The End of a Ski Season

There are moments that divide our lives.

Milestones of your child’s development. A promotion. Moving across the country. The loss of a family member or addition of a new one by birth or marriage. When we look back at these moments, they divide our memories into segments of our time before it happened and how much your life changed after it did. I had such a moment yesterday while up atPhoenix Park ski resort celebrating our last ski trip of the year.

“Daddy, can June and I ride the lift together….without you?”

“Without me?” I replied.

“Well you can ride the next chairlift behind us.”

Up till then, skiing had been a slog with Ava. The beginning of the season would revisit basics of snowplowing and after 1 or 2 runs, she would be done- happy to retreat back to the lodge with mommy to warm up with hot chocolate so daddy can cruise some double blacks. I’ve always wanted her to build her skills as a skier and I hoped that after enough trips up, it would eventually ‘click’ and become a life time passion. Still, I imagined her and I sashaying down runs together, a father and daughter duo enjoying the efforts of the other as equal peers like a modern day Rory and Lorelai from ‘The Gilmore Girls‘.

Ava and Jun Seo riding the gondola

‘We’re big kids and very confident skiers’ Ava tried to reason with me.

We went up to Phoenix park to spend it with our friend Seok Jin who was leading a trip there for his travel company and his son Jun tagged along for the ride. An injury Seok Jin sustained earlier meant he could not take his son out himself and resorted to paying for overpriced lessons on Friday. I was happy to take the kids out and give him a break.

The first few runs as a trio kept me behind the 9 year old dynamic duo, pulling up to help only if they wiped out and needed help reaching their skis or getting to their feet. However, after the sixth run, something happened. They started doing runs without crashing. They wanted to go again, and again. Then, it came:

“Daddy, can June and I ride the lift together….without you?”

Reveling in her newly minted confidence was equally the painful realization that my daughter was growing up, and away from me, albeit one run at a time. I flash forwarded to her wedding day when I would one day ‘give’ her to another man (or woman), whom she was spend the rest of her life with which I imagine is both the best and worst day that I father experiences for her baby girl, and in some small way, riding the chairlift with Jun was a harbinger of things to come. I thought that would be the end of it.

“Uh daddy, can Jun and I ride down a hill..without you?”

“What if one of you falls and needs help up?”

“We can help each other! We’ll be fine.”

I decided to test this theory by riding behind them for a few runs only to watch one of them fall and sure enough, be helped up by the other. It’s touching to see elementary boys and girls help one another, not yet fazed by the awkwardness that teenagers feel when they hit puberty and the middle school years. Soon after, I went to go check on mommy with them content to explore the mountain on their own.

“Let me get this straight.” I said upon their return. “You guys went through the terrain park?”

“Yes! It was so fun and they have big jumps.”

Aren’t you guys a little young to be going through the terrain park by yourselves?” I suppose this is what I get after showing Ava Chloe Kim’s latest halfpipe run in Vail (my alma mater) from my instagram feed.

That night, the three of us set out again to do some night skiing after Korean barbecue and copious amounts of soju for the adults on Seok Jin’s 46th birthday. By then, the temperature dropped and the slush gave way to freshly groomed runs with less crowds and floodlights.

The night belonged to the kids and they grabbed their moment like a baton that had been passed from an older to a younger generation, emboldened by illusions of immortality buoyed by Chloe Kim’s snowboarding abilities. They could do no wrong and would ski as fast as they possibly could, all the while staying together while a 42 year old snowboarder shouts frantically for them to slow down, tries to keep up, and recedes farther and farther from view.

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