My father pointed his orange-tipped skis down the slope and rocketed off. He shot down the snow-capped peak of Okemo Mountain Resort, pine trees sneering on the side of the trail, bowed down from the mounds of snow piled atop. He moved like a blur next to the slow-trotting parade of lift goers headed up the mountain.
The crisp winter air bit my face as I raced clumsily down the slope behind him. The snow came down in heaps, thick snowflakes whipping around in a frenzy of white. We seemed to play a game of cat and mouse; he was playing get to the bathroom as soon as possible. I had never seen my father ski this fast before. He flew over moguls, hopping as if his legs were elastic bands. He never looked back. My vision blurred as hot breath streamed up my mask and into my goggles, forcing me to stop for a moment. Lifting my goggles, my father came back into view at the bottom of the slope.
On both weekends and weekdays, Okemo is packed with skiers and snowboarders. Skiers wait in half-hour lines for any lift to the top. This frigid December day was no different. Hundreds of people milled around the base lodges.
At the bottom of the Glades Peak Quad lift, my father was gone. His green parka disappeared into the bustling crowd at the lodge located just beyond the lift line. Seemingly endless rows of ski racks lined the pavilion. Those unlucky enough to find spots to leave their skis, laid them errantly on the ground, their coexisting poles stuck haphazardly beside them.
Panic set in.
I nervously skated back and forth, searching for any sign of his green jacket or his signature orange skis. Frantically, I moved from one end of the lodge to the other, praying my father would emerge.
There! A flash of green. Through the tangled layers of black, blue, orange, and yellow, I saw his jacket. I rushed to him, but he didn’t see me. He clipped into his skis and was off to the lift in one fluid motion.
Joining the single line, he quickly moved to the front of the amassed people, getting on the first chair.
I was left standing alone, the cold now seeping through my jacket, numbing my arms. I began to cry, hot tears springing from underneath my goggles.
This was all you saw: a young boy crying and alone. But you didn’t hesitate; you came right up to me.
“Is everything ok kid?”
“No…” I choked through my tears, “My dad, he left without me.”
“We’ll get it figured out, don’t worry.”
Instead of just letting me sit there crying, you brought me up to the lift attendant, cutting through the masses and stepping away from your own spot in line.
Once I calmed down, I could tell the lift attendant about my father’s green jacket and how he didn’t know I was behind him. The attendant radioed up to the top of the lift and told the other attendants the situation.
You could have left then, gone to enjoy the trails once I was in the hands of the attendants, but you stayed with me. The fresh snowfall now covered the tracks left by lift goers. You stayed until we could see the green blur of my father scorching down the trail, barely turning. It was then when I realized that he could ski even faster than I originally thought.
With ease, he slid to a stop in front of the looming lift station. He unclipped from his bindings and rushed over to me, scooping me from the ground. The warmth that had left my arms tingled down my shoulders and back into my hands.
“I’m so sorry, everything is okay.”
He placed me back on my feet, and I turned to look at you.
“Thank you for helping me.”
“Of course, kid. Always help someone when they need it.” You said with a smile. You nodded at my father and hopped onto the next chair up, disappearing into the flurry of snow.
My father took my hand and guided me to the lift line. We waited patiently for the lift before letting it scoop us up. My parents would give my brothers and me chocolates after every fourth run, a clever incentive to keep us on the slopes. This was only the second run, but my father gave me an extra chocolate on the way up the hill.
The sweet Twix bar melted in my mouth, soothing my nerves, and I thought of you. You showed me the importance of helping someone when they are alone and in need. The selfless act you did will always remain ingrained in my memory.
Nate Robida is a student at Central Connecticut State University
Headline Image Courtesy of https://www.okemo.com/