Love of skiing is in the family genes | AspenTimes.com
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Love of skiing is in the family genes

Roger Marolt

I love to ski with my kids.It’s not something I set out to do – it just sort of happened. Being very insecure parents, when my oldest daughter started school my wife and I wanted to do with her what every other parent was doing with his or her children. As soon as she was old enough, or maybe even a little before, we signed her up for Aspen Valley Ski Club. It was cool that we got a bumper sticker in the bargain.After busy weeks adjusting to the rigors of kindergarten, we thought, without actually thinking, that it was a good idea to keep up the routine of waking up early and madly scrambling to get somewhere on weekend mornings, too. The Saturday ski program was perfect for that! The schedule kept us from getting lazy, lingering over coffee and newspapers. To our astonishment, though, after a few tries we learned that our young skiing prodigy didn’t like it. Our hearts were broken. Where had we gone wrong? According to a haphazard sampling of other parents, every kid in town simply loved the program. For a family with skiing heritage, we had face-planted in a deep drift of tradition.One night around that time, I remember lying in bed full of heartache, reflecting back on my days of skiing, saddened that my young daughter might never have the opportunity to love the sport as I do. I lamented how pitiful life must be for an adult who can’t go through a truncated giant slalom course fast enough to win a platinum NASTAR medal. Then I recalled an important thing about my own childhood: I didn’t like Ski Club either. OK, that’s not exactly the truth. I hated Ski Club! My most vivid remembrances of it are arriving at the mountain searching through throngs of people, trying to find my group. Then, once on the mountain, scrambling like crazy to keep up with the group that wasn’t heading towards the runs I liked, and then waiting around for something to happen. I tolerated it without choice for a few weeks. Then, late one Saturday afternoon, opportunity nearly slid past. As the group snaked down upper Little Nell, I spotted my dad, the Olympic racer, carving freely down the other side of the slope. On instinct I ditched my group and chased after him. I met him at the bottom. He turned around and smiled, surprised to see me. I wanted like crazy for him to be proud of me for being on “the team,” but when I opened my mouth to say “hi,” the only thing that came out were tears from my eyes.Now, you have to know that nobody loved skiing more than my dad, and I mean that most sincerely. Understanding this, even at that tender age, my entire spindly existence hurt because I knew that I had just broken his heart … or so I thought.It turns out that he loved skiing even more than I knew. He wanted me to love it, too. And, he saw right then that I didn’t, being part of that program. So, in all of his wisdom, which I didn’t fully appreciate until I had children of my own, he said, “come on, Beaver (that’s what he called me), let’s go take a run.”And we did. Then we took another. We went the following weekends, too! Over the next few years I was his skiing buddy. He couldn’t shake me, and I couldn’t get enough of him. Then I started to go along with him on trips down to Powderhorn, where he coached high school racers on weekends. I learned to tune my own skis and grew fond of hot wax fumes. Those were some of the happiest days of my life. They passed way too quickly.As I grew older, my father gradually and gently released me from our special time together so that I could ski with my other friends. I doubt many can say it with as much precision, but I remember exactly when I became completely smitten with the sport. It was during spring break of 1975. I was 13 years old. My parents finally gave us the blessing to find freedom on the Big Mountain by ourselves.Each morning that week the Callahan and Marolt brothers caught the bus to Ajax in time for the first ride up, and we stayed until they made us go home. It was warm, so we skied in sunglasses and shirtsleeves. We explored every crevice of our mountain. At night we listened to music in the shed, taking turns working on our skis, experimenting with different combinations of waxes. Afterwards, we watched ski movies on GrassRoots, over bowls piled high with chocolate ice cream. Referring to that week even 30 years later is enough to trigger vivid memories that fuel my love affair with the sport.So, the organized programs never did it for me in skiing. I tried again when I was a senior in high school, my only stint of formal ski racing at Aspen Ski Club. For part of the winter, fair results were enough to keep me traveling to races. But in March, the high school baseball team needed a decent catcher and I realized powder days were numbered. The decision to stop racing meant that I would probably never win an Olympic gold medal. That hurt a little until life got around to proving that I probably wouldn’t have won one anyway. Over the years I’ve skied posh resorts and remote peaks. I’ve skied in every type of condition you can imagine, and a few you can’t. I’ve raced, bumped, cut through waist-deep powder, and hucked during every month of the year. I’ve put more miles beneath my edges than most, and recall few of them as drudgery. And how has all of this ad hoc “training” paid off?Well, like I said at the beginning, I love to ski with my kids.Roger Marolt sees signs that his kids are leaving him in the slush. He’s not letting them go that easily … yet. It’s your turn at roger@maroltllp.com


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