It's this time of year where I remember back to my only family Christmas ski vacation. It was December 1989. I was a freshman in high school. My family had moved to the suburbs of Chicago two years prior from the foothills of Mt. Hood outside of Portland. While living in Oregon, I had been introduced to skiing, hiking and the wilderness but in those first two years living in the midwest, I had quickly transformed into a 'flatlander'.
For my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, my Dad took us on a family ski vacation to Panorama Mountain Village in British Columbia. Our journey began one early morning flying out of O'Hare International in Chicago, over to Seattle where we would be joined by my Aunt and cousins then on to Moses Lake to pick up my other Aunt and Grandparents. There were 11 family members in total. Our caravan would eventually land us at Panorama where we had a condo waiting upon our arrival.
As I am writing this over 20 years later, memories are starting to pop back up about that trip; the Panorama Springs hot pools, listening to the "Moonstruck' Soundtrack on repeat during the entirety of the trip, the day trip to Banff and the first and only time I attempted snowboarding - my cousin, Stephen, got one for Christmas so we all tried to descend outside the condo on a snow covered golf course, crashing and burning several times over the course of the 25 yards.
A ski vacation isn't a ski vacation unless there is skiing involved so one day was spent at Panorama. There might have been additional days for my cousins and siblings but for me, I only remember one day. As I recall, it started off casual. I was a little intimidated by loading a 4-person chairlift. I had never seen one of these before and wasn't too comfortable with the idea of having someone on both sides of me. This became apparent when I went to unload the chair. When my nerves got the best of me, I thought it was a good idea to take my Dad down with me. So, there I was, my first experience skiing in the Canadian Rockies, and there my Dad and I are, laying on the ramp with ski gear intertwined. My Dad was less than stoked. Still, to this day, less than stoked.
The day got better as I started to feel good and found my comfort zone. As the day was nearing to an end and all the cousins, siblings, Dad and Aunt got back together, the suggestion of 'going to the top' came up and I was convinced that I was proficient enough to be able to descend down from the top. Trusting this was the case, I clicked back into my skis and loaded the chair with my family.
A little back story on the day. I had been skiing on the bunny hill under low cloud cover. I had no concept of what an inversion was or what might be up there except for more clouds. As the chairlift made it's way over the terrain I had been skiing and through the clouds, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of what was above the inversion. A cloud layer that looked like a white sea that was complimented with some of the most amazing mountain peaks I had ever seen. The chair went forever and finally I was informed it was time to unload. So I did. Unfortunately, the beauty of what surrounded me also intimidated me. I couldn't see the bottom. I had gone from skiing a 'green circle' all morning to having only one 'blue square' and several 'black diamond' options. Needless to say, I was scared stiff. The memory still holds pretty clear in my mind but there are certainly details that have been forgotten. Mainly how many turns I attempted before I finally took my skis off and started walking down the mountain. To this day, my Dad likes to remind me of that adventure. Me, walking down the mountain, grasping my rental skis and poles.
Over 20 years later and this memory is vivid. Every day there is an inversion, I think about it. Every year when I see the arrival of families from all over the country unloading their cars on the start of their ski vacations, I think about it. Every time I see an intimidated skier attempting to walk down a slope greater than their ability, I think about it. But mostly, every time I think about it, I think about the time that was shared with family and the memories that were created and now remembered on my first, and only, family holiday ski vacation.
Enjoy your holidays and may you create memories that will last a lifetime.
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