Climbing kids

Bob WardAspen, CO Colorado

If you recall, it was clear and cold last Saturday morning. It was also my kid’s last day in ski school, and his instructor’s goal was to ski Highland Bowl with the whole class. Since most of the parents were headed for the Bowl anyway, we ended up with a group of about a dozen slogging up the ridge. If you’ve never hiked the Bowl with an 8-year-old, it’s different than hiking with your buddies; there are numerous pauses, to take in the view, to adjust the strap holding your skis, to complain about how tired you are, to see how your friends are faring.If you’ve never reached the top with an 8-year-old, that too is different. There’s always some elation amid the prayer flags at the summit of Highland Peak, but with a kid on his first trip it’s a milestone, a rite of passage. You take photos, slap high-fives and welcome each friend as he or she reaches the top.In other words, you burn up a lot of time. And during that time, the core temperature of the average 8-year-old drops like a rock – unbeknownst to the 8-year-old, of course, until it’s too late.By the time the celebratory ski class set out for the G-zones, my kid’s feet were like ice blocks. Grimacing, Billy fought his way through the heavy powder like, well, a cold and miserable 8-year-old (the adults, of course, were having a ball). Despite having conquered the Everest of local ski hills, he wouldn’t speak to me all the way up the Deep Temerity chair.By the time we reached the hot line at the Merry-Go-Round, however, he was apologetic. “I wasn’t mad at you, Dad. I just didn’t feel like talking.”Needless to say, his feet thawed out, and he snarfed his pasta. And by the time his instructor – the incomparable March Henley – handed out the 2007 Highland Bowl pins, he was beaming. It had become an epic day.He also learned a lesson that, for all her skill and wisdom, March didn’t teach: Never wait for your friends when there’s fresh powder in the Bowl.