Stairway to heaven up Sunlight’s slopes
It’s hard to imagine a fourth-generation Glenwood native skiing like a Texas debutante.
Maybe it was my six-year stint in California that ruined my skiing. Maybe it was the 18 years that I gave it up – completely burned out from the ’70s and early ’80s, having grown up at Sunlight during the “Heathen” years, spoon-fed on a steady diet of Led Zeppelin, “Lord of the Rings” and knee-deep powder.
Who would have ever thought my getting back on boards a couple of years ago would have incurred so much public ridicule from my colleagues that I’d have to enlist Dad, my skiing guru, to help me?
When I was a kid, I avoided Dad and frequently ditched him because he was on the ski patrol and I didn’t think that was cool at the time. And we were always locked in a battle of wills because of my refusal to wear a hat. He worried about pneumonia. I pointed to my Farrah Fawcett hairdo, and inevitably he’d point to the patrol shack where one year I sat out enough spirit-breaking storms to have read “The Hobbit” three times.
So I tell Dad about ski day, openly confessing the pure, unadulterated woes and lack of athletic prowess on the slopes. I begin the miserable tale, ready to bank on any empathy he might have for his first-born.
“Do you know that my Korean co-worker skied better than me on company ski day?” I look desperately at him, but he’s not listening to me and I can tell he’s in the midst of a severe flashback. He takes his sunglasses off and stares hard at me in the brilliant light, but I carry on.
“He’s from Seoul, Korea!”
He flashes a slow, deliberate smile. “I like your hat.”
Our first run together in almost two decades included him watching me struggle in brute force – on Midway. I slip, slide, choke – a Hobbit on skis. I pull up to him and the only thing I see is that he’s the only man in the whole world who has seen me at my absolute worst.
He leans on his poles and evaluates the situation, aware that I’m dangerously close to tears.
“OK Frodo, watch me.” He’s flawless on skis. He skis hard and fast and never stops. I crack an evil smile, guessing there are days he has to sit down to pee. On the lift he gives me 18 years of ski lessons in 15 minutes.
On the next run, we ski down to Little Max. Since the run is named after my grandfather, and being the traditional woman that I am, I always ski it at least once a day as a way to pay homage. We stand at the top and shoot the bull and enjoy the scenery as I imagine Dad and Max did.
Sometimes I get the courage to test our wills once again – mine against his. I inquire about the 20-pound avalanche pack he carries, showing his obvious lack of fashion sense. He grins. The sunglasses stay on. “Been buried twice. Never leave home without it.”
It took me 33 years, but I know when to pull my hat over my ears and say, “yep.”
After our usual lunch of smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, he ditches me for the Black Diamond Brigade, of which I am not a member.
So I make another run on Little Max. As I stand on top of Compass Mountain, the wind whips around, smacking me in the face, but I cannot take my eyes off the snow-capped mountains etching the sky, nor Sopris seated over the valley like an armchair giant.
Suddenly I am in awe of what I took for granted while growing up. Family, the beauty of my hometown, and the diehard locals who have kept traditions alive.
I think of how Max skied Sun King, clicked out of his skis, walked to the sundeck and fell over, dead of a massive heart attack.
So I stop at the top of his run, and it’s as if I can see him standing below me on the next face, just like Dad does, and so I imagine what he’d say to me, knowing this is his last run forever.
“Kimberly, there is a stairway to heaven. It’s here. Never wait for it. It’s always in your own story. Find it. Live it. Love it.”
The next week, a foot of snow had fallen overnight and I’m riding up Segundo alone when I hear people skiing in the trees, whoopin’ and hollerin.’ I expect to see a snowboarder, but instead a skier emerges.
It’s my backpack dad, in full-blown Colorado ecstasy. Livin’ it. Lovin’ it. Somewhere, Little Max beams and I whisper, “that’s my dad.”
I thought about how I’ve spent half my life vehemently seeking “big time,” only to realize that big time is in the little moments in my own story. Moments that when they’re gone, there isn’t enough money or success in the whole world to buy one second back, where you could go back and sit on the sundeck and eat lunch with your best ski buddy.
Life is funny that way. Everything changes, but nothing changes; we just come into different seasons, year after year, maybe just as a reminder to never forget where you came from and to appreciate the journey.
Just ask any Hobbit.
Kim Doose lives in West Glenwood.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.