Authors Note: This is the submission that I made for the Warren Miller contest. I am afraid to say that after reading the ten finalists essays, mine falls dreadfully short. I read with wonder and magic the shared experiences, and was floored every day that skiing continues to play such a central role in so many lives. Congratulations to all of the finalists- I loved each and every essay. As a disclaimer, I really don’t remember much of my first day- thus the buck being passed to Brycer.
Baptism is the right of passage, a transformation if you will, in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Common to all of said ceremonies is one key ingredient; water.
Quoth Warren Miller: “I do know that water freezes at 32 degrees Farenheit, and I like it when it falls on the sides of mountains.”
Ask me to recall my skiing baptism, and I can regail you with my age, the details of my yellow “hot dog” skis, and how even though in retrospect it looks 70’s chic, I really did not care for the orange puffy coat subjected upon me by my dad. But ask about the transformative power of skiing, the total focus and dissociation found in the perfect moment, the literal ends-of-the-earth to which I have trekked in search of my frozen drug, and my first day provides no foresight. My future pilgrimages to Chamonix, La Grave, Kitzbuhel, Zermatt, Verbier and New Zealand, were not inherent in those checkered leather boots. No sooth was said on that winter day in the wilds of South Boulder.
…or was it? Because not everyone who has experienced a first day of skiing goes on to experience a second. You may argue predestination. You may claim that it was my birthright, being the only son of a patriarch himself molded from a childhood spent, among other locations, in the German Alps, Alaska, and Colorado.
Yet nothing about Day One is remotely pleasant. While words can scarcely be expected to grasp the collision of gravity, ecstasy, detachment and oneness found in the bliss of a perfect powder day, the craft takes years to master. Dedication. The subconscious and sublime are absent on Day One. As is pride, comfort, and style (apparently).
In an attempt to wrap my brain around my own memories, I ask my 4 year old son his thoughts on this most pressing question. Already in his 3rd season on skis, Bryce’s mind still inhabits the primordial ether of adolescence, in which the reality of piracy and giants meld seamlessly into his world view.
I attempt to coerce a reaction, a diamond of wisdom sprung from Bryce’s youthful innocence and lack of concrete memory distorted by delusions of grandeur.
“Bryce- see this picture? What are you thinking?”
“I’m skiing, daddy.”
“That’s right! And when you are skiing, what are you dreaming about?”
“I’m not dreaming, daddy! I’m skiing!”
The pantomime carries on, complete with leading photos of Bryce’s own Day One.
“That’s right! And what can you tell me about skiing?”
A moment passes. The freedom of Bryce’s answer is perfect in its simplicity. His reply as to the origin of “the spark” is as true today as it was when Dr. Michel Payot imported hickory sticks to Chamonix to cure his cabin fever in 1901. So what does Bryce remember about Day One that keeps him from succumbing to forces that have sidelined lesser 4 year olds?
“It’s fun, daddy!”
And it always will be.