It was March 1972, and I was a 12-year-old Midwesterner prepared to embark on my family's first big-mountain ski trip. Ninety minutes after touching down in Salt Lake, we nervously queued up at the famed Snowbird tram. Goggles pressed to tram glass, my father, older brother and I looked out in disbelief at the slopes below. The Wasatch terrain was almost too much to comprehend. I couldn't help noticing that there were bamboo poles set down the middle of one meandering run, and then it started to get very foggy. By the time we reached the summit, Snowbird was so socked in I could barely see my bright red Olin Mark II V.C.E.s.
So rather than diving into Great Scott or Upper Cirque, as I had fantasized, we moseyed over to Chip's Run, and that's where the bamboo pole mystery was solved. Visibility was now so bad the resort had put out fog poles, spaced every 25 feet, for skiers to follow on the descent. We skidded our way through the thick soup in embarrassing form. Welcome to the big time!
Later, the sun came out and so did the corn. My brother and I ditched Dad, who went to find Mom, and we hurled ourselves into the bumps of S.T.H. and Gadzooks, throwing helis and shaking our heads about a mountain that seemed to go on forever. We got pulled over for skiing too fast in a slow zone, but the patroller let us go with a warning-and a story to tell.
That first trip was a blueprint for future family ski vacations: Ski every day on as many mountains as possible for as long as possible. We stayed in a condo in Park City, a historic mining-town-turned-ski-town that was a wonder to my young eyes. It was packed with intriguing shops, restaurants and sights that kept my parents busy in the evenings. And that's the beauty of a family ski vacation: It can be all things to every member of the family.
Just ask Cal Ripken, whose wife and kids finally got him on skis after a legendary baseball career (see Ski People), or a young athlete (or parent) at the U.S. Freeskiing Open (see Junior Goes Jibbin'). In this issue's tribute to the skiing family, we also look at "What You Can Learn from Kids" and check in on the Mighty Mites at Squaw Valley, Calif. If there's a better place to go with your family than the mountains, I haven't found it yet.