Tony Vagneur: The grandkids are skiing all right
Overwhelmed. That’s what I was. Standing in a plethora of skis and poles, neatly laid out on the sidewalk, with kids milling around, I wasn’t sure what to do next. A quick glance around revealed that my grandson wasn’t there, and he was the reason for my visit. Should I ask someone, should I just hang on a minute before I start to panic — maybe he’s getting something off the floor of the bus and I just can’t see him. I’d never met his kindergarten teacher before. I was a stranger in a flock of kids, all grabbing gear and meeting up with parents.
Oh wait, here comes another bus. Ha, that’s got to be him. Sure enough, he glomped off the bus in his ski boots, helmet and goggles in place, gloves on and a big smile on his face. His teacher, Shelley, seeing the connection between us, came over immediately and introduced herself and Emily. Emily is Cash’s schoolmate and would be our skiing partner for the afternoon. She’s a good skier too, Emily is. So is Cash — they’re a well-matched duo — and I haven’t skied with Shelley, so I can’t say about her, but she probably is, too. I mean, we’re there to ski, aren’t we?
We were meeting up at Buttermilk on a Thursday afternoon, a weekly ski day for the younger kids at Aspen Country Day School. You have to see how much those young kids love skiing to truly appreciate the enormity of the program. Lifetime skiers in the making, for sure. The protocol is to have parents join the kids for the afternoon, two to a class. It was my privilege to be invited by my daughter to substitute for her on this particular day.
Living here a long time has its perquisites, at least for memories. Just as for Cash, those ski days were real for me as a 6-year-old, bringing all our gear to school, stashing our skis in the snowbanks along the walkways to the Red Brick school. It was somewhat of a struggle to keep track of our stuff, like hats and goggles, because it had to all be contained in either our desks or under our assigned coat hooks in the hallway. While waiting for noon, anticipation took precedence over intellectual curiosity, and that’s as it should be.
It was a bit more western in my day. There were no compartments underneath the bus to carry the skis — we stashed them in the aisle between the seats, carefully stepping over them, not wanting to screw up the bindings, or ourselves. Some parents participated, wonderful volunteers that are still strong in my memory, but there also were other adults taking up the slack, like well-known ski club coach John Morris. We did the entire school on Wednesday afternoons, not splitting it up throughout the week as ACDS does.
My own ski days at school helped build a fire under me that hasn’t died down, and helped carry me through with my daughter, as well. The experience of watching her learn and grow through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, of skiing with her most weekends, was a pleasure that I cherish. She and I still ski together, whenever we both can arrange our days the same. We do the Highland Bowl at least once each season, just because.
And so it goes, they say. It now is my good fortune to be skiing with my grandson almost every weekend. He skis with the AVSC on Saturdays so last Thursday was a big plus for us. Participating with him through his school takes me back through the years, to my youth, when I hoped that someday, when I grew up, I would be able to ski every day. And get paid for it. Ah, how fortunate I’ve been.
My grandson has a younger sister, Charli, and if you haven’t guessed, she will be my fourth experience of kids learning how to ski, including my own. She’s two, and we’ve hit the mountains at Snowmass and Buttermilk. She makes nice parallel turns, coming off the top of Panda Peak. The fun continues.
Last Thursday, after hitting Red Rover terrain park several times, numerous tree trails, some so narrow I had to turn sideways to get through, and a couple of bump runs, what a thrill it was to turn Cash and Emily loose and follow them down the face of Buttermilk nonstop, making consistent, well-timed swoopeys, one after the other. They are there — they are good skiers.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Commentary: “My granddaughter Charli, dressed in an ankle-length sun dress, sporting a fresh manicure and wearing light lipstick (her mother helped reorganize that), quietly welcomed me to the affair, maintaining an air of sophistication that surprised. She knew it was a big deal.”