It wasn't until my grandfather sold his house in Vermont and moved to Florida that I realised how incredibly lucky I was to have had 2 decades to ski with him. Not that I did it a lot. In the beginning, I was in ski school, fussing about having to ride the poma instead of the real chairlift. Toward the end, we always got a few runs in together over my college breaks: he, 80 years old, taking his time down the same trails he'd done for forty years and me, allowing a 10 second head start and then playfully poke-shuffling down behind him. In between these times are the memories of songs and stories and laughs, weaved into the familiar fluidity of perfectly carved turns.
Skiing has been in our family for fifty years. My grandparents bought a tiny A-frame off the Sachem area at Okemo when they were young, and schlepped the four kids up there from Connecticut every weekend. My dad took to skiing the most, becoming a part-time instructor at the resort in his late twenties, and continuing the weekend warrior tradition with my mom, my brother, and me. The sport has taken us across the world, through seasons of change, and beyond generations. It's given my family opportunities to continually connect with ourselves and each other through floods of memories, beautiful experiences, and the assurance that no matter where each of us are in our individual lives, we can find each other at a ski resort and always feel home.
Skiing is the best family sport because it's so much more than a sport: it's a medium of shared experiences in a living, breathing culture of connection. If I had to break it all down into 5 reasons why skiing is simply the best, they would be the following:
It Lasts A Lifetime
The proof is on the hill: men and women in their 70s, 80s, even 90s (I've seen it!) cruising down slopes with the technique of seasoned veterans and smile of skiing newbies. We will get old, but the sport won't. You might not be logging as many tram laps as you did when you were in your prime, but you will experiencing the joy of a sport that truly lasts a lifetime.
Everyone Can Do It
Case in point: my grandmother has a photo of her in Switzerland from the late 1940s, depicting a young woman in a chic onesie with skis over her shoulder, ready to head up the cable car for the day. What you wouldn't know is that she never clicked into those skis – she preferred to experience all-day après. Even if you never click your boot into a binding, guess what: you can still be involved in skiing. The sport spreads across the entire globe as a culture of outdoor appreciation, community, and love for activity. Take a hundred runs, or take a few. Ski only in the sunshine or in a blizzard. Cater it to your own liking.
It's One Big Family
Skiing transcends place, language, and all sorts of differences. It provides a way for people to come together from different walks of life. You know that it's a small world feeling you get when you meet a friend of a friend in a totally random place and then cheers over it? That happens all the time when you dip into the world of skiing. Common love for the sport spreads wherever there are skiers, and everything from parking spots to timeshares to home-cooked meals will start turning up when you become part of the family.
It Keeps You Whole And Healthy
Winters can be a bummer if you don't have any outdoor interests. When you're a skier, winters are what you live for. Winter is the centre point of the entire year: the main attraction. And when you have skiing as an outlet for exercise, getting outside, and being with friends and family, life becomes better for you and everyone around you. Skiing lifts up the body, mind and spirit, and gets the kids off their video game binge and into nature.
It's Something To Pass Down
Parents pass all sorts of things down to their kids: genes, habits, life lessons. The experience of skiing is one to add to the list. Looking back on my best skiing memories, I rarely think of dropping cliffs and snorkel-skiing through bottomless powder days. I frequently think of family vacations out West, chairlift rides with Grandpa, and friendships forged over bitterly cold days on the race course. When you pass skiing on to your kids, you pass on an entire lifestyle full of love, fun, and experience.
We're all still avidly involved in skiing, in our respective ways. Dad instructs part-time. Brother coaches. I ski, then write about it. Grandpa reads the stuff I write. Nana occasionally tells stories of her Switzerland days. Mom still heads out for her mid-morning ski every weekend. Skiing will always be our family sport, and undoubtedly continue to pass through the generations. And why not? It is, after all, the best family sport… like, ever.