My daughter has recently taken up synchronized swimming. It is a sport with many idiosyncrasies, not the least of which is sweeping up your darlings hair into a tight bun and slathering it all in hot Knox gelatin. All the better to vanquish any flyaway hair during competition. Now, she loves the sport to death, but I have a confession. The competition days kill me. In the dead of winterwhen I should be high on a mountainI spend the day breathing in chlorine at an indoor pool, my back side cramping on hard bleachers.
Being a ski racing parent, in comparison, rocks. A couple weekends ago, I spent the day at Loveland at my sons ski race. Sure, I sat on the sidelines and watched. And my hips cramped a little from standing on an incline. But while he was inspecting the course, I was making laps in fresh powder under blue skies. I cant think of many, if any, sports where the parents also get to do the sport while their kid is competing in the sport.
I did once kvetch about the laundry, the miles on the car, the tuning of skis, the gatekeeping on subzero days. A friend told me I had nothing to complain about. Try being a horse mom, she said. She mucks out horse poop from stalls and carries heavy buckets of sloshing water around the barn on weekend mornings. One day last summer, she told me, “I was crossing a fence and I grabbed hold of the wire and got an electric shock.” Zzzt. Imagine the shock of it. The literal shock. She practically gave herself a perm.
Her story made me realize just how good I’ve got it as a ski-racing mom.
A couple seasons back, I took my son Aidan to the state championships in Powderhornnear Grand Junction, Colorado. You might think Powderhorn is a rinky-dink ski area. Admittedly, I was in that camp. It’s relatively small–1,600 acres–it has only two chairlifts (four including the magic carpet and Easy Rider lift), and it’s a 4.5-hour drive from Boulder. As it turns out, the modest acreage is packed with serious terrain: steeps, glades, giant boulder fields. Only a slice of it is groomed.
While our boys were inspecting the racecourse, Amy, co-conspirator and ski-racing mom, and I snuck away to find some fresh snow. I’d gotten the skinny on a route through the woods, which led to an undulating trail peppered with powder-covered boulders. The runs at Powderhorn spill off a broad mesa and from the top of the run, we could see across a broad valley to a spectacular crush of mountains on the horizon. We porpoised through untracked powder under a crisp blue sky. We were downright giddy. Amy got a text from the coach about getting the boys to the start. She ignored it. Ski race? What ski race?
Another cat track into the woods deposited us onto a glade of perfectly spaced aspens. We threaded the trees with fresh tracks. On the next run, we found a run called Mad Dog Glade (I write a blog called maddogmom, so this was particularly fitting.) It was another broad hillside filled with towering aspens all blanketed in fresh powder. Lower down, we found another trail in the woods speckled with giant boulders. We bunny hopped our way down, catching air off a giant log. It was a snow-covered playground.
We came to Powderhorn thinking we’d be tortured all weekend by standing on the edge of the course and maybe sneaking away for a lap on an intermediate groomer (probably while carrying a bag of coats). Instead, we’d found the keys to the candy store.
For the record, lest you question our commitment to our pint-sized ski racers, we did make it back to the racecourse in time to watch the race. And we both did lug big bags of coats from the race start down to the lodge.
Ski races over the seasons have taken our family to Crested Butte, Cooper, Steamboat, Aspen and Telluride. In addition to those golden laps we take with other ski-racing parents, we always try to take a few free runs with our kids once theyve finished up with the race. In Crested Butte, that means a trip to the Headwall. At Aspen Highlands, its lapping the steeps under the Temerity lift. And in Telluride, we try to keep up with them on plunges like Spiral Stairs and Kant-Mak-M.
Those post-race runs are the best thing about being a ski-racing mom. We are more than spectators and support crew. The experience is shared. My hockey mom friends certainly aren’t lacing up their skates for a little pickup after the kids’ game.
And my horse mom friend, well, I don’t think she even rides.