“The good side of it is that you spent all of those great times skiing together until he started to find out about girls and snowboards, in that order.”
I watched the heavily laden SUV with sagging springs park a few cars away and Mom, Dad and five kids started pulling out skis and stuff. The oldest kid had a newly hand-knitted sweater and the younger the kids were, the older the hand-knitted sweater they wore. Next to get unloaded were seven pair of skis, seven sets of poles, seven pair of ski boots and a bag of gold to trade for the lift tickets for all seven of them.
I was lucky. When my three kids were growing up, I was producing ski movies and could buy almost any ski equipment wholesale. By the time Vail opened in 1962 our station wagon was so overloaded with five sets of everything that I started hauling a trailer along so there was enough room in the car for the five of us and someone to take care of the kids and tutor them at night. I told their teachers that a day in the snow was better for them than a day in a geometry class.
I always had to be on the lift early with my skiers so we could get untracked, powder snow shots. My oldest was old enough to tag along with me in my long traverses to get that right location for the wide shot of Sun Up Bowl when the five skiers were making first tracks.
In Sun Valley, we would eat breakfast in the Challenger Inn at 7 a.m. so we could get the first bus to Baldy at 8. For some unknown reason, I always had to get in as much skiing as possible in any given day. I think the reason came from trying to make the most of any sunny day that came along for me and my cameras, so I only got to ski on cloudy or snowy days.
My kids and I always ate lunch together and spent a lot of cloudy days making turns together.
I think I tried to live the business community’s sponsoring of a “Take your son or daughter to work day.” I did that a lot of days. My oldest son became a cameraman/director, my daughter has become a good still camera operator and I sold my film company to my youngest son. (Of course, he resold it in 10 years and retired; what did I do wrong?)
I think this was because I always got them up early to have a day of freedom on skis.
As my children got older, I learned that they would be able to ski as well as I could for only one day of my life and the next day they were better. I was lucky because they waited for me at the bottom with smiles on their faces.
Your days of skiing with your oldest son are over when Marty shows up in the predawn darkness for a ride to the local mountains with you. Marty turns out to be a leggy, good-looking, long-haired brunet who rides a snowboard as if she is a world champion surfer. She isn’t, but her dad was and her older brother is currently ranked in the top 10 worldwide.
It is a bit scary later in the afternoon when Marty rockets by you, closely followed by your son on a rental snowboard. No longer will they wait for dad at the bottom of the hill, no more listening to dad’s lessons because your son has found his freedom chasing his new best friend down the hill. Chances are that in a few years he will return to a pair of skis, but in the meantime you will just have to buy his ski lift tickets and let him go ride with Marty and the rest of their friends.
Kids grow up and want different things than they used to want. But now Junior is going to have to get a job to support his habit that you supported for the first 14 years of his life.
The good side of it is that you spent all of those great times skiing together until he started to find out about girls and snowboards, in that order. You taught him everything he knew on snow and the transition will be a lot harder for you to make than it was for him to make.
My best suggestion is for you to go to a different ski resort next weekend where no one knows you. Rent a snowboard and enroll in a snowboard class. I was almost 60 years old when they finally let snowboarders ride ski lifts in America. I couldn’t figure out how to carry a rucksack full of camera gear and climb over there to that ridge to get that special shot while strapped to a snowboard.
I was able to teach all three of my kids how to enjoy the scenery and the freezing cold mountain air and somehow they are still skiing more than 50 years later. I hope you can give your kids that same gift of freedom and keep them in sight on the side of a hill.
If it gets too hard to keep up with them, start going to a mountain with less vertical rise. They won’t have as good a time and neither will you, so it might be better to just realize you are getting too old to try anymore and settle for the occasional lunch with them as long as you buy.
Warren Miller is history’s most prolific and enduring ski filmmaker. Visit warrenmiller.net or his Facebook page at facebook.com/warrenmiller. Read more of Warren’s stories at TheTahoeWeekly.com.