Different trails bring mother, son together

At first, when the opportunity arose for my son and me to ski in Beaver Creek, Colo., for a scant three days, I was concerned that our different levels of ability — like the nascent pairings on Dancing With the Stars — would mean a lonely and humdrum trip.

The skiing and the scenery at Beaver Creek, Colo., were exhilarating, inspiring, and rewarding.

The skiing and the scenery at Beaver Creek, Colo., were exhilarating, inspiring, and rewarding.

We are a study in contrasts: Noah is an expert downhill skier and snowboarder, while I have found a permanent home on the greens. Given that we had left friends and family at home working, and that we couldn’t ski together very well, we each took advantage of the independence to tackle something new. Telemark skiing for Noah; cross-country for me.

Lest you think cross-country, with its customary flat terrain and less cumbersome equipment, is a walk in the park, let me introduce you to McCoy Park. It has an elevation of 11,000 feet, and you can only access it by a chairlift while attached to skis by the toes of your boots.

Few cross-country trails in the world can match McCoy’s 500 mountainous acres of powder, blemished only by markings of wildlife. Lulling sounds come from magpies, intermittent bursts of wind, and the occasional snowshoer. Breathtaking views converge on the white-capped Rockies, and startling stands of aspens.

I took lessons through Beaver Creek’s Nordic Center, determined to make significant progress during our brief visit. Despite repeated falls going downhill, imagine my happiness when the instructor matter-offactly referred to me as intermediate.

Meanwhile, and on the other side of an imposing mountain, my son was learning to tele ski. Picture downhill with lunges. He began Sunday on the greens and finished Tuesday on the blacks. So much for being a chip off the old block.

Even though we didn’t ski together, we met for lunch every day. Seated outdoors by firepits, we munched on local delicacies and talked about our mornings. Afterward, Noah returned to the slopes, and I walked into the village, home to shops so unusual that one actually sells a 500,000-year-old giant sloth skeleton (price available on request).

Like Pavlovian dogs, we reconnected at 3 p.m. at the base of the mountain, where a half-dozen bakery chefs appeared with plates of still-bubbling chocolate chip cookies. Après-ski drinks could wait.

After an hour relaxing in the condo, we headed to our favorites for dinner: the no-frills Saloon in Minturn, Colo., a tiny Western town frozen in time; and the Dusty Boot, in Beaver Creek, with luscious Tex-Mex food and even more luscious margaritas. We ended the trip with a lavish meal at Zach’s Cabin, a mountaintop log cabin reached only by an open-air snowcat. The ride back after dinner treated us to a night sky so untainted by light pollution we felt as though we could reach up and pluck a handful of stars.

The next morning, I boarded a flight to Philadelphia, and my son to Boston. As we hugged goodbye in the airport, I thought how even though we skied apart, we had the most wonderful time together.

Originally published in The Philadelphia Inquirer April 28, 2013


Rethinking Recycling

I once had a student write a paper on the need to recycle plastic water bottles and right after she turned in her essay, she unthinkingly tossed her water bottle into the trash.

I didn’t single her out at the time but I have since used this as a “teachable” example. Why didn’t I tell her? Because as hard as I try and as much effort as I put in to make sure I honor the environment by creating no more waste than I absolutely need to, I sometimes get a little sloppy.

And maybe even a little hypocritical.

Here’s what I mean: I stopped buying paper plates and paper napkins years ago and use only china dishes and cloth napkins. However…the only type of car I have driven for the past 15 years is an SUV. I’m not proud of that fact though I justify its use by claiming I need the cargo space. After all, I am always picking up flowers and plants for gardening, and piling suitcases, beach chairs and food in the back when I drive to the beach. Oh, and there is at least one day each year I actually need the space to transport that funky chest of drawers I find at a flea market.

I am a whiz at recycling bottles – even if it means throwing them in my purse until I get home and can place them in my recycling can. In fact, I more often than not carry a reusable water bottle, but every once in a while I like the convenience of plastic. However…again….I am obsessed with my Keurig – and those totally unrecyclable, unreusuable, plastic K cups.

I would never purchase any light bulb that isn’t marked “energy saving” and I never complain when it takes several minutes to reach its desired intensity even as I trip over the shoes on the floor of my closet looking for my navy blouse. However…I frequently forget to turn off my laptop.

I consider myself sensitive to the environment, and, in fact, some might call me a tree hugger. Some of my habits are exemplary such as my refusal to buy paper goods. Yet my other habits, like those moments I am just too tired to tear my address off the junk mail (for identity privacy) and throw the address in the trash, and the mail in with the recyclables, are worth breaking.

I do my best. And although I try to not judge the folks who do less, I still believe we should make every attempt to preserve the environment. Not only does every little bit help, but each time we do one small thing – like toss a bottle into a recyclable container – our subconscious mind takes note of our effort.

And if that happens enough times, I might even remember to turn off my computer.


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