My parents first took me skiing when we moved to Salida, Colorado when I was five years old. Though I can still recall the struggle of learning control, it was always overshadowed by the memories and joy that skiing gave me. In high school, I’d learned to snowboard, and it quickly became the love of my life. Thirty-one seasons and millions of vertical feet later, it still holds true. Ironically, my dad stopped skiing after those first few seasons of my childhood. Then, at 61 years old, he decided it was time to learn to snowboard.
Colorado is famous for oppressive winter storms followed by bright blue skies. The result is showroom-quality crystals of snow sparkling atop thick blobs of powder, sagging the pine and aspen branches while gloriously glistening in the morning sun. The snow’s prescriptively low moisture content creates fine feathery crystal arms on delicate flakes and makes for seas of whisper-light snow that rise like sparkling diamond dust with a sweep of an arm over the snow’s surface.
It’s time to ride.
The iron chairlift rises off the loading ramp as my dad and I shift into a comfortable padded seat, our snowboards dangling from our feet. All around us, pure powder blankets the surfaces between the trail’s sharp tree-lined edges. Excitement overtakes us. With only a handful of occupied chairs above, we are rushing to make first tracks. Excitement overtakes us. I remind my dad of the powder pointers I’d already given to him on the drive up. His eyes don’t meet mine, but he is clearly concentrating on the task at hand.
Breathing hard, we jump back on another lift, make adjustments to our gear, and chatter about the incredible snow. Our first run takes us to the upper mountain lift, again ahead of the pack. We can expect another two, maybe three runs of untouched powder before the crowd catches up. Though now 72, my dad talks about his run as my teenage son would-– animated and gesturing, with high energy. He’s clearly found a love for this sport is, and it’s so satisfying to witness his enthusiasm.
The snow billows over my board as I head down the next run and make a three-dimensional turn that feels akin to floating through a cloud. A bit too much speed and a deeply thrust heel-turn boil the snow up over my head, enveloping my entire whole body in a swirling crystal palace. I reemerge and a few turns later I stop, wiping the remaining snow from my goggles and look back up through the sentinel open glade for my father. He emerges between the trees, bouncing and bounding his way down the mountain. With a bellowing whoop, he slides into a seated stop above me, the snow closing in around his torso as he sits back to relax and enjoy the moment. We both grin.
We leave trenches wherever we go – across the open slope, over rollers, into depressions, and between the trees, which seem to beckon us to dance in the snow below, whispering a breathy song as we pass. It’s just the sound of millions of snowflakes colliding against us, cascading up and around our bodies, a winter wave softly cresting off of our beings.
Through the day– the slopes morph into thousands of accumulating tracks. From the first few serrated slices of the morning to a mid-morning crisscrossing pattern, and later to an artist’s cross-hatching. By mid-afternoon, when our legs ache and our gear is weighted down with perspiration, the slopes give way to a chaotic blue-shadowed scramble of tracks.
My dad has had his fill and announces his intention for his last run of the day. Again, we grin. Worn weary by the day’s athletic drain on our bodies, we marvel at just how fun it is to spend the day together in the world-class high-alpine mountains of Colorado.