Continued from here.
I remember the first time I ever skied through the trees as a little girl. I was seven, maybe eight, with my Dad and my grandpa. My Papa, as I called my Grandfather, had been the one to get me into skiing. We used to get up early on the weekend to make the first chair. Mom hated the cold and preferred to sit in the lodge by the fire with a gaggle of gal pals and a glass of wine. Dad hadn’t usually around long enough to come with us, but he was a marathon runner and a football player who kept protein powder in the kitchen and said things to me like Susan, being runner-up just means you’re the first loser or Susan, champions don’t make excuses.
The wind had been bitter cold on the way up the lift that day and it cut right through the layers and layers of clothing I had on, burrowing under the tightly wrapped scarf around my nose and mouth and freezing the fabric into a stiff, snot covered wall. I had pulled it down to expose my numb cheeks to the air and let my hot breath escape in a geyser of white smoke, my eyes on the ground below. Above my head, my Papa and my Dad had talked in loud voices over the wind, something about Mom and Dad and someone my Mom knew called Steve.
“You got yourself in a bad situation with that woman, son,” Papa had said.
I had watched as a group of skiers in brightly colored jackets stopped near the edge of the trail by the tree line. They had seemed to be discussing something, gesturing with their spindly poles and stomping their skis along the edge of the trail.
“She’s a cheating woman and she’s gonna do it again if you let her. You’d be best to take Susie and get out now.”
“You know I can’t take Susan, Pops,” my Dad had said, “not with my career. I travel too much.”
“Well, you can’t leave her with Carol. You aren’t actually thinking about staying with her, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“So what about your daughter, Kyle?”
The skiers on the trailside had started to ski, one by one, into the trees. Intrigued, I had turned in my seat as the chair past by to watch them disappear, their bright jackets flickering briefly against the dark trunks until they were too far down the hill to see. I had turned around just in time to move my skis away from the foot rest as Dad raised the bar in one fluid motion and the ground rose up to meet us.
We had exited the lift to the right and skied slowly around it. I had dug my ski poles into the soft snow and had pushed as hard as I could to keep up with my father, who was already at the top of the headwall and disappeared over the drop before I had reached him. My papa had given me a gentle push behind the shoulder blades.
“Come on Susie,” he’d said, “show me what you got.”
I’d let the weight of my skis pull me forward over the lip and skied down to where the other skiers had left tracks in the soft snow built up by the side of the trail. I could see the marks they’d made in the otherwise untouched snow, curving around the trees. I had looked behind me for Papa, but I didn’t see him. I’d known my father was far down the trail.
I had faced the glades, set my skis on the tip of the ledge, and dove in.