Recently I chaperoned Jake and his schoolmates on Ski Bus Fridays. The Olympic and Cascade mountains surround Seattle, some schools hire buses to ship their kids up to the snow for one day a week in the winter. Teachers join in with parents to ski with the kids. As it turns out it is a great opportunity for both bonding and exercise.
For a month, I accompanied the wannabe Shawn Whites and Lindsey Vonns. Jake and I both ski. On the lift to the top of Crystal Mountain, Jake turned to me and said, “Dad. Did you hear that?” What? “Listen.” What is it? “Nothing.” With the exception of the sound of a dropping dollop of snow from a tree branch, there was absolute silence. Our modern life is consumed by noise. Jake is a typical twelve year old boy bombarded by the sounds of neighborhood traffic, rushed schedules + challenged by churning hormones and having to do daily duties like make his bed, takeout the trash and occasionally wash the dishes. In this one instant, all of that static was gone. We sat alone together in silence on the lift. Jake reached for my gloved hand and squeezed. He turned to me and smiled. “That is so cool. No cars or anything… Wow.”
I’ve lived in the northwest for eighteen years. Tragically, this is the first real season of skiing in the mountains. Twelve of those years I’ve made up some wonderful excuses, like, the kids are too small (I’m lazy), it’s too expensive (it is!!!), it takes too long to get up there (ridiculous skiing is an hour away), etc. This year we took our friends’ advice and got skis for the entire 2011 season. “You can get the kid’s price. We only pay $170 for the season. It’s so worth it.” Twenty-four hours after hearing their encouraging words I found myself with Jake trying on boots and skis.
In a small, cramped, urban, mock ski chalet we crammed our Flintstone sized feet into boot after boot. The vise-like action on the boots gives you the feeling that you’re wearing a pint size plastic Iron Maiden on each foot. Eventually we found something that worked for Jake and me. Then came the skis and the bill. “Dude, your total is $250, per person for boots, skis and poles.” After an hour and forty-five minutes of wool, sweat and tears I asked for the kid’s rate. “Nah, man your kid wears a men’s 11 shoe, no kid’s rate.” Thus started my investment into U.S. economic recovery program driven by the ski industry.
Jake and I have three months of regular ski trips under our belt now. We prep the night before. We lay out our clothes and all the essentials, like protein bars, special lederhosen sized ski socks and a well thought out combination of layered clothes depending on the weather report. We do it with the discussion and precision of a Special Forces team going into battle. The early morning load-in is quick and painless. We always make a stop at Starbucks for peppermint hot chocolates and strawberry yogurt. Then we are off, with Jake kicking out the jams as he dominates the iPod, a DJ picking the right mood for the trip. Fleet Foxes and Head and the Heart work for the sunrise synchronicity. As we get close to the slopes the beat changes and old skool hip hop prevails as Mos Def, Tribe Called Quest and RUN DMC fill the confines of our Acura. We are ready to attack the slopes.
Last weekend, we had our first spring-like ski day. It was sunny and relatively warm. We lost count of how many runs we did together. We had short bursts of activity capped by ten minutes of engaging conversation about how lucky we were to be on the mountain. There were no screens to worry about, no obligations waiting for us, no emails to read and no schedules that were pulling us apart. Instead Jake and I were simply together: a father and a son, listening to the quiet mountain wind on a sunny winter’s day and enjoying this moment, this pure moment in time.