Skiing As Craft: Keeping Up

Going through dad to get the girl

She's worth every step. PHOTO: Mattias Fredriksson

She’s worth every step. PHOTO: Mattias Fredriksson

This story originally published in the November 2013 issue of POWDER (42.3).

“Girls stay here. Guys…with me.” My buddies and I exchanged uncertain glances until the rallying cry came again. “Suit up, boys.”

It was my freshman year of college and I had been seeing a girl for three weeks. We both claimed to be skiers but had reached the point in our courtship where we needed to figure out if we could actually share turns. The experiment was supposed to be a weekend at her family’s place in Killington, Vermont, with a group of friends—then her dad showed up.

At a commanding 6-foot-4, he was the archetypal family protector. A stern-faced stockbroker from the city with a penetrating stare, and the type of weekend warrior that skinned up Killington Peak if lifts were late to open, the man oozed intensity.

So when he called “the guys” to head out night skiing, we jumped—tripping over snow pants and fumbling with boots. Nevermind that Killington didn’t have night skiing. It wasn’t about that. If I was going to be spending time with his daughter, I’d have to prove my mettle—on the ski hill, to her dad. Resort days were a sacred break from 9 to 5 life, something he wasn’t about to waste on a pack of scrub skiers. This was my test, a trial by fire.

The squad packed into his Nissan Armada and ripped up the icy Sunrise Village access road. Our shuttle driver, known simply as O’Connell, dropped us and sped off, promising to meet us at the bottom of God-knows-where.

The Sunrise Village area is beginner terrain, yet somehow our leader had us clawing up New England’s equivalent of Denali. In addition, two feet of snow had fallen that week, turning our off-piste hike into a waist-deep slog. As the wind picked up, our infallible captain yelled back to throw our skis and army crawl to distribute our surface area, and I pictured the next day’s headline in the Rutland Herald, “Five Perish in Sunrise Village” followed by the subhead, “Motives for Hiking Bunny Hill Unclear.”

A half hour and 300 feet of struggle later, we reached the top and haggardly clicked-in. El Capitan pointed down the liftline. “Follow these poles, and don’t hit any.” With that wisdom, he vanished over the fall line, leaving behind a silvery contrail and four confused college kids. We trailed after him, the two feet much sweeter on the way down than on the trip up.

Still, it was pitch black and we narrowly avoided rocks until one buddy faded too far left and exploded against a split rail fence. Man down.

I pushed to keep our guide in sight, afraid to lose his short slalom turns, and more importantly, my chance at respect. And his daughter. He veered in between a set of condos, and I nearly turned too late, throwing my Salomon Foils on edge just in time.

The run ended a few hundred feet down at a cul-de-sac and our waiting shuttle. He turned around, shocked to see my surviving buddy and me so close behind. The surprise gave way to a commending nod. “Tomorrow should be fun,” he said.

Back at the condo, the girls grilled us about our late-night exercise, but we knew the mission would stay between guys. Before bed, the man we’d feared hours earlier grabbed us each a Sam Adams. He handed over my frosty diploma, clinking his approval. I’d passed.

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  • Girls Ski Too

    Why couldn’t the girls go night skiing too?

  • VT

    Stockbrokers, condos and Hardos. Sounds like Killington to me.

  • SoaringEagle_5000

    Well, for one, naughty girls don’t get to go night skiing – they’ve got other chores to do. They need the light to see better as well (it’s science). Sorry to hear you had to ski in Vermont – I wonder what it’s like….probably not that awesome. Don’t ever leave, though, but if you do, head to the Golden Sunshine State of Colorado. That’s where you want to be – that’s where all the ballerist skiers and riders hang out and become best buds…..Google it sometime. Oh yeah, drug is legal there (you know the one I’m talking about guys….and it’s not beer…). Colorado is forecast to have the biggest winter ever recorded starting around December 20th (yup, it’s gonna be a little late). Go there…do it….you will do it now…

    • Former east coast ripper

      Colorado ski season is always “late.” Arrive in late February and you will be rewarded in March (the snowiest month). Skiing Loveland pass on a full moon is something I have yet to do, but I am told it is epic (just make sure you have a beacon, shovel, probe, and buddy to be safe). Come here and enjoy it!

  • Ian

    Ski the East, born from ice!

  • Althea

    I’d be embarrassed to be part of this hapless, yuppie bc wannabe posse. I bet they told tall tails back at the office water cooler. What’s next: conquering Mt. Snow?

  • Reasonable Doubt

    So you wanted the approval of a man dumb enough to lead others BC skiing in the dark? Seems that’s nothing really worth pursuing. Unless he was a concerned father checking to see if you were dumb enough to follow? I dunno…

    • dirk diggler

      he wanted the approval of the father so he could keep gettin laid man! don’t you understand?????? sheesh!

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