That Next Big Step

When your kid turned three years old, maybe you gave her ski lessons, like I did. Maybe you did it because skiing can be an exciting part of a great life. Or maybe you did it because you hoped she’d grow into an effortless, natural skier. Or maybe you did it because you wish you’d started at three years old.

Or maybe it’s a bit of all of the above.

We started our daughter in daycare at Gore when she was six months old. It seems that many ski areas don’t take kids that young, but I think it’s brilliant. If you can keep both parents skiing when the kids are really little, you might be helping to create another ski family.

When our only was three-and-a-half, we’d start her day with an hour lesson, and afterward we’d bring her back to the Bear Cub Den, Gore’s daycare center, so Zelda and I could ski together for a few hours. Our daughter decidedly did not like going back inside, not one single bit. She didn’t want to hang with all those babies, after riding the poma and getting first tracks on the Bear Cub Run.

Eventually she graduated to chair lifts and skiing all day. She got to be a good skier. She’s probably skied less than 100 days in her life, but a chunk of those were private lessons. BJ Prior and Erin Barton of the Gore Ski School really taught her how to ski.

She’s got good form. She uses her poles, naturally, without thinking about it. She stays forward and if she feels challenged, she remains balanced doing small stem-christies. It’s very cool to watch.

Over the last few years though, her passion has become gymnastics. Practices are frequent, including weekends and she hasn’t been skiing nearly as much. She skied four days at Gore last year, not enough to justify a pass. This season, until this past weekend, she had only two days, way back in November.

Which is why what happened this weekend really surprised me.

Over the last few seasons, our daughter has been generally fearless in the trees, and only intimidated by the steepest steeps at Gore. Two years ago, when 46er opened, we skied right up to the headwall, paused, re-considered, and sidestepped back uphill to ski the Hudson Trail.

This past Sunday, we were first at the Yurt and first in line for the Hudson Chair. Don was working the lift, and he always gives me a good tip: “46er was groomed overnight.” The lift started to spin early, and we were on our way up the hill at 8:15.

I’ve learned, always listen to Don. Without pushing too hard, I hope, I raised the idea of grabbing it while the cord was perfect. Two points for us, we were on a slow fixed-grip lift, with no one ahead of us, so we had some time to talk it out. By the time we arrived at the top of Little Gore, we were going for it.

The cord was firm but grippy and she nailed it. On the next ride up, she asked me “Dad, how does that compare to Lies?” I told her “46er is steeper than Lies, but it’s shorter. And Lies won’t be cord, by the time we get to it.”

Apparently some kids at school had been talking about Lies, making it out to be the full-on shizzle. She’d gained confidence on 46er and was looking for some bragging rights to go with it. “To the top Dad, to the top!”

But first things first and everything in proper order — one doesn’t just jump to the summit. We worked up to it, skiing Barkeater and the Tahawas trees on the way. We arrived at the Saddle via the North Chair and went into our Wood-In tuck, over to the Dark Side.

After another fixed-grip ride to the top of Lies, she dropped in. I went for my camera, but she was gone. She top-to-bottomed Lies and then hightailed it down Headwaters to the Straightbrook Chair, leaving me in the dust.

Over on the Straightbrook side, the options visible from the lift are many, including Chatiemac and Straightbrook glades and Double Barrel. So many choices, but she wanted Rumor. “Dad can I do it?” I told her “Concentrate on one turn at a time.”

As we passed the Experts Only sign at the top, the snow felt really good underfoot. This was all-new cold manmade that had never seen any bad weather. She wanted to go first. I crossed my fingers, hoping that the backside of that first drop was edgeable.

It was some the best manmade I’d ever skied on Rumor, without being under the guns. I admit we billy-goated it, but she got down in style. After a second run on Rumor, we sampled the trees across the summit and then headed back down towards the Ski Bowl through Twister Glades and Barkeater.

It was probably my proudest day as a ski dad. Seeing her do it was a lot of fun, but even more than that, was sharing how she felt, when I caught up to her, for a fist bump at the bottom of the Rumor.

If you got this far, thanks for reading. Love to hear your comments about family milestones that were important to you.

29 comments on “That Next Big Step

  1. After the “Next Big Step” is “The Flip”. That happens when she beats you to the bottom every time and starts telling you to hurry up. That happened with my son when he was a teenager ; )

  2. Great read. I remember Megan’s first few times down Lies and she was very timid, after all the only thing she had skied was metro Detroit Hills. After skiing Lies a couple of times we went to Rumor and she side slipped down part of the head wall in the left side until she came to a snow gun that was running and she had to make a turn, when she made the first turn I could see the smile on her face from the other side of the trail. Later we went back to Lies and she skied like it she had skied it her whole life and from that day on she will try just about anything. So it has now been 10 years and skiing with her is the best.

  3. Great read, Harvey. Very excited to do the same with our daughter in the next couple of seasons, most likely at Plattekill.

  4. Congratulations on a momentous family ski day. That day is in your memory bank forever. Thanks for sharing.

    One of my fondest memories with my sons was first time at Gore. When we got to the top of Bear mountain, sons looked to the top and couldn’t believe there was more.

  5. You bring a tear to my eye.
    Nothing more rewarding than watching the offspring grow and succeed. Our son went through the same progression and now he brings us out to Tahoe and shows us his mountains, and gives us gear for Christmas! Carlos started on skis, then board, then the board team with Bone teaching, then Gore liftie, and off to Mammoth by 19. I remember his and my first trip down Rumor when he was maybe 10- we both tripped and slid the headwall down past the side entrance. Then we went back for more!

  6. Great story Harv. When Laurel was little I had one rule. When she was done skiing, she was done. If she wanted to be done after 10 minutes, OK. Once we were in the stadium at Mount van Ho for an hour. It was zero out. If only I was that patient in all aspects of parenting.

  7. This warmed my heart and made me smile. I work in the daycare at Belleayre and often think of the mountains our itty bittys will conquer someday.

  8. “Or maybe it’s a bit of all of the above.”

    Yes, same here and our son is now 17 and craves the trees, chutes, drops, etc. and far exceeds our skills.

    Her gymnastics surely can’t hurt either. Well written Harv

  9. This reminds me of an old Warren Miller line. “Your kids will ski as well as you do for one day. Then it’s Dad can I have money for lunch.” Believe me, it’s true. Enjoy the moment.

  10. Great story! Sounds like your daughter is a natural. I felt like I was enjoying all those wonderful trails with you and your daughter. I listen to Don’s tips also. (He is my brother!)

  11. I’m moved by the response. I almost didn’t write this, I thought you might think it too personal. Thank you Belleayre Laura, Don’s family and every one else.

    It’s true that I really only got that one good action shot all day. When she was skiing the steepest stuff, I was concentrating on her and it seemed best to keep the camera in my pocket. That shot from Rumor, she was already below the headwall, and I knew she’d be ok.

    And trackbiker… the flip happened this weekend:

    “Dad now that I’m as good as you, I realize, you’re not that good!”

  12. Loved this. My 6 year old has been skiing since she was 3 and is just getting into parallel across the traverses now – all of this was super relatable and heartwarming and made me extra stoked for our next time on the mtn, hopefully this afternoon.

  13. I remember when my son was 5 or 6 and he made me always ski behind him so I could help him if he fell. Now he’s 14 and I can’t keep up – I go all out and he cruises past me on the last part of Showcase.

  14. Harvey- I never skied with my dad, but we did loads of other things together, and this article reminded me of how great I felt hanging out with him. I miss him so much, so thanks for sharing this very special story. See you on the cords, XoR

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