As ski season winds down, I have a confession to make.
Every year I trudge out to Beaver Creek, Colorado with my kids and sometimes a spattering of relatives and significant others, impressing all my friends back east. They assume that I’m careening through the Rockies with a finesse and confidence like any other robust, tanned, fearless athlete. They imagine my day ending with well-earned drinks while still wearing my ski outfit and sitting at an outdoor bar.
They got that part right.
I DID start out doing downhill 20 years ago when I first brought my kids out west to ski. I was a novice then. Despite lessons (including private lessons which cost enough to cover meals for six for the week), and many billable hours on the slopes, top-notch equipment and really cute ski clothes, I never moved out of the novice category. At least, in my opinion.
“Mom, that’s not true,” my kids would surely say. “You’re good, just a little slow.”
In case you haven’t skied before, “slow” is the kiss of death in downhill skiing. It means the people with whom you’re skiing are impatiently waiting at the bottom of a mountain, which took them 10 minutes to descend, and is now taking you 60 as you traverse from one side to the other in a singsong motion (picture a conductor ever so gently slowing his musicians down for the mellow part of a sonata).
Honestly – and don’t lie Kids – after one run with me I have always offered to let them go off on their own and “Don’t worry about me. I’m happy staying on this run.” A couple protestations, but then they’d happily trail off to the lift that would take them from the greens to the blacks.
Fortunately for me, I have finally found something that allows me to wear all my old ski clothes, and not pop a Xanax before heading out to the slopes: Cross country. There are still hills in cross country, and you can still fall, but much of the pressure is off. No downhill skiers are swishing by you at warped speed, making you feel old and encumbered. In fact, to be quite frank, you need stronger lungs to get through a day cross country skiing than you do downhill.
Beaver Creek boasts the most beautiful and largest Nordic park in the world. It’s 500 acres of pure snowy Rocky Mountain bliss, virtually untouched by humans unless they are on cross country skis or snowshoes. As far as the eye can see there are breathtaking views of the mountains and virgin snow dotted with wildlife prints. You do need to take a significant chair lift to get to the park; its elevation is 10,000 feet so it’s not for the faint of heights. But the views and the conditions are worth it.
And the best part? When you come down off the mountain, you can still meet all your alpine skiing friends for a drink at the outside bar.
Ah. What a great day on the slopes.