While visiting my daughter and son-in-law in Frisco, Colorado, I went cross country skiing for the first time in several years. It seemed like everything was in place. Clothes? Check. Skis and poles? Check, Beautiful snow cover? Check. Perfect temperature? Check. Ability to cross country ski? Not so good!
Julie had moved to Colorado after college for a “one year” teaching position at a science school near Vail. She fell in love with the mountains, the snow—and Sam. They were married in Moab in May 2007, and after completing master’s degrees and finding permanent jobs, they purchased a home in Frisco.
Larry and I visited Julie and Sam at least once a year, usually around the Fourth of July in time for the parade, town celebration, Julie and Sam’s annual BBQ, and the fireworks over Dillion Lake. Julie and Sam had fully embraced the Colorado winter life style and had encouraged us to visit them during the snow season. For many years, we demurred because of our work schedule. After we retired, Larry and I preferred to spend our winter months getting away from snow and cold, NOT heading in the opposite direction to 9000 feet and more snow and more cold. In 2014, as I missed my daughter, I made the decision that I would go to the mountains in the winter, even if Larry wouldn’t join me.
As soon as I entered the kitchen my first morning there, Julie asked me if I wanted to cross country ski. She and Sam live only a couple of blocks from the Frisco bike trail, and the snow was fresh enough for us to ski right from their house. I agreed to give it a try.
Julie fitted me with an extra set of boots, poles, and skis. I snapped my right foot into the right ski easily, but the left boot/left ski didn’t cooperate. Six to eight tries later, both of my skis were snapped in. By the time we finished, the bottom of Julie’s skis were stuck with snow. She took them off, went back into the house to locate scraper chipped the snow off her skis, and put them back on. Then she showed me how to lift up each ski so at a ninety degree angle and balance on the other leg while she removed the snow and ice from the bottom of my skis. Once we were done, we headed out of the driveway towards the bike path.
The snow was as beautiful as anticipated. I naively thought that cross country skiing would be like riding a bike: Once my skis were on, I would be gliding along the path like a pro. However, I was a little older, a little less flexible, and a little heavier. My progress was pathetic. Fortunately, Julie was a good teacher. She reviewed with me how to kick up my heels, how to glide, how to lean forward to get better momentum. But despite my attempts, I always was at least two hundred yards behind her.
A “Vail 11 Miles” sign soon appeared along the bike path. My mind went back to a show on the Travel Channel, where Samantha Brown did a midnight ski from Vail to Breckenridge. Watching her glide effortlessly in the moonlight, I had thought, “We should do that when we go to Colorado!” But after twenty minutes on the trail, I was bathed in sweat, breathing heavily to compensate for the altitude, and seriously questioning my ability to ski another yard, much less eleven more miles. I didn’t want to disappoint Julie. I soldiered along.
We poked along for a mile or so, and Julie suggested we scrape off the sticking snow from the bottom of my ski as we practiced at home. I kicked out my left ski, tried balancing on my right leg, and crashed to the ground. After several attempts to get up, I finally had to remove my skis and right myself. Now I had to get back into the bindings. Multiple unsuccessful tries later, Julie initial patience was wearing thin. She pointed impatiently to the spot on the binder where the boot snapped in. “Right here?” I asked.
“Yes!” she answered. I put my toe in and snapped the binding down—on my poor daughter’s finger. She spewed out a string of obscenities fit for an angry, drunken sailor.
“I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed. “But where did you learn that language?”
After a couple of more tries, I was into my bindings and on our way again. We had to stop a couple of more times to scrape our skis, but I was enjoying the experience.
Forty-five minutes later, we were home, cozy, warm, and sipping tea.
Sam came down from the home office where he had been working. “You’re back! How did it go?” he asked.
“I’m a little rusty,” I said, “but I’m catching on.”
“How far did you go?” he asked.
“Actual miles were around three,” I said. “For me it felt like we went the twenty-two miles to Vail and back. For Julie it must have felt like to hell and back.”
The next morning, I woke up feeling pain in muscles I didn’t remember I had. But when I went down to breakfast, Julie was ready to try it again. A half an hour later, we were back on the bike path. My skis had clipped in on the first try, and the wax helped me glide smoothly over the fresh tracks Julie broke in front of me. I could not stop smiling. When I fell down, I picked myself up with no trouble.
“You’re doing so much better this morning, Mom,” commented Julie. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Every minute!” I responded.
“This is a bluebird powder day,” Julie said.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“It’s a Colorado expression,” explained Julie. “The sun is shining, the sky is a brilliant blue, the snow is a perfect powder, and the temperature is ideal.”
“You’re right, Jules! It is a bluebird powder day!” And we kept on gliding through the powder.