Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Bum Family Tradition

It's corn season.

I mean my favorite kind of corn: corn snow groomed into a smooth lake-like surface, or corn snow sculpted into long fall-lines of steep waveforms that ski like surfing white-water chop.

I mean like the corn snow we found awaiting us on the first day of Spring at Purgatory this weekend.

So, as we do for a couple dozen days every ski season, we made some sandwiches and poured some coffee and put on our ski gear and jumped in the truck and headed up through the morning-glory blaze of the amazing Animas River Valley.

Another Wright family rite.

Skiing has been the sinew and tissue of our family. Since holding our three-year-old son under his arms so he can sail on his plastic boards on Chapman Hills' meagre slope, through our teen kids' having to wait for us -- sometimes with visible exasperation -- as their telemarking parents huff and grunt their way to the bottom of the lift, five months of our year is woven together with days passed skiing together.

Every year we make that big financial outlay in ski passes for the family. But, this, in my wife and my minds, is an sound investment in our family-health care. In fact, these frequent and, given Sarah's and my lives built around skiing (we met living at in a ski town, and married at the base of the town's ski area), damn-near religious days passed together on the nearby mountain -- and up in our nearby, amazing, gorgeous home-mountain range -- are the why of the what we have built our adult lives around.

We went from being ski bums to parenting bums.

The lift rides alone are worth it. This is why I hope they never really get around to replacing Purgatory's backside Lift 8 with that high-speed quad chair they've been threatening for years: Not only do I welcome that long rest after a long ground down the face of Paul's Park, but this is some the best time I get to spend with my kids: sitting on the chair and having the space in which you can only free-form chat.

Now, knowing there's only a few years of this frequent, ritualistic, intimate time left in our relationship with our kids, I savor every opportunity I get with them like this. Just-talking time, rather than the more common and pragmatic day-to-day talking-about-something-specific time. Time shared in some magnificent place. Time spent out-of-doors and honing and exploring a physical skill.

And the chance to teach them -- to show, not just tell them -- what I think life and living really are:

Do more. Want less.

The Bum life, however those values are manifested.

Watching them schuss the slush, I think they get it. And watching them run into their friends on the mountain -- friends of their often raised by friends of our who, too, live here to be Bum Parents -- I'm thinking they all -- the "Western Ski Bums: The Next Generation" -- get it, too.


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