The Big Payoff

Everest, the moon, and Peak 8 in Breck: All spots worthy of planting a flag.

Everest, the moon, and Peak 8 in Breck: All spots worthy of planting a flag.

A decade after teaching my son Aidan to ski, he and I ripped a big line on a 45-degree chute at Breckenridge and I realized this: We have finally arrived.

Earlier this season, Aidan and I had hoofed it up a goat path from the top of the Imperial Chair at Breckenridge to the top of Peak 8. Someone had planted an American flag, which was rippling and snapping in the wind.

Reaching the summit, at 12,987 feet, and scanning 360-degree panoramas of jagged snow-covered peaks, we really felt like we’d made it somewhere. Literally and figuratively, we had.

On top of the world at Breckenridge. Miles logged on the Magic Carpet finally pay off.

On top of the world at Breckenridge. Miles logged on the Magic Carpet finally pay off.

Laying the Groundwork

When each of my kids turned two, I stuffed their chubby little feet in hard plastic ski boots and dressed them up like pint-sized Michelin Men. There is nothing more adorable than tiny goggles over velvety toddler cheeks.

I would dump all the skis, snacks, water and the kids themselves onto a cheap plastic sled and slog them across the snow to the Magic Carpet.

Just when we made it to the bunny slope, me schvitzing at the exertion of dragging a fully loaded sled, one of my darlings would announce he needed to go to the bathroom. “Real bad.” (In the lodge, I’m so sure I told him, “No pee, no ski.”)

It was hard labor. I’d be hunched over in a snowplow trying to keep 30 pounds of squishy toddler upright. (Public Service Announcement: Parents would be wise to have professional instructors teach their kids to ski. I’m just not that smart.)

Mother-son dance. Now I'm just trying to keep up.

Mother-son dance. Now I’m just trying to keep up.

Fast Forward: Payback Time

Ten years hence, Aidan (now 12) and I were standing over Imperial Bowl with our sights set on the Lake Chutes. When you hike to a peak with your skis slung over your shoulders—which is to say, you aren’t just deposited there by an $8 million, state-of-the-art detachable six-pack—there’s a certain euphoric vibe at the top. I felt it, and I know Aidan did, too. He was pumped.

So was the guy dressed like a piece of pizza, the guy who took his shirt off for a picture, and the guy who ceremoniously cracked a can of Bud Light.

At the top, everyone feels exhilaration. Especially when you're dressed like a pizza slice.

At the top, everyone feels the exhilaration. Especially the guy draped in pepperoni.

We followed the ridgeline out as far as we could and dropped into a run called Wacky’s: a white-knuckle steep pitch that dog-legs through rockbands. Aidan, who has truly become an expert skier, dropped the cornice at the top and made strong nimble turns down the chute, threading his way past the granite walls.

I followed in his ski tracks. Wacky’s is my favorite kind of run. Super steep, chalky edgeable snow. A little bit of a choke to get the adrenaline rushing. I even whooped.

Taking a Moment to Reflect

At the bottom, we looked back up at what we’d skied. The exhilaration of the run alone (and the couple of runs down Peak 6’s hike-to terrain earlier in the day) would have made it my best day on skis this season. But sharing the experience with my son was the clincher. It made all those sweaty trips to the Magic Carpet beyond worthwhile.

“That was awesome!” Aidan said, giving me a big Gore-Tex clad bear hug, his mittened hands patting me on the back. “Let’s do it again.”

And we did.

"Yeah, I just skied that." Lake Chutes? Check.

“Yeah, I just skied that.” Lake Chutes? Check.

More success stories from the slopes

When did skiing or riding click for you and your brood? What’s your story?

© 2016 All Rights Reserved


  1. Oh Helen!! And to think we rode the lift and sent you off with our best wishes (and disappointment in our situation)! We had our en famile ripping moment at Breck, too. Ours was in Horseshoe Bowl, up/over&down Whales Tail and over to Y Chute. Amongst my screeches of giddy delight were my tears of joy that Mr and Wonder Girl were safely and happily following in my tracks. Took my 15 years with him; 8 with her (she got a late/slow start). I didn’t cry like I did on her first day, but my heart was just as bursting.
    Ps: I’m an instructor/coach with 20 years exp: she went to ski school. 😉

    • Helen Olsson says:

      Jilly, I wish you could have skied it with us!! Such a great couple of runs. Next time. And you are wiser than me to put her in ski school. I’m a glutton for punishment. Now Anya wants to learn to snowboard and we are putting her in lessons!


  1. […] recently sang the praises suffering long hours on the bunny slope to eventually, a decade later, ski double black-diamond chutes with your kids. Our kids now rip all over the mountain. It’s fabulous. What I hadn’t foreseen was a return to […]

Speak Your Mind