Vagneur: When your grandson calls to ski with you …
The other evening, my grandson called, asking if I’d like to go skiing with him the next day.
Important decisions in life need to be made without equivocation, and, in the half second before I gave my answer, a million thoughts ran through my head, the most prominent being: “How many times do you think your grandson will invite you to go skiing with him?” Cash is 8 and already skis like the wind. My immediate response was, “Yes.”
When Cash was 2, I bought him a cheap pair of sticks, mostly for his entertainment, I reckon, to give him the opportunity to get the feel of being on skis. His parents and I stuck his feet on those plastic boards, and, as we pulled him, hand in hand across the driveway, he let out a whoop of excitement. It was in his blood.
Not long after that, my daughter and I took Cash to Panda Peak on real skis — time to get him started. His mother was pregnant with his little sister and walked up the hill to meet us coming down. Give her some big credit, but then, she’s the athletic sort. She took a lot of pictures.
That first time, I’d put Cash between my legs for stability, and then, once we were going, I’d let him feel the excitement of skiing on his own, the wind through his helmet, and then catch him before things got out of control. After a couple of runs, when asked how he liked it: “Can we go faster next time!” It’s been that way ever since.
When I was young, I didn’t have an adult to take me skiing. My mother, who did ski, was busy with two other siblings, and that was it in the immediate family. But, I had ski buddies, as all kids do, and my grandmother would drive me and my gear up to Little Nell or Lift One every Saturday and Sunday, so I could get my turns in. It was different then, just glorious.
Although I didn’t have an “Ampa” to care for me on the hill, I was blessed to have the next best thing to an older brother — my cousin Don Stapleton. When I look back at it, I’m in awe that he took the time to ski with me, to take care of me on the hill, and to make sure I didn’t do something stupid. Although at times, we both did stupid things, I’m sure. Don is about 4 years older than me. Every year.
The year Aspen Highlands opened, we skied there every weekend, putting all those new trails to the test. Or vice-versa. There was deadfall along the sides of some trails, about shin high if you got your tips under them, and we made a game out of skiing amidst that stuff, proving our mettle. Man, we laughed so hard and skied so fast on those weekends, and I can swear those are some of my fondest ski memories. Thunderbowl was our favorite for speed.
Put another way, Cash is about 68 years younger than me, so that figures in to how many more times he might invite me to ski with him. If the day comes when he has to wait on me, it’s probably over between us. He laid the gauntlet down this past summer: “Let’s do the Bowl again.” You bet, I’m there, and I’ve started hiking again just to make sure.
Last year was his first year in the competitive group of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, and he took to it in a big way. His mother would like to see him run those GS and slalom gates like there is no tomorrow, but the fire burns differently inside for each of us. Cash wants to be a Big Mountain skier, and we can tell that is the direction he’s headed. Last year, he won first place in his group’s Big Mountain competition.
He knows Highlands like the back of his hand — some of it stuff in the trees that takes skis about his length to maneuver, but I crash right through it, refusing to admit it’s occasionally a challenge.
So, yes, we did go skiing together the other day; his first for the season. It’s a tough world for kids — they grow so fast they have new skis and boots to get used to each season. After a run, I asked, “How are those skis working?”
“They’re just fine,” he replied, and he led the way on one of our top-to-bottoms, making those nice linked turns I’ve hammered on for so long but letting them sometimes run in Spar and on Little Nell. All the way down, he skied like a pro, and it was obvious he was enjoying the hell out of it.
I’m gonna miss skiing with that kid when he outgrows me.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.