Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Past. Present. Future.

Plane tickets are being booked and arrangements are made to head to Beaver Creek for Lindsey’s first race of the season.  I reflect on what it was that brought us to Colorado years ago.  I was seven, Lindsey was thirteen.  When our family moved from our hometown in Minnesota, we traded in our make-shift mountain, Buckhill, for the Rocky Mountains.  Now, sixteen years later, with the success of Lindsey’s career at its height, I realize the motive, the risk, and the complete blind jump my family took with Lindsey. 
I ask my dad to tell me about it.  I ask him how he had so much faith in his teenage daughter to uproot his family from the house he himself built, to sell it, and to move his five children to a two bedroom condo in Vail.
“I had a lot of faith in Lindsey. By that time I had complete faith in Lindsey.  I knew that she could be one of the best.”
                We sit in the kitchen, in our hometown in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  “But how did you get to that decision?” I ask.
  “I don’t think that there was a decision,” my dad takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes, settling into his chair.  “The idea was that Lindsey was really good, she was unique, and I thought I did understand what it took to make a champion.  So I said, let’s give it a shot.  And I knew there was a big element of risk in all of that.  Having her ski was not the fulfillment of my skiing; don’t forget I couched juniors for 15 years. I skied with the great skiers of the world so I knew what it was.  She was that good and she deserved a chance.” 
He stops to turn and look at me, smiling “You don’t believe that do you?”  I stop my typing and raise my eyebrows in response, “You never had a doubt?”
“Yes, but it’s not like it’s an epiphany where the curtain lifts.  But I can tell you exactly when I saw she had it—the love and determination.”
                My fingers wait, ready on the keyboard as he looks past the windows in reverie.
“She was nine years old.  She was at Mount Hood. She always went with Erich [Sailer] for the first weeks of June and August. In June the weather at Mt. Hood can be bad. Meaning it can rain and snow at the same time.  And one day, It was so bad up in the Palmer snowfield they couldn’t run the lifts.  But they were running the Magic Mile lift.”
He clears his throat to explain to me that the Palmer is higher than the Magic Mountain lift.
“When you got on the Magic Mountain lift, at the bottom it was raining and as you got up into a cloud bank at the top and it was snowing, big, thick flakes.  And so, you got very wet.  We had a Slalom course set. So you had the start and you would come down and it was snowing and you would be getting wet from the snow and then go into a fog and you couldn’t see anything and then as you come down the snow would turn back into rain again. Snow, to fog, to rain.  Then after you got your comments you would continue to ski down through the rain to the Magic Mountain lift and then ride the lift through rain, then fog, and snow again.  You’d be freezing by the time you got off the lift.  And it didn’t take long before the other kids began to dwindle away to the lodge at the bottom of Magic Mountain—anywhere it was warm and dry.  Ya know? But Lindsey didn’t.  She just went up and down.  And up and down. Until she was soaked to the bone.  I thought ‘Why did she do that at 9 years old?’  And so I concluded at that time that the only reason you would do that was that you really loved the sport.  I told her lets go in, but she wouldn’t. It’s not about the amount of doubt, because there is an element of proof.  That was the first indication, in my mind, that she had the will and determination, and stamina to train to be great.”
                While we look hopeful into the future with all that is to come this season, the testament of the past guides us to that confidence, that faith, we take in all our endeavors and remember that no mountain is too high when we have our friends and family for support.  That the risks are worth taking.
See you at the finish line and wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving.