Snow Day. The two most coveted words a child can hear in the middle of winter.
This particular wintry night I had done everything right. I put a spoon under my pillow before I went to sleep, wore my pajamas inside out, and just in case, said a silent prayer to the snow god’s to “please let it snow enough so I won’t get in trouble for not doing my homework.” Falling asleep I imagined the perfect snow day: Getting to sleep in late while my dad would make a delicious smelling breakfast that would waft into my bedroom no earlier than ten o’clock that would bring me running down the stairs to find a heaping plate of pancakes stacked tall with enough syrup covering them to fill a lake. After, I’d rush to put my snow clothes on. I’d spend the whole day sledding down my front lawn (conveniently a downward slope), making snow angels and snowmen with all my little neighborhood friends, and would only come in when I couldn’t feel my toes any longer to find a nice mug full of steaming hot chocolate with little marshmallows floating on the top waiting for me on the kitchen table. With rosy cheeks and wet eyelashes, I’d be so happy to be back in the warmth to cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie with my dad.
However, my fantasies were short-lived. My dad and I lived on a reservoir with no perfectly sloped front yard but rather, a giant backyard that was basically as flat as the desert. And because we lived on a reservoir, we didn’t live in a neighborhood but in a cluster of apartments where I was the only person still getting taller. And so for me, instead of snow days being days I rejoiced over, snow days came to mean only one thing: skiing.
So when I woke up the next morning, after it was declared that the long yellow school bus would not be arriving to pick me up at the ungodly hour of seven o’clock, it was time to tiptoe out of my bedroom to see if my dad was awake and wanting to hit the slopes. I peered down the steps only to see his neon orange ski boots sitting at the bottom symbolizing the long day of skiing ahead of me.
I trailed back into my room and similar to my fantasy, put my snow clothes on. But unlike my fantasy, I was not rushing to do so. On went my tank top, tights, thermal underwear, two pairs of socks, turtle neck, sweat pants, sweat shirt, snow pants, scarf, parka, gloves, hat. And if that outfit wasn’t embarrassing enough, I topped it off with the appropriate accessories: helmet and goggles.
From the bottom of the stairs my dad’s voice called, “Mach schnell!” This was his weird way of saying “Hurry up!”, so just as Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from “A Christmas Story” * waddled to school, I waddled my way down the stairs. I couldn’t help but move at a snails pace. One false move and I’d be sliding down the already too-narrow stairs on my butt.
The car was already packed to go, probably for hours now. I was the last piece of equipment needing to be squeezed in. Once crammed inside the jeep and on our way, I managed to entertain myself by taking my goggles on and off to admire how the stop lights turned from red to blue rather than green due to the tint of my goggles. I joked with my dad about who would fall more once we were on the mountain while the radio blasted some news reporters voice that I thought was just for background noise.
After what seemed like hours–maybe days–of driving, we finally arrived to the mountain. Parking the farthest distance possible from the ski lodge, we geared up and I tried my best to balance my skis and poles on my shoulder as we awkwardly walked up to the lodge in ski boots that kept our ankles from moving.
Once inside, we got our lift tickets for the day. There was no turning back now. Taking my last breath of warm indoor air, I braced myself for the cold, pulled my hat a little tighter around my ears, tucked my chin into my scarf and stepped outside. Clicking our boots into the ski’s bindings we slowly pushed our way across flat ground to the lift. This was always the worst part. I held my breath as I waited for the lift to come around, making sure to sit down with perfect timing. Immediately, my dad pulled the safety bar down so I would not fall out. For the next few minutes, I enjoyed looking down below to see all the skiiers race by. But once the end of the lift ride came in sight, a knot formed in my stomach as I mentally prepared to hop off the lift at exactly the right moment so I would not have to take a ride back down. I’d done it a million times before, but each time was equally as terrifying. Finally, my dad pulled the safety bar back up and we arrived at the landing. Pushing off as hard as I could, I quickly slid as far away from the lift as possible. Safe. Looking behind me, my dad slowly inched his way towards me and we decided which trail to take.
Being adventurous, I raced ahead of him. My skis cut through the snow as the air whipped my face. I leaned left, right, made a snow plow with my skis and finally, my heart still racing, came to a stop on flat ground once more. Looking behind me again, my dad trailed behind in his bright red coat and finally, he too came to the bottom of the mountain. For hours, we did the same thing. Riding the lift up the mountain just to come right back down.
At lunch time we came in to the lodge to defrost. I stripped off my coat, helmet, and hat as the feeling in my toes slowly returned. I ate a hot meal just so it could freeze in my stomach once I got back outside. The best part however, was finally getting my steaming cup of hot chocolate.
We returned back to the slopes for the second half of the day. More lift rides, more races back down, and definitely, definitely more falling. I realized it was best that my dad’s ski boots were bright orange. That way, when he fell into a giant snow mound they’d be able to find him easier. It really was genius.
Finally, after hours more of skiing, we awkwardly marched back to our car in the setting sun. We piled our stuff into the car and I collapsed beside my dad in the passenger’s side from exhaustion as he blasted the heat and at my request, some good tunes (David Bowie for the ride home) and I fell asleep.
Despite the long day, my complaints about how early I had to wake up, the trials and tribulations of coordinating my gear, a couple good falls, and helmet hair, I was truly happy. Happy that even on a snow day when I should have slept in and been lazy, I got to hang out with my dad. I really loved every minute of it.