Words: Erin English
This story originally appeared in the February 2013 issue.
His winter beard is all man—a thick bristle brush of brown, tinged with red, encased in tiny crystals of ice. His jaw is strong, angular, and juts out slightly as he surveys the mountain, looking for the softest stash of snow. His hazel eyes are shining and alert. His arms and hips sway back and forth in unison as he effortlessly negotiates steeps like Body Bag and Figure Eleven chute. His skier thighs are solid and strong. When I see him ski, I start thinking about things that might happen if we were alone in a one-room cabin somewhere, with a roaring fire in a wood stove and a few sleeping bags hastily opened up and laid out on the floor.
My friend set us up at the Beer and Chili Festival in early fall, just as the aspen leaves were transitioning from green to brilliant yellow. I had heard about "Eric from the ski shop" on and off for six months. I was skeptical, nervous, and excited all at once for this long-awaited introduction. Allison brought the two of us together on the lawn that sunny afternoon and disappeared into the crowd after she sensed our small talk about skiing, work, and family had gained enough momentum.
I sipped a pale ale and checked him out from behind my sunglasses. I was 36 and had stopped trying a few years before. Which is to say that I really, really wanted to meet someone. I had been in Crested Butte for just over a year. After drinking too many beers, I vaguely wondered, "Could this be it?" We exchanged numbers, and a few days later he called to schedule our first date.
We both worked at the base area. I was the marketing director for an adaptive sports program, and Eric was the rental shop manager at a locally owned ski shop. When the season started, I stopped by the shop a few times a week to flirt and brush up against his worn flannel shirts. At that point, we had taken several long hikes, gone to the latest Matchstick film together, and eaten at a half-dozen restaurants on Elk Ave. Soon enough, I was officially dating the ski shop guy. I had flashbacks to my high school days, 20 years prior, when my friend Kelly and I talked about marrying mountain men as we tanned ourselves by her swimming pool in suburban California.
Early winter, my brother visited from Seattle and Eric offered to help him out with rentals. Tony is an academic who had previously skied a half-dozen times. All arms and legs, he's the type who is often tripping over small stumps in the middle of the hiking trail. I sat off to the side as Eric helped my brother with his boot buckles, explaining in a warm voice how to incrementally tighten up the ratchets. "This is how your boot should feel on your foot," Eric said. "Not tight, snug."
My brother stood up tentatively, like a baby giraffe testing his legs for the first time, while Eric offered some pointers for heading out on the groomers. Tony nodded appreciatively. I knew Eric had worked in ski shops in Breckenridge and Crested Butte since 1995, and had fit thousands of people. As I sat there and watched, I noticed his unhurried manner, his lack of ego, and his genuine excitement for Tony to get out and ski that day. He's so good with my brother, I thought, and he's totally in his element. I started feeling strange. There was a buzzing sensation in my head, and a wave of warmth washed over my body—like I had just chugged a beer or downed a shot of whiskey. This was it. He was it. I tucked away this information and flashed Eric a smile as Tony and I headed out to the lifts. "Thank you," I said, to the man I hoped was my future husband.
We proceeded to ski nearby mountains, Monarch and Powderhorn, and booked a weekend trip to Pagosa Springs. In the wee hours of the morning, after a day of powder turns at Wolf Creek, we dipped into all 23 of the resort's pools, enduring the 114-degree Lobster Pot and groping each other like teenagers in the Tranquility and Waterfall pools.
Our baby boy, August Finley, was born a little less than a year ago. His diaper fits tight around his skier's thighs; they are mini versions of Dad's. A pair of toddler skis is waiting for him at the rental shop. They are for two-year-olds, but Eric will have him out this winter. I am sure of it.
A Crested Butte, Colorado, mom, Erin English helps out at the Adaptive Sports Center in exchange for a coveted ski pass. She's preparing herself for the birds-and-the-bees talk that will surely ensue after her son is old enough to read about mom and dad's antics at Pagosa Hot Springs.