It had to be the elevation.
Why else would I be so short of breath while simply strapping into my snowboard binding? After all, I’d just had an eight-minute break, riding the chair lift back to the top of mountain.
Clicking my boot back into place, I heard my nephews inform my 13-year-old daughter that she’d have a 10-second head start down the slope before they’d come blazing behind her.
She was used to getting a leg up on the competition with her dad always having to stop to strap in as she hops off the lift and skies down the hill, knowing I’ll catch up.
But this time was different.
Speeding down the slope, my girl was in my sights. Her cousins caught up to her in no time and she was just a mere 50 yards ahead of me.
Carving turns back and forth, I watched as she smoothly shifted from side to side before bowing down into a tuck. And then, all of a sudden, I’d stopped gaining ground.
She was gone.
I slid to a stop, looked around and realized I was all alone.
Wow. My girl, indeed, had grown. It reminded me of the day I first got the best of my own dad on the basketball court, somewhat one of those “passing of the torch” moments in life. Problem was, though, I was pretty pleased to top my pops finally in a game of one-on-one hoops.
But being on the other end? I never saw it coming.
As I sat on the hill, I tried to make sense of it all. Was this just a fluke or an actual new standard? When did she get so fast? And could it be that she actually had been holding back for my sake for some time now? I mean, until she gave chase to her cousins, she’d really had no reason to leave dear old dad in the dust.
To be honest, we really aren’t the racing sort. Hitting the slopes has always been just a great way to spend the day with my girls. Most of the tracks I’ve made in the Sierra have been on green and blue runs, broken into short segments with me on my knees shouting, “You can do it!” up the hill to our little snow-plowing skiers.
The fact that I was faster down the hill didn’t matter one iota — until now, that I’m not.
Even on our recent ski vacation, rather than rushing down the hill, I focused more on enjoying the journey — along with the time away from work and school, unplugging from our phones, iPods and laptops (for the most part) and getting some real-life “face time” with our girls. A recent trip to the movies to see “This is 40” had both my wife and I laughing at how the lead couple’s daughters — also 13 and 8 — protested the proposal of such an unplugging from technology, as we could certainly relate.
A few other scenes in the film also hit home, most notably when the wife tells her husband, “We’re going to blink and be 90,” and later when she reminds her 13-year-old that “you’re only here five more years.”
Five more years.
Then, just like that day on the slopes, she’s gone.
And maybe that’s what I realized, sitting there on the slopes.
That it’s not so much that she beat me down the hill but that I no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep her from speeding off on her own.
But just in case it actually was the whole competition thing, I did beat her brains out in a game of Stratego when we got home for good measure.
And of course, I can still afford to give our 8-year-old a head start down the hill — even as I suddenly find myself going over it.
To contact Managing Editor Brian Hamilton, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4249.