This is the intro, from the editor, for the December issue of POWDER. Can't find the magazine? Subscribe here for just $15.
It's not even 5. I can hear the steady patter of December rain, the sounds of Dad opening the van doors as he packs our gear, the clink of the spoon on his cereal bowl, the holler of his voice for me to get out of bed. Eventually, I put on pants, amble into the van, and fall back asleep.
While I sleep, Dad drives three hours to the chairlifts. He doesn't drink coffee. He doesn't even really drink water. I wake up as we pull into the snowy parking lot. We silently put on our boots, then he drops me off with my two ski coaches. One is a surviving freedom fighter who rebelled against Soviet-occupied Hungary. Another is a third the Hungarian's age, a gregarious man who likes beer and ski jumps. They never let me take it easy. Meanwhile, Dad skis around with Mom.
Skiing is a counter-cultural symbol for Dad. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, the oldest of five. When he was in the fourth grade, his father, a police officer, died on duty. Skiing was not a part of Dad's world. In high school, he was a football player—a linebacker—and a back-to-back state champ. Then, in college, my dad met my mom. They took the ski bus to a hill called Hoodoo in Central Oregon and fell in love. After graduating, Dad was a jet instructor pilot in the Air Force, flying T-37s and T-38s, but he eventually left to have more stability for his family. Through 44 years of marriage, my mom and dad are still skiing. I like to think that, for Dad, skiing is like flying planes, given the high speeds and the precision needed to stay in control.
Dad is waiting for me at lunch. He gives me my sandwich—turkey, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise—and I go back to sitting with my friends. Then we all go ski more.
I see my parents in the lift line and I ride up with them. It's sleeting, and we don't say much. Dad stares ahead. An unflinching rock. A human fulcrum. His mustache has icicles. We get off the chair and ski toward different runs.
At the end of the day, we meet back at the van. I'm wet and tired. My gloves are soaked. Dad takes off his own mitts and blows warm air on my hands. That helps. We throw our gear in the trunk and I put on dry clothes in the back seat.
Dad drives down the mountain to our 90-year-old, 800-square-foot cabin in the woods where the ceiling in the kitchen is so low that tall people have to duck. It sits on a small hill above a river called the Zigzag. The entire dwelling leans toward the river, as if to get a better look. The cabin sits at the bottom of a sea of 100-foot Douglas firs, where licorice ferns, Oregon grape, and inches-thick moss blanket the floor.
Dad makes a perfect fire in the big stone fireplace. Then he takes the dog for a walk. We eat spaghetti in the built-in alcove. We don't say much. Dad does the dishes and puts another log on the fire. Then he puts his boots back on and goes outside to shovel snow.
I'm nearly asleep by the time he comes in. In the morning, we'll go skiing again.