Ski passes retire as magnets in our house. And after so many seasons, our aging fridge has taken on a yearbook feel. This pass for Evie would be special, though, a snapshot of one of life’s great pivot points. On the way into the pickup office, Evie dropped the bomb.
“Dad,” she sighed. “I’m done with ski lessons.”
The syllables crystallized in the air, hard and clear, like vapor shot from a snow gun. The moment had always seemed inevitable but also as distant as her wedding day. Was Evie really ready to ski with us? Were we ready to ski with her? Evie, after all, was only six.
“Are you sure you don’t want lessons?” I asked.
“I can do black-diamond turns now, Dad.”
Up until then, having a kid hadn’t pruned our ski time as much as we’d feared. A few low-snow winters had eased the pain of missed powder days, but so did the fun of teaching this pintsize human to bop down a bunny slope wearing skis the size of Christmas ornaments. We drank hot chocolate at the bottom and ate Skittles at the top.
Eventually she needed lessons, though, and Evie turned four on the first day of BY TIM NEVILLE her first session. What ensued was an unexpected bliss. For 10 Saturdays a season for three consecutive seasons, we stopped pumping the brakes. While Evie learned to edge in ski school, my wife, Heidi, and I were free to rip with a rapacious gusto we hadn’t indulged in in years.
Too windy, too foggy, too crusty: None of it mattered in the face of being able to ski at our own speed again—together!— off the summit, through the trees, wherever we wanted. We drank Bloody Marys before noon and had après nachos in the bar. It was like a mini honeymoon every Saturday. Our pulses raced in anticipation every Friday night. Sweet sanity, were those days already over?
As it turned out, no. Evie’s skiing blossomed over the course of last winter’s lesson-less season. Lessons had given our daughter the basics but now the sport was becoming her own. She started to carve. She learned how to maintain speed
Oand how to persevere. Powder still sent her over the bars but on the steeps her turns became snappy. We could all ski together at last.
And so we decided to take our first real family ski trip together, to Tahoe, at the end of that pivotal season. Evie rocked Northstar and Homewood. She played in the parks. She asked about skiing new mountains. The exploratory spirit took root in other aspects of her life. One night at dinner she ordered the python sausage, which was actually made of python. She ate it, too.
On our last day in Squaw I thought our luck had finally run out. We sat at the top of the headwall looking down a steep pitch that Heidi skied first. Upon seeing this Evie collapsed into the snow and refused to budge. She’d seemed so big but inside she was still only seven.
“I don’t want to go that way!” she blubbered.
“C’mon, honey,” I pleaded. “Do you want me to carry you down?”
“No!” she screamed at punishable decibels. She lifted a mitten and pointed to…oh, wow, how’d we miss that? Two hundred feet to our right she’d spied a line that was just as steep but with a better pitch and tiny trees to pop around. “I want to ski that!” she bellowed.
But before I could holler to Heidi, Evie stood up and skied the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad line her parents had forced upon her, her little shoulders heaving with sobs through each poppy turn. A new era of lessons had already begun, but this time, we all knew who’d be getting schooled.
Tim Neville has written for SKI since 2003, on topics as diverse as North Korea and cheese.