My Dad sent out an email to the family a few days ago saying that he was hanging up his snow skis for the last time. I was sad to hear that; I’d hoped to ski with him again, even though I knew how hard I’d have to work just to keep up. My Dad took me skiing for the first time at Mount Baker in northwestern Washington when I was ten years old. It seems like forever ago. The next year we skied Whistler in British Columbia. When our family moved to Germany a few years later, I skied with my Dad in the Austrian Alps, and once in the Siebengebirge (Seven Hills) not far from our home. After my stint in the Air Force, our whole family got together for Christmas and went skiing at Mammoth Mountain, California. It was probably the best powder I’d ever skied—and the last time I was on skis for over twenty years.
But Dad kept skiing. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and then Colorado. I remember him telling me about riding a chairlift with a 70-year-old man and thinking to himself, “I hope I can still ski like that when I’m 70.” Dad was 60 then. Nine years later, Breckenridge Ski Resort opened the highest chair lift in the U.S. The bottom of the lift is at 11,901 feet; the top is at 12,840 feet. Yup, Dad skied it. That was ten years ago…when Dad was 69. In 2010 he took his two grandsons skiing (I think the boys may have snowboarded.) Last year (2014), just a few months shy of his 78th birthday, Dad set a personal record: 28,899 vertical feet in one day, with runs on five mountains at Breckenridge. That’s nearly 5½ miles of skiing, by the way.
So Dad has hung up his skis…after a forty-year run that spanned at least four states and provinces in five countries on two continents; countless miles of downhill, hundreds (thousands?) of lifts, dozens of different runs; at least one taxi ride back to the hostel after ending the last run of the day on the wrong side of the mountain! I wonder how many men, women, and children my Dad regaled with his stories as they rode together up the chair lifts. (By midway through one day of skiing with my Dad at a resort with a triple chair, I could tell his stories for him because I’d heard them so many times!)
My Dad—my nearly-79-year-old father with a four-year-old pacemaker and a leaking heart valve—has finally hung up his skis. He’s pretty amazing. I’d love to be like him. And I’m pretty darn proud of him. Way to go, Dad. I love you.