The nice gentleman asks, “Did your parents bring you skiing as a child and instill this lifestyle in you, and now you’re doing the same?”

Story & photo by Sammi Johnson
With the crispness of the outside cold clinging to our bodies, we crash into the locker zone, helmets askew and gloves soaked. Our ski-carrying kids are near-disasters as they clumsily hard-boot walk with protruding poles, snow-stuffed pockets and zombie eyes. Their slight whine can only be cured with French fries and more hot chocolate after a full day of skiing with old and new friends.

The glorified hallway is lined with narrow closets and a single full-length bench that transforms into a real-life consequential game of Tetris as others are wrapping up their respective days and stuffing their stinky gear away for the workweek. Everyone tolerates the boots and the gloves and the smells and whatever else may spill out of a random locker. As we try to motivate the kids to successfully finish off the day by putting their things away nicely, one gentleman asks, out of the blue, “Did your parents bring you skiing as a child and instill this lifestyle in you, and now you’re doing the same?”

The short answer is yes, and we hope so! But I hadn’t thought about it in such a linear sort of way before.

As I’ve mentioned before, eastside living is a bit different than on the temperate west side. There’s more sun, all the wind, less snow over there, while over here we have grayer days with more snow and warmer temps. I grew up with my mom working the local ski hill (for more than 30 years!) at Showdown Ski Area. And here is my plug for that ski area — it’s amazing! It has family-run, high-elevation, all-natural snow and the most genuine feel-good, fun skiing around. Eastside ranchers, small-town, hardworking people make up the demographics of Showdown’s skiers. They’re tough, just like the terrain and weather. With unrivaled views at the top of its 8,000-feet-plus elevation, the wind and sun shape its landscape.

I adored my Showdown childhood: all the frigid mornings riding the early-morning employee bus, the Cup of Noodles lunch and the discovery of skiing as a small kid with all the ups and downs. Both the hill and its people raised us. We got to know every aspect of the operation, including the cook staff, lift operators, ski instructors, management, cat drivers, rental shop employees, bus drivers, parents with the best snacks. Everyone kept us in a loose line as we played, skied, played, skied through the years. We built forts under the deck, in the lodge and anywhere else they’d let us, and sledded after hours as the adults laughed about the day. It’s where I held my first job washing all the bright orange lunch trays. It’s where we learned how to ski and met lifelong friends; where skiing became engrained into our lives. It stung sometimes, and I didn’t want to go there every weekend. I wanted to sleep in, stay warm, be home, not ski. Skiing has gone through several iterations of love for me, with periods in my life where I wasn’t skiing at all. Perhaps I overdid it as a child, but the choice wasn’t mine to control.

But to answer the man’s question — yes, we are hoping to instill this lifelong love into our kids at an early age. We invest all of our money it seems into this lifestyle, and most of the time it feels worth it. It doesn’t go without cold toes, meltdowns and frustrations held by everyone, but we keep pushing because the breakthroughs overpower any shadow of a doubt. We see them skiing with real effort, showing progress with a smile: the balance of pushing them hard enough, yet not so hard as to leave a scar. They’re doing it and seemingly enjoying it.

I’m lucky to have grown up with a place that allowed my free-for-all self to be a part of something that seemed so big but was small enough to care for me. I can still walk into the lodge today, 30 years later, and buy a lift ticket for under 50 bucks and recognize the person selling it. I can tell the time of day by the smell coming from the kitchen, and the breakfast menu is still the best in the state. I feel proud that Showdown still turns its chairs and hope it will forever. I can’t quite properly explain its importance in my life. I know I’m not alone in that challenge. It helped shape many other people’s lives as well. I see Whitefish Mountain Resort filling that role for my kids. They are confident about where to go, who the lift operator is on their favorite lift, which instructor gets the biggest air and where the best French fries are. They are proud to call it their home mountain.

So yes, thank you, kind sir, for tolerating our brood in your quiet locker room space. We wouldn’t trade this fantastically fun, often frustrating, money-draining sport for anything.

Sammi is a mother, wife and businesswoman. Contact her at sammi@sambrownco.com.