“A Mother’s Nature” was first published in our December 2016 (45.4) issue of POWDER. This excerpt is one of a five-part series that pays tribute to the women who made us skiers.
PHOTOS: Liam Doran
A two-hour drive from her childhood home in Bethesda, Maryland, the Pennsylvania ski areas where Elizabeth Miller, 35, learned to ski stand in stark contrast to the peaks of the Tenmile Range at home in Breckenridge, Colorado. "I planned to move to Summit County for one season—that was 16 years ago," she says. "Right away I said, 'This place feels like home.'"
Miller, who customizes mountain vacations through Ski White Diamond, knows she lives the good life, despite the long winters and high cost of living in a mountain town. Her home is less than two miles from the gondola, she skis with clients, and most weekends she doesn't touch her car. For someone who's been up the skin track before work and out on her mountain bike as soon as it's 5 o'clock, it's the perfect place to live and raise her 4-year-old son, Jarle, who got on skis for the first time last winter.
Miller's pregnancy was unplanned—and also ideal, she says—being that there is never a good time for working, active women to have children. The surprise worked out well, she says. "Otherwise, I'm not sure I would have ever been able to say, 'Yeah, this is a good time to give up my free time, my body, my finances—everything—to have a child.' But then he was here, and I wouldn't give him up for the world. I was so excited to share my passions with him. Skiing is in his blood."
For Miller, who skied through her pregnancy until her son was born in October 2012, skiing has always been the priority, so it was easy to make it one again. Her longtime friend and business partner, Jamie Alford, laughs at the suggestion Miller had to transition into motherhood.
"What transition? She just carried on and added her son to her life," he says. "Jarle had no choice but to sign up, and he happens to love it. She skis, he skis."
The anticipation of being able to share a love of being in the mountains with her son pushed Miller, who co-parents with Jarle's dad, to get her son on skis and expose him to a community of people who have a sense of pride in being skiers.
"Being around people that follow their passion is really inspiring," she says. "These people live here because they love skiing. If they didn't, they wouldn't put up with long winters and expensive living. I've thought about, 'What if my son is not skier?' But I'm grooming him to be my ski buddy, because skiing with your kids is just so awesome."