The first week of February brought a palpable tension to my house. Ski Dad’s anxiety over his impending Three Day Mahre Ski Camp at Deer Valley was ever-present. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a) Ski Dad’s work-day-to-ski-day ratio has been waaaay out of whack in the last few years. Whereas, I capitalize on any excuse to make turns, it seemed, increasingly, that Ski Dad found any excuse not to. And b) in our house, ski legends and twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre have only one title that matters: Mel’s Uncles. Mel used to have a job title here—Babysitter Extraordinaire. And while that’s still an apt description of one of her many skill sets, she’s become our honorary daughter. We all take very good care of each other. So, in that spirit, Ski Dad pleaded with Mel (more than once) to reassure him that the uncles would not be too hard on him during the camp.
And where I bounced out the door in anticipation of beginning my three-day Women’s Ski Clinic the previous week, Ski Dad pushed himself out the door on that Friday morning. I had faith—not in the Mahres giving him any sort of special treatment, but in the system—both the Mahre Camp teaching system and that of the overall let’s-have-fun vibe in the Deer Valley Ski School. Still, I worried—just a little–that Ski Dad would not be able to let go and enjoy himself.
Turns out, even just a little bit of worry was, well, overkill. He called at lunchtime with a voice that packed 20 pounds of fun into a five-pound bag. “Thank you for letting me do this! This is amazing! You can’t believe what I’m doing on the hill! These guys rock! Oh—I have to go! Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!”
Ok, I did not need the thanks—but that tone was all I needed to hear. Over the course of the weekend, he described the setup—50 skiers broken up into ability groups to ski with 16 of instructors trained in the specific discipline that is Mahre skiing. And either Phil or Steve spends half a day skiing with each group.
At the end of day one, Ski Dad said this: “I have been skiing for 30 years. I feel like today, I finally learned how to ski.”
At the end of day two, he said: “I am taking off next Friday to ski with you.” After he picked me up of the floor from a dead faint, he continued. “This camp is not for anyone who can’t check their ego at the door. Sheila (Ski Dad’s group coach) took apart my skiing, bit-by-bit, and put it back together. You have to be willing to do drills again and again, and trust that the outcome is going to be better skiing.”
On the morning of Day 3, Mel and her uncles and aunts joined us for breakfast at Snow Park—with Big Guy and Little Guy serving as the entertainment committee before we delivered them to their final day of ski school, and the adults split off into “Camp” mode. The mood was light, everyone was pumped for a great day—especially Ski Dad.
At the end of the day, Ski Dad, settled into a corner of our living room couch with a well-earned beer, said this: “I may be sore from all the work I did, but skiing—for the first time in my life—was pain-free. Because, finally, I’m skiing with correct form and technique. Phil said it best—if you’re not skiing properly, in correct form, then you’re just taking your skis out for a ride—doing all the work while they have a fun day. The reality is, they want to take you out for a ride, so you can enjoy the day, and they can work.”
He went on to say that he finally realized why he’d skied less and less with each year we’ve lived in Park City. “When you are on vacation, skiing is just part of the fun you are having—so if it’s somehow painful, you grit your teeth and get through it, and then you go and do all the other fun stuff—eating, going shopping, walking on Main Street, whatever—and it’s worth the pain. But you can’t sustain that for more than five days a year.” And now, thanks to Mel’s Uncles, he doesn’t have to.
P.S. Ski Dad is never without a camera. But the Mahre Camp was so intense, he found not one opportunity to take a photo of all the work they were doing on the hill. So I guess we’ll all have to take his word for it and sign up for one of the camps next year. See you then!