We Have a Secret Trail!

Jen Karnan  

Before I begin, I’d like to just say hi. I know it’s been a while since I’ve put out a blog, and a lot of that has to do with the passing of our Operations Director, Doug Irving. I felt I couldn’t pay tribute to a Gunstock legend and follow it with some news about an event, or something small, or even a snowstorm. I needed it to be something meaningful. Today’s experience wasn’t monumental and was, in fact, something small, but it was meaningful. It reminded me of Doug.

As our most recent snowstorm moved out today, I was getting my powder turns in while grabbing some snaps of the conditions and the folks out enjoying their fluffy morning. The light was flat and the sky was a combination of white and gray as flurries continued to fall, so I scanned the slopes for some people in bright colors to provide a bit more contrast. As I made my way down the Gunsmoke trail, I spotted a couple of kids dressed in brightly colored outfits skiing with their father, who was also sporting some bright duds. They came to a stop together and I approached them to ask if I could take their photo. After a couple of quick poses and snaps, I thanked them, and as I turned to continue on my way, the little girl asked, “Wanna come take a run with us?” Flattered, I replied, “Heck yes, I do!”

Today was declared a snow day; which, as we know, are the very best days if you’re a kid growing up in New Hampshire. Instead of staying inside, this family decided to take to the slopes! Eva is six years old and from what I can tell, loves a grand adventure. Sam is four years old and fearless. Their dad, Shawn, is kind, supportive of his kids, and obviously excited that they’re at an age where they can keep up with him on some of his favorite trails at the mountain. These three can rip! That’s about all I learned about them during the span of this one run, but for that ten minutes or so, we were besties.

As we embarked on our first turns as a team, Eva said, “We have a secret trail, follow us!” I happily agreed, and took on the role of the caboose in our line, traversing from Gunsmoke to Recoil, and up to the edge of the woods. Sam looked back and said, “We’re going in here, are you ready?!” As I nodded, the three of them confidently dropped into the newly opened Lower Recoil Glades, still full of fresh powder from the storm, with more fluff slowly floating in. As we came up on a steeper part of the glade, Eva said, “Wow, I bet this will make a really great picture,” and I told her, “I was just thinking the exact same thing!” I got some quick tree-filled shots, and then hurried to catch up with them.

We all chose our respective lines through the wooded trail, snaking our way around trees, finding untouched powder here and following existing tracks there. I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched this young family make their independent choices, but always scanning to see where the others were. Sam tipped over at one point and though I was tempted to help him up, he was very insistent about getting back up on his own, and once he did, everyone celebrated. He later refused a “speed boost” from his dad as well, because he knew he could speed up all on his own.  Small victories, especially at age four, are everything.

Being the doofus I can be at times as I multitask in heavy pow, I took a tumble of my own, and as I came up laughing, Eva came over and asked if I was okay. I thanked her for asking and told her I was fine, and then thought to myself how considerate this six year old child was to ask an adult that question. –or maybe my fall just looked that awful! Maybe it was both, but either way, when nobody’s looking, kids are just the best people.

Kudos to Shawn on his awesome kids, and his awesomeness as a dad. If he ever reads this, I want him to know that the single run I took with them made my day. I hope he continues to ski with his children for years to come, and I hope it continues to bring them all as much happiness as it brought them, and me, today.

It’s been a few years since I taught my last children’s lesson as a Gunstock ski instructor, and even though I’m still able to get out and ski frequently, it’s not quite the same. Playing games in the morning, skiing all day, making up songs on the chairlift, coloring, going inside for hot chocolate and snacks… that’s the life right there. Skiing and riding with kids is such a special experience because they happily bring you into their world and even if it’s for a brief moment, you’re able to see things the way they do. You learn new skills, you pay attention to each other, you’re kind just because, you feel invincible even if you aren’t, you appreciate your surroundings, and above all, you have a good time! I couldn’t help but think of the times when Doug’s grandchildren would visit his office here at Gunstock and he had those tiny skis and boots ready to go for them. That’s really what it’s all about. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve skied the Lower Recoil Glades in my life, but today, it really was Our Secret Trail.

~ Jen

PS: #LiveLikeDoug