By Mary-Colleen Jenkins
“I wanted to cry,” said the little girl. “But my dad always says, ‘Don’t cry in the trees,’ so I didn’t.”
We were on a weekend cross-country ski trip to the Methow Valley, but decided to spend a day alpine skiing at Loup Loup Ski Bowl, just outside of Winthrop, Wash. We were with three other families, but the group broke apart and reunited serendipitously all day. On this lift ride, I was with a girl on a weekly school trip to the mountain. She’d gotten lost in a treed area that morning and told me how she got out of her predicament.
“I was in there for an hour, I think. I saw the paths where other skiers went, so I got out.”
It was a beautiful morning. Earlier, we had all made a beeline to the single chairlift. A quick dispersal: a group of kids here, another batch there, adults wherever. I didn’t see my family members again until by some unspoken agreement we met in front of the lodge for lunch.
Though the Methow Valley covers a lot of territory, you can tell when you arrive at Loup Loup that it’s just another part of the neighborhood. There’s a vibe that you don’t have at large-scale, for-profit resorts. Everyone is welcoming, from the ticket sellers to the lift operators to the families squeezing over to give you room at the tables in the lodge. There are no “holding areas” separating brown baggers from skiers buying food at the small lunch counter. A big sign in the parking lot asks parents to pick up the kids by 4 p.m., revealing the attitude of the place. It might as well say: your kids are welcome here. They can do their own thing all day, just come get them in time for dinner.
When I was a kid, I had an unbelievable amount of freedom compared to what my kids have now. No cell phones tethered us to our parents; they trusted us to have common sense and they trusted the community to lend a hand when needed.
The world is a different place now, and I am sad sometimes to think my kids’ freedom is so much more curtailed than mine was at their age. There are things you learn by being on your own that parents just can’t teach you.
And that’s one reason we ski.
When we take our kids skiing at places like Loup Loup, they can head off on their own or with their friends and choose their own adventures. They take care of themselves when they’re hungry (most of the time) or when they lose a ski or take on a new challenge. They trust that other skiers will offer assistance when necessary. They learn to talk to people on the lift ride, to gauge their own abilities, and, I hope, remember our advice when they need it.
And, if they can pass that advice along to strangers on the lift, then all the better.
Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach, and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads.
Other “Tales from the Lift Line”. . .
>> I. The Beginning
>> II. When Seeing is Believing
>> III. Expeditionary Forces
>> IV. Velocity
>> V. Pack Rat
>> VI. Dude
>> VII. Expectations