To every thing, we are taught in the Bible, there is a season. For skiers, that is a good thing, for we depend on the turning of the season — from fall to winter — for our sport.
But there are seasons to our lives as well, and seasons to our ski lives.
In our first ski seasons, we are tentative. Sometimes we are cold, often we cry. We struggle with our boots, and our bindings, and the skis don’t seem to move, even when french fries and pizzas are invoked. Later we grow in confidence, and in the challenges we take on the slopes; it is that period when older skiers look with abject fear upon teenagers on the trail, and I know some — denizens of yet another season on the slopes — who avoid some ski resorts entirely because they are the playground of those teens. You know who you are, and you know where they are.
And then there is serene season. That’s where, and when, I’m skiing now.
Once I was the mostly hesitant of skiers, out there mainly because Mom and Dad sent me there, not so sure I wanted to be there, not so good once I was out there, not so sure that the “ski life,” as the phrase went, was for me. Maybe winters were meant for the library. Maybe the firesides in my life were in the den.
Then — speaking of firesides — I caught fire. Winter was ablaze with possibility: rushing winds, sunny days, the sort of folklore that I sought in the library but alive on the slopes. Plus girls. You could meet them on the chairlift. Maybe in a few years I might be brave enough to talk to one of them. That day never seemed to come.
As a father I brought my girls to the slopes, fourth-generation female skiers, reluctant in the morning like their dad, fearless on the slopes like their mom, accomplished, graceful, melodies on the mountains. I loved those years, watching them sideslip and then take their turns, a metaphor, I came to realize.
Maybe I was skiing just because the four-hour drive to our home mountain meant four hours with my girls. Maybe I was skiing just because the four-hour drive to our home mountain meant that my girls were four hours away from the mall, and the mischief that came with that indoor venue. Maybe I was skiing just because it was a tradition, and a way of looking at the world, that I hoped my girls would embrace: Outdoors. A little daring. Caution when required. Judgment overall. Plus ruddy cheeks and the great sense of happiness I felt when I heard them ask for a “ho cho’’ at the top of Bretton Woods.
Now I am in a different season entirely. The girls have grown. I have grown older. I still love the sport — anyone who reads these monthly missives knows that — but I love different things about it. Sure, the intoxicating mix of snow and sunshine still beguiles me. And once in a while I like the rush of speed. But it is form that appeals to me now: form over function, because I can master form, still, but have increasing trouble mastering function. A lot of things in an older body don’t function quite the way they once did.
Today I ski just as often and as fervently as I once did. But I ski differently. I don’t ski as long. (My skis aren’t as long, either.) I haven’t skied after lunch in years. I haven’t skied a black diamond in years. I’ve enjoyed myself more in these years than ever before. Less is more. Less speed. Less danger. Less glitz. Less exhaustion. (Well, maybe not less exhaustion.)
I like the little areas. I like the easy slopes. I like the facile turns. I like the slow lifts. I like the way things used to be.
Maybe that’s because in the way things used to be I was like I used to be.
Sometimes on the slopes I sing a little song, sometimes Charles Aznavour, sometimes Michel Legrand, sometimes Sinatra. Here’s an excerpt from a Sinatra song that matches my mood:
Life is like the seasons
After winter comes the spring.
So I’ll keep this smile awhile
And see what tomorrow brings.
Yes, life is like the seasons. And after winter comes the spring. And that is really wonderful, because after winter comes spring skiing. Would that life were that way. Because I’m a little worried about what tomorrow brings.