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Family Skiing at Big Sky

Skiing with Your Parents

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It was a beautiful day in Big Sky Montana. And a big day for my 74 year old skiing Mom. The woman who taught me to ski, and pushed me out into the snow at every possible opportunity growing up, was now anxious about skiing. I assured her she had done this thousands of times before, muscle memory and experience would kick in when she hit the slopes. I carried her skis and helped her with her bindings, just I had done teaching my kids to ski, and she had done for me four decades ago.

As I made those first few gentle turns in sparkling soft snow under brilliant blue sky at Big Sky Resort, she followed. I looked over my shoulder and there she was gliding beautifully, in perfect form and a pretty smile on her face. She was feeling the joy of being back on skis, at 74, and I was so proud and relieved. My mom was always the powerful, positive skier, fearless and energetic, and flawless in her ski technique. To think that she’d been apprehensive seemed silly now. But her Florida friends had sent her off to Montana to meet me with comments like “don’t break a leg,” and “you’d better come back in one piece.”

We went on to enjoy four fantastic days of skiing Big Sky’s gorgeous groomed runs, Mom had her favorites like Sacajawea and Ambush. We skied with my son and husband, three generations, all of us ski instructors – three past and one present. We talked about the change in ski technique and the improvements in new ski gear, and laughed about crazy lessons we have all encountered, but mostly we had fun. I can’t think of another sport we could all enjoy together, 74, 47, and 21. Senior skiing sure has changed, so has age... 70 is the new 40 for skiers.

Just like with my kids, I controlled my mom’s ski environment during our week in Montana, leading her down ego-pleasing, beautifully groomed runs. I was the over-protective parent, only the roles had reversed. Our last day brought glittery fluffy powder and she skied it like a pro. Her snow loving grin said it all. “I have never skied such amazing powder,” she said. I bet she had in six decades, this woman skied on barrel stave skis with barrel trap bindings after all.

At each ski day’s end, we enjoyed our après ski toddy and toasted to the fine legacy of skiing. Mom talked about the satisfying fatigue in her quads, and the sense of accomplishment a great ski day brings.

I will admit to feeling immense relief at her final fabulous turns, returning her rental ski equipment and putting her on a plane safely back to her cynical friends in flat Florida (in one piece, no broken leg). I am so grateful to her for introducing me to the sport of skiing, encouraging me to ski with the boys, in the cold, when I was scared. And I am glad we can continue to treasure this sport that our family loves, always has, always will.

Big Sky skiing with my mom

All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke

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