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When youth-group lessons release on Saturday afternoons at Eldora Mountain, Colo., there are probably 300 families hitting Boulder Canyon Drive, a twisty, narrow two-laner that shadows Middle Boulder Creek down the canyon. A few years ago, as my wife and two kids, with me at the wheel, were crawling in a line of traffic heading home, some weird inversion happened and the wet asphalt instantly became covered in black ice just as the road started to curve. Looking a few vehicles ahead, I saw one car spin off to the right, stopping with its nose over the streambed. Another drifted across the oncoming lane, eventually coming to rest against an embankment. There were cars skidding and stopping at odd angles everywhere. My daughter calmly remarked how it looked like a video game. My wife, not as calmly, asked the kids if they were buckled in.
I took my foot off the gas, attempted to steer through the obstacle course, and braced for a low-speed collision. Then the drama ended as abruptly as it started. With the drop in elevation, the ice disappeared after about a half mile. I saw high-fives exchanged in cars ahead of me. In the end, probably a dozen vehicles spun off the road, with maybe five that had to be towed back onto the pavement. No harm, no foul from my perch. But it’s a story my kids still love to tell, about how we “almost died skiing.” Of course we weren’t actually skiing, and we didn’t almost die, not even close. But it was one of those unpredictable memory-making experiences that consistently happen when you’re a ski family. And my wife, a nervous winter driver from Montana of all places, no longer questions my piloting skills from the shotgun seat. Heaven.