The skiing thing

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Over the past couple years, we’ve spent a fair amount of time feeling guilty, and trying not to feel guiilty, and a lot of the time even actually not feeling guilty, about the fact that we haven’t taken Alden skiing much.

By “not much”, I mean, I think Josh took him to the bunny hill at Snowbowl once. The year before last.

We had gotten him a setup (skis, boots, helmet) just right for a 3-4 year old, from Craigslist. I mean, we kind of assumed we’d be going skiing.
We live in Missoula. Isn’t that what you do?

In hindsight it’s funny how long it took me to realize, like a long slow breaker, or a creeping dawn sky– we don’t really go skiing much. Didn’t go skiing much, pre-Alden. Why did we think we’d suddenly be chomping at the bit?

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Josh is actually quite a good skiier (everything physical comes easily to that man I swear, other than sleep) and even was on a ski team for a while as a kid. But I never skied until I was 20, and then only rarely. There were a couple years, in my late20searly30s, when I went 8 or 10 times, and actually got comfortable enough to ski all the blues at Discovery, say. This is no accomplishment to brag about, mind you– especially not in Missoula, where three year olds can say the same thing (“groomer” is said with kind of an eye-roll.) Most of our friends would rather be in the backcountry than “on area” anyway.

The year before I got pregnant with Alden I decided I’d better figure out what cross-country skiing was all about. Getting outside in the winter is so important to my attitude, and it would be a cheaper way to do it. I had had a few grumpy XC experiences, but I thought maybe if I went alone I’d have better luck.  I got an old setup for cheap, second-hand.

To my surprise, I really, really liked it. Part of it was how little I gave a shit about how far or fast I went. I was just out there, tootling along, and loving life. Spandex-clad skate skiers would flash past like seals and I’d just continue along gazing at the snowy trees and sometimes even blue sky.

Then Alden came, and although I’ve had a roller-coaster of exercise ons and offs since he arrived, somehow cross-country-skiing kind of slipped my mind. until this year.

I realized, (long breaker, slow dawn), that we don’t go DOWNHILL skiing much, and that probably we won’t be that family, much, and that is 100% OK. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and not the thing Josh and I long for more than anything else. We have many friends who love, love, love, love, love to ski–it’s an organizing principle of their world. Us, not so much.

But finding ways for Alden and I to share outdoors time all year round? THAT is a principle that feels right, and real, and forever.

So Santa brought skis.

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It has been quite a process, getting started. Remember what I said about it being a good thing that I don’t care much about going far, or fast? That is the ONLY way to XC ski with Alden right now– with zero expectations, zero pressure. We stop whenever he’s had enough, we stop for him to eat (clean) snow, we stop and climb back up little hills for the fun of sliding down them again.

And the sliding down– Alden is far braver than I am! I have to get myself all psyched up to tackle hills. He falls four times on the way down and says “That was AWEsome!” And the climbing up — his determination is so impressive to me. He doesn’t have poles yet (but will have them soon– bumped into a parent of a former student who offered us a bucket full of her kids’ outgrown xc things) and so hills are damn hard! He crawls up the steepest, army style, pulling himself up with his arms, using his knees…I’m tired out just watching him.

It’s kind of perfect, for him to be learning now– I’m learning too, and in the meantime he has no idea what a slow, tootly skiier his mama is, not quite yet. And we get to share outdoors time together, in a new way.

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(post ski snack on a warm car hood)

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