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“Mom, I only want to ski half-day. I don’t like skiing full-day.”
I can now imagine how that must have sounded to my parents. I was skiing with my younger brother at Whistler, covered head to toe in expensive gear, our bellies full of gourmet hamburgers that we only took a few bites of. At 10 and eight, we were undoubtedly some of the luckiest kids in the galaxy. But it was a little bit cold and our rental boots were pinching our feet and we really wanted to go play in the hotel pool, so my brother and I repeated: “I don’t like skiing full-day, Mom, remember? We just like half-day.”
There are lots of reasonable responses that my parents could have given us. Maybe that our definition of a “half day” was more like a 16th of a day. Or they could have told us it would have been more helpful if we had mentioned our concerns before they bought us full-day tickets and spent a hefty chunk of their time and money to take us on a ski vacation that we wouldn’t appreciate. But they didn’t say that. Instead my Dad calmly replied, “Well, if you really feel that way you can meet us later. We would love for you to keep skiing but we aren’t going to force you.”
I’m 20 now and don’t have any kids, so I can’t even begin to imagine the patience and perseverance it took for my parents to continue taking us skiing. I never understood why it was so important for them that we keep spending our weekends and vacations skiing when my brother and I consistently took only two or three runs before announcing it was time to call it quits. I guess my selfish little self didn’t think about the fact that maybe the reason we kept going skiing was that my parents actually liked to ski. I thought it was something all families were supposed to do during vacations, like going to the zoo. Still, despite our complaints, my parents stuck with it.
If you were to ask me about skiing now I would tell you it is who I am. It’s something I take pride in and prioritize. It’s something I daydream about and talk about with anyone who will listen. But it wasn’t always that way. You hear the classic “she loved to ski from the minute she could walk” from proud parents who have successfully turned their kids into little mountain masters before they could reach the milk carton in the refrigerator. That wasn’t me. Not by a good sum.
If you were to ask my parents what I thought about skiing when I was growing up they would laugh and shake their heads. But they never gave up. They never technically forced us to ski; they just continued to make it available to us. It was always OK to quit for the day and meet them later, but you bet your butt we’d be out there doing the same thing tomorrow—with whining from us, but none from my parents.
I wish I could report that there was one magical moment where something clicked. That I had a glorious epiphany and all of the sudden I loved skiing and changed from petulant preteen to a slope-devouring mountain girl. It would be a great story to tell, but it would be a lie.
The truth is, it was a slow transition that I didn’t even realize was happening. As I grew up, skiing came along with me. I matured into it. After all those years of spilled hot chocolate, numb fingers, and only wanting to ski half-day, the complaint eventually became “Please, Mom, can I skip class today? It dumped last night.”
It has taken me years to understand but I now realize that what they did was probably bigger than any gift they have ever given me. You have to discover your love for skiing on your own, earn your membership into an admittedly tough and technical sport. And that’s what my parents let me do. They didn’t force their passion onto me. They were sneaky and went through the side door. They powered through, never turning the car around (although they must have come close a bunch of times). They gave me the chance to fall in love with skiing when I was ready, and because of that I will be a skier for the rest of my life. Who knows if I will be so patient with my family? I have a hunch that someone will be watching.
Lily Krass was raised in Sammamish, Wash., where her parents still live and ski. She’s a junior at the University of Colorado, where she occasionally skips class on a powder day.