catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 23 :: 2011.12.23 — 2012.01.05


An unmarked path

The night before, nearly a foot of snow fell on the mountain. So we left the trails as usual to make some new tracks. We followed a path along the Greeley Ridge in Alta, a narrow course that allows skiers to reach some out-of-the-way places to drop in on the mountain. When we came out on Greeley’s east face, we traversed high across the face until we reached a place where nothing had broken the surface of the snow. An unmarked path was below us.

I looked to my dad and he looked back. “Ready?” he asked. And with a nod we dropped into a pocket of snow. It was deep and light. The snow danced and jumped around us as we skied through deep powder. We made our own new tracks on a mountain long loved for fresh snow.

Skiing is one of the passions we share as father and son, so we spent our days on the mountain together. Each day’s end was met with good food and catching up on life. We told stories about work and home. In the mornings, we enjoy the luxury of reading and relaxing with coffee. These are our days to be together.

Toward the end of college, we realized the demands of life would take us on different paths that grow further apart with time. We knew there would be holidays when the whole family gathers. We knew the occasional summer trip would happen. So he suggested we meet for a ski trip as a way of being together and a tradition soon formed.

Each year in February or March, we flew to Colorado. We met in the Denver airport and drove to Summit County. We loved a particular mountain, so we always skied there. As our knowledge of the mountain grew, we left the maps behind. It had become our mountain and our tradition. The tradition worked for us. We made time for one another. After several years though, the tradition faded. Actually, it stopped. Our skis would hang dormant for the season, with no time for them to storm a mountain. Those were years when work was tough and our tradition fell off the priority list.

The joy of past years turned into memories instead of something to look forward to. Several years passed without a ski trip while I was in graduate school and my dad took a new job. Then last year he made a suggestion. Let’s go skiing. Let’s go somewhere new.

Dad pulled the skis off the rack and tuned them. After dreaming about mountains to ski, we finally found ourselves in Utah, tips hanging over the unmarked snow of East Greeley. Our trip last year was a rediscovery of our tradition. It took trying something new and in the act of something new, I learned that tradition is not about the past. It is about the future.

In its new advent, our tradition is not about which mountain we ski. Our tradition is not even about skiing. The tradition is not about what we did or how we did it.

Tradition is about why we meet together. Skiing only gives a context. Our relationship gives us life. We need the tradition as a dedicated time to be together, to remind us of who we are as family. Even though we’ll see each other at holidays, the tradition rejuvenates our relationship. Our tradition keeps us in the present as the people we have become, rather than looking back at the people we were.  

The rekindling of our annual ski weekend reminded me that tradition is an unmarked path. An honest tradition is not doing the same thing, at the same time, in the same place. Traditions grow as we grow. Our traditions serve us by showing us where our relationships are along the journey of our lives. Each time we live our traditions, they become something new. Each time we return to our traditions, we are someone new and we add the pieces of what we have become to the knowledge of who we are. When we look to the future, our traditions can guide us and we can live confident in the path ahead, because we go together. 

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