New Year’s Day. We wanted to ski. Calls and texts started flying, and I slapped sandwiches together. Mike reached our groggy older son, who’d stayed in Aspen after a party.
Yes, son No. 1, age 20, said; he’d ski. So could we bring all his equipment and ski clothing up?
Our friend Jim called in: He had reached both his sons, including the one with our son in Aspen. We would have a family ski day — sort of. Our son No. 2, age 17, was up, ambulatory, and going skiing, but not with us. He had a better idea, to spend the day with a flaxen-haired girl.
Our friend Kim checked in. He was trying to get his sons out of bed.
Next Randy texted. Sure, he was welcome, though I wondered if the stream of arrangements would try the patience of this amiable single guy.
As we three drove upvalley, a second Jim (Jim No. 2) called. He was completely unable to roust his son/daughters, but up for skiing. We and the Jims progressed separately toward Aspen Highlands.
Arriving in the high school parking lot to rendezvous with our and Jim No. 1’s No. 1 sons, who were together, we waited. And waited.
Twenty minutes later two tousle-headed youths pulled up, snow-tufted. There’d been an issue, a pickup truck driven into a bit of a snowdrift. Fortunately, the first vehicle to come along was that of Jim No. 1 and his wife, Lynn, who towed them out.
Our son No. 1 hopped in with us, Jim No. 1 and Lynn’s with them. Jim and Lynn had also, en route, extracted son No. 2 from the house where he had stayed overnight. We convened at the base-lodge fireplace, where both sons No. 1 flung about and pulled on clothing from the garbage bags handed them. Randy waited patiently. Jim’s son No. 1 found himself with only a T-shirt beneath his parka, and begged a hoody off our son.
We moved en masse toward the lift. But wait! Our son No. 1 had a broken ski brake. Their son No. 2 announced that he had eaten nothing since the day before.
Randy chuckled. “Not even on the ski lift, and you guys are having to dish out dough!”
We left some sons behind to seek repairs or nourishment, rode the lift, and made a cruiser run back down. Regrouping, we all ascended to midway, aiming for the top. But now Jim No. 2 phoned to say he had nearly arrived. OK, back to base.
Randy murmured that he might peel off. He didn’t.
Now our son No. 1 heard from a college friend, a boy from Greece, here skiing with his family. Could we wait a few minutes? Meanwhile the herd had moved onto the lift.
I caught the crew at the midway station. Randy headed indoors, murmuring about picking up some food. The others took off, deciding to ski under the lift, where they’d be visible to our son No. 1. I’d skated two steps to follow when I remembered Randy, the one innocent in all this. Crap! I kicked off my skis, hurried in, waved him out. Now he was fortified against uncertainty.
“I have food all in my pockets,” he said, “like a squirrel.”
He and I met my son and the friend, whom we’ll call Athens, alighting. We four chased the rest of the posse to the bottom. We found Mike and both Jims, but had lost Lynn, who had an appointment elsewhere. With her had gone her and Jim No. 1’s two sons. Son No. 1, who had shot and quartered an elk with our son No. 1 a few days before, had strained his knee during the carry. Son No. 2, weary from his evening, simply piled in.
Up we went again. At midway Jim No. 1 split off indoors for food. The rest of us rode on for the first run from the top. Next round, both Jims decided to hike above-lift to the Highlands Bowl, as did Mark, who’d appeared from somewhere. Mike and I decided to stay with our son and Athens. We lost them the very next run, though. Son’s phone was dead, and Athens had now lost his.
Randy gazed at Mike and me, and said, “Ten little Indians.” We were three again.
We skied, had a nice lunch, were free to hike the Bowl ourselves; and it was Styrofoam and the best run of the day.
— “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at email@example.com.