he shoulders his boards for the walk back to the car.
We’re developing our own new father and son holiday traditions, and we agree that, as long as we’re living in Summit County, we’ll try make Christmas Eve night skiing turns part of that family lore — along with the yummy chili-cheese-dogs that we later eat for dinner, just before putting out lettuce and carrots for the reindeer, a chunk of cheese for Santa Mouse, and of course eggnog and cookies for the Big Guy.
There’s new snow on Christmas morning, and we’ll head to the mountain once again, my son and I. But first we have to try out Guitar Hero. That’s our new video game, and I think I can hang with him on this one!
*This essay first appeared online at NewWest.net.