Get­ting Schooled


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.

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