(Photo: Yes, that’s my Dad)
Whenever I ski, I think of my Dad.
This is hardly a surprise. Dad was responsible for getting me started, but that’s pretty typical; a lot of us had fathers who taught us how to ski. So with Father’s Day coming, I thought I’d give a tip of the old ski helmet to the Dads out there.
My Dad introduced me to skiing way back when I was 13. This was pretty amazing, since no one in my family had ever skied or even expressed any interest in skiing (it was an Olympic year, which might explain the sudden attraction). Maybe it’s because I grew up on the Jersey Shore, which is flat, flat, flat, and where the closest thing to skiing is surfing. Which isn’t really close at all.
But for my 13th birthday, my Dad took the family to a small resort in the Catskills, where there was a little hill served by a rope tow.
It was dreadful.
Rope tows are evil torture devices invented primarily, I think, to encourage people to get off the beginner slope as quickly as possible. If you don’t keep your feet in the exact same track of the skier ahead of you, you’re going to go down, baby. Even worse, if you’re like me and fall without letting go of the rope, you end up getting dragged a good distance before it occurs to you to drop the rope, idiot, and roll away so no one skis into you and there’s a nasty pile-up with you on the bottom, crying.
Suffice it to say I fell in both directions: going up and coming down. I hated it. The only thing that kept me going was sibling rivalry. My sister was better than me, and damn it, I wasn’t about to allow that to continue. I learned the basics, and by the end of the weekend I’d (sort of) perfected a wobbly snowplow that got me down an incline not much steeper than a parking lot.
And yet I stuck it out.
Even after that weekend, I continued to ski with my Dad. We’d head to north Jersey (Great Gorge, Vernon Valley, Snow Bowl), New York State (Bellayre), even into Vermont (Mount Snow, Killington, Haystack, Hogback). And ever so gradually, my skiing improved until I was better than my sister — who, by the way, eventually gave up skiing and moved to Florida, where she complains it’s freezing if the thermometer dips below 65. Wimp.
My clearest memory of skiing with my Dad is the way he used to sing when we went up on the lift — corny songs at TOP VOLUME so that everyone, I thought, alllllllllllllll over the mountain could hear, laugh, and point. When you’re a teenager, this is devastatingly embarrassing.
My Dad doesn’t ski anymore. Like my sister, he lives in Florida and can’t get around any temperature below 70. He’s also 98, and though he was always a good athlete, his body doesn’t work the way it used to.
Still, what I wouldn’t give to ride up the lift with him and have him sing to me — even at TOP VOLUME — one more time.
So thanks Dad, for everything. You’re the best.