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.
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