Snow Sunday: What Skiing With Teenagers Can Teach You

Snow Sunday: What Skiing With Teenagers Can Teach You

IMG_1169It was the last thing I needed to be doing. Ski P.E. at the Telluride Mountain School. I had papers to grade, a house to pack up to rent for Christmas, a graduate school class to prepare for, and a trip to Costa Rica in just a few days time.

Yet, it was also my job. I’d signed the contract that said I would teach high school English and oh yeah, ski with teenagers, one day a week.

Still. The whole concept felt preposterous. To be sliding down snow on a mountain when there were real life things to attend to. Christmas presents to wrap. Cookies to bake. That novel to edit. The to-do list seemed to be growing rather than shrinking; every time I checked something off, three more things appeared. It was as if some Harry Potter character had waved a wand at my life and chanted a curse: “Ta-da! Now you will get nothing done.

IMG_1171There are some things I should understand about the world by now. After all, I’m closing in on my 4th decade on earth. Yup, I admitted it. I’ll be 40 in May, and I’m not worried about it, I’m really not.  (Except for the fact that I seem to buy a new tube of $40 anti-wrinkle cream every time I go to the grocery store.)

I digress. I should know that I do not always know what I need. When, for example, my daughters ask me to read them a story and I resist, saying I have too many things to do, I should know that reading is exactly what I need to be doing. To slow down. To snuggle on the couch with my kids and a book, which really are 2 of my favorite things in world. To just fall into the moment rather than trying to control it.

And so it goes with Ski P.E. After checking the list of students attending that day, hoping there would be so few, they wouldn’t need me (no such luck) and after kicking over a few things in my house trying to get my too-tight ski boots on ($%#%ing skiing, %$## life, too many things to do!), I got myself over to Lift 7, where Ski P.E. would commence. An 8th grade girl spotted me in line, “Want to ride together?!”

“Sure,” I said, wishing I were at still at my house. It was maybe 2 degrees out, so cold that frost had built up the bottom of one of my skis, making it reluctant to slide. It was going to be a long 3-hour session.

“So, how’s your life going?” she asked, once we’d gotten on the chair.

She’d been raised well. Knew to ask about others. But I was still pretty cranky and not quite ready to talk. “Pretty good,” I said, faking enthusiasm and preparing to ply her with stock answers, all the long ride up if I had to, delighting in the bitter mood I planned to secretly preserve during the entire afternoon.

IMG_1170“Yeah?” she asked. “What’s good about it?”

Damn. She wasn’t going to let me off easy. Exactly what I pushed the kids in my English class to be: critical thinkers. To not accept the easy answer.
“My family’s great, I’m healthy, I get to go to Costa Rica for Christmas,” I said blandly. “And everything I’m doing right now, I love: teaching, writing, raising kids in a mountain town.”

“I know, I so want your job when I grow up. You get to work with kids all day and then you get to ski with them? You scored.”

I hobbled off the chair lift on my one functional ski, popped off the dysfunctional one and scraped off the ice. We started down Coonskin. The cold temperatures meant that few people were on the mountain. It also meant that the snow had preserved itself beautifully.

“Isn’t this amazing,” she called, as the group swooshed down the mountain. “The snow’s perfect.”

She was right. It was perfect. On all accounts. I had exactly the life I had dreamed about, as a kid, growing up in Baltimore, and coming out to the West intermittently for ski trips, envying those who got to call the mountains home.

Sometimes, it just takes the unbridled enthusiasm of a teenager to remind you of that. I carved into my next turn, spotted a mogul, and launched into the air. Then, I landed.

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