For the last decade, I’ve been investing in what my wife affectionately calls “Project Ski,” teaching our three kids (now in 8th, 5th, and 1st grades) to get up and down a snow-covered mountain.
Skiing is an enormous investment of time, energy, logistics, effort. Teaching three kids to ski/ snowboard…that’s a whole other level. The gear alone (skis, boots, poles, hats, gloves, glove liners, long underwear tops and bottoms, goggles, helmets, balaclavas, ski pants, fleece, ski jacket, lift tickets…times five in our case!) is enough to test anybody’s patience and strain their bank account. And with the crazy weather that is our new normal, most of our ski trips in the Northeast U.S. have ended up either being dangerously cold (well below 0 degrees F) or rainy.
Having invested 10 years in this crazy endeavor, last week we take our first family trip to Colorado.
The ski gods smile on us.
It had been a very poor season for snowfall, but it snows more than a foot the week before we arrive and another foot while we are there.
So we drive and park and fly and drive some more on winding roads…we sleep and get on gear and buckle uncomfortable boots and ask “do we have any toe warmers?”….until we finally find ourselves at the top of a massive Colorado Rockies peak.
The sky is a piercing blue. The air is thin, crisp and clear. All around us are fields of untouched powder and evergreens.
And I suddenly remember what I’d forgotten over the years of sweating and organizing and cajoling (“c’mon guys what’s a little rain?!”): skiing is really about freedom.
Not just the freedom to go, or go fast.
It’s the freedom of being out in nature.
The freedom of being a dot amongst miles and miles of untouched beauty.
The freedom of feeling the air, the ground, the sky all around you.
The freedom, and joy, to go anywhere that I and my family pointed our skis and boards.
And, yes, also the freedom that comes with the rush of speed and motion and fluidity that occasionally happens when everything comes together going down the mountain.
This kind of freedom felt particularly magical now, living as we all are in an era in which we struggle to shield ourselves from the cacophony of news and our schedules; we fight to remain present for even a half an hour; and we promise ourselves, daily, that we’ll put our phones away for the night and not check them first thing in the morning.
While skiing isn’t for everyone (my wife is quick to remind me that ‘lying on the beach would be great too’), this sort of joy, presence and liberation certainly are.
And I can’t help but reflect that this flavor of liberation only arises out in nature, when the sensation of the ground crunching beneath us, or a wave splashing over us, or a breeze catching light in the leaves, remind us of our here, our now, our smallness in a big world, and our inexplicable connectedness to all of it.
I’m feeling grateful for having shared this time my family, and for the reminder that this sort of experience is still out there, even today.