My Dad sure could ski. He discovered skiing when he was in his late thirties. He always loved the cold and snow, so dancing on the slopes was a natural fit for him. He taught me and my sisters how to ski when I was nine years old. As a member of the National Ski Patrol, his entire family could ski free. Pretty handy, since he had four kids at the time. Number five was still just a hope, a promise, and a twinkle in his eye.
We went skiing as a family. My Mom hated the cold and the snow as much as my Dad loved it, but my Dad helped her battle the cold by introducing her to hot spiced wine. She would come along, rub our feet and warm our clothes by the huge fireplace by the picture window when we came in for a break. She also had an enormous bag of food for us as well. We occasionally invited friends to go along with us, and several times my parents even arranged to take busloads of kids up to the slopes for the day. Goodness, they were brave! I have dozens of funny stories from those trips.
My older sisters didn’t take to the slopes quite like I did, and pretty soon gave it up. Eventually my Mom stopped coming along as well. There were a lot of times it was just me and my Dad heading to the slopes. I loved having time alone with him, and I certainly enjoyed the quiet in the car without the chatter of the rest of the family. I also loved the peaceful solitude of skiing alone while my Dad performed his duties of the Ski Patrol. But before long, the car was full again, and this time I was skiing with my younger sisters. Mom was back in her spot at the fireplace, warming toes and handing out sandwiches.
After I graduated college, I moved to Colorado where the ski season can last from October to June. For thirty years my Dad and I explored the ski resorts of Colorado, but our favorite spot was Copper Mountain Resort. Sometimes we had a small entourage of friends and family. Some years it was just me, my Dad and my husband. It didn’t matter who was with us or where we went; we always had a fantastic time, and always came back with a lot of great memories as well as incredibly funny stories. My favorite is the “year of the butterscotch schnapps”, but I’ll save that for another time. All I will say is thank goodness there was a shuttle bus to take us back to our condo.
I quit skiing after my Dad stopped coming out, but I picked it back up again when my youngest sister brought her two kids out to ski. It was a family affair all over again, creating lasting memories and having a wonderful time together. My father gave us all so much more than the gift of skiing. He gave us the gift of life long memories, stories, and a family tradition than is being passed on to another generation.
I just know my Dad is dancing down the slopes of Heaven. And every day the conditions are fantastic. In the lodge, sitting by the fireplace with a book and a glass of hot spiced wine, is my mother, patiently waiting for my father to come inside.
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP