A letter from Erik Chapin to his son, Parke, after skiing at every ski area on the Colorado Ski Country 5th Grade Passport in 2015.
It was a goal that my son and I came up with in November. Due to the extreme generosity and partnerships of Colorado Ski Country USA, every 5th grader is eligible for 3 free days of skiing at ski areas across the state. We realized it was lofty but down deep we had to make a run at skiing every area that Colorado had to offer. I wasn’t sure who was more excited, him or me.
I relish the opportunity to ski with my kids, throw in a bunch of windshield time and some of America’s most scenic roads and ranges and we were giddy with excitement. As most families know, “time” is what we are most short on and we had other commitments to follow through on, so planning was a must.
We pulled out the calendar and a map and starting to put the plan in place. What I didn’t realize is what we were really planning. In the beginning I thought it was a ski trip, in the end it was an unbelievable opportunity to learn about my son. While we live under the same roof I thought I knew him top to bottom, I was flat out wrong.
In the day-to-day rocket ship we ride on, it turns out I wasn’t paying close enough attention. We had hours of windshield time, endless lift rides, some hiking and boundless skiing. We hit on topics like the Vietnam War, miles per gallon, favorite movies, how to read a map, skiing etiquette, birds and the bees and most importantly what it’s like to be a 5th grader in 2015.
The funny thing is, what I learned wasn’t always from our conversations, it was what I saw him doing. In the beginning of our endeavor I would comment on what I was seeing whether it was helping a fallen skier, greeting the lifty, talking with a patroller about where to ski, conversing with other skiers on the lift or a smile and thank you. I clearly wasn’t giving him enough credit as he engages people in his own way at his own comfort level.
There are moments as parents you don’t forget. We were at a ski area neither of us knew and I stopped to look at the map. He calmly and confidently said to me, “Dad, why do we always have to look at the map, can’t we just go and explore?” I didn’t look at a map for the remaining 10 ski areas and in reality, I realized we were there.
The final weekend, we skied across the finish line at Powderhorn on the Grand Mesa. We high-fived and smiled at the top of our last run without saying too much. I now realize we didn’t have to say much as we had accomplished something nobody can take away from us, time spent together!
This was an education that I had no idea was coming and I would do it again tomorrow if given the chance. Lucky for me I have an 8 year old that is already looking forward to his turn. I learned that in my responsibilities as an employee, high school coach, friend, husband, son there is very little in life as rewarding as being a “dad.”
Thanks Parke, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Dad (Erik Chapin)