To ski or not to ski

By Jen Jackson Quintano
Reader Contributor

We are blessed to live with a world-class ski area in our backyard.

At least, that’s what people say.

Schweitzer is some of the best skiing Idaho has to offer.

Or so I’ve been told.

Our humble ski area is a hidden gem, no lift lines necessary for access to amazing terrain.

Well, that’s the word on the street, anyway. And I’ve gotten adept at repeating the word on the street.

This time of year, every social encounter seems to involve a check-in about the mountain: snow conditions, visibility, forecast and a recap of one’s most recent skiing endeavors. It’s Sandpoint-specific wintertime small talk. 

The thing is, though: I’m not a skier. Thus, I approach these conversations with enough vague generalities — usually gleaned from my powderhound family — to pass as informed, and then I move on.

Except for those closest to me, I’m a closet-case. I keep my feelings of winter underwhelm close, hidden, wanting to present to the Sandpoint world that I am a healthy, vigorous, mentally sound person; and, as such, I am a skier.

I am all of these things —healthy, vigorous, sane — but I am not a skier. 

Sometimes I stand tall in this assertion — Who needs skiing? Skiing does not a woman make! — but most days find me feeling ashamed.

I have failed at life in North Idaho.

Not only do I now live in a ski town, but I married into a family of skiers. My husband has been carving since he was two, and his parents are Colorado ski bums from way back. Though nearly 70 (which suddenly, in their presence, seems so young), they still shred. And now the three of them are teaching the art of the slope to my 4-year-old daughter. She might as well have been born with skis on her feet. She’s pretty darn good.

Or so I’ve been told.

 Adding my daughter to the mix paints another layer of complexity atop my ambivalence about the sport. Now my identity as a non-skier means I miss out on part of my child’s ascending identity. Must I evolve to support her emergence?

I grew up in a family of non-skiers. Upon leaving home, I moved to the desert, a veritable land of non-skiers. A love of winter — let alone skiing — has never registered as a necessary part of my character. 

Then we moved to Sandpoint.

Then my in-laws followed.

Then my daughter put on skis.

Now, I am very much in the minority.

Part of me knows I should just get on the damned skis. I’m athletic and love being outside. Given the right circumstances (which, apparently, don’t involve my husband providing me ankle-high leather boots and 190s, taking me to the top of a mountain, and telling me to “aim for the trees!” before taking off ahead of me), I would probably pick up the sport quickly. I might even like it.

I am reminded of my reticence to take on road biking when an old boyfriend encouraged me to join him. I hated it for weeks, maybe months. I insisted I was fine in my bipedal identity, sans pedaling. Then, suddenly and strangely, something clicked into place — much like my cleats into those silly lollypop pedals — and I fell in love (with the bike, it turned out; not so much the boyfriend). You couldn’t take my Specialized away from me. I went from the annoying, crying girl on a too-fancy bike, to a chick riding centuries. On her own. For fun.

Skiing might be the same. Or it might not. I might just remain the irritating, sniveling girl on skis too fancy for her skill set. I will never know unless I try.

Yet, I remain reticent. As a working mother, I covet any alone time that comes my way. Sunday mornings are now a guilty pleasure. I catch up on emails and bring in firewood. I go for long runs with the dog. I write a little. I enjoy a tranquil house. I listen to music the rest of my family hates. I might even scrub the toilets and, so long as I am listening to Lucy Dacus, that too is OK.

I am reluctant to give up this space that is for me.

I am also reluctant to impinge upon time my daughter has with her dad. I am so often the favored parent for cuddles and care. Time on the slopes is time that my husband gets attention, affection, and connection from my daughter. And vice versa.

But — (and there is always that but) —

But I crave acceptance —in my community and in my family. If I ski, will I finally belong?

But I crave that certain western small town identity of being outdoorsy and strong and accomplished and up for anything. If I ski, will I finally be that woman?

But I crave a life in which I don’t become stagnant, a life that is fluid and always murmuring This, too, is possible. If I ski, will I have that life?

Schweitzer may in fact be the best ski area in the Inland Northwest. It may, in fact, have some of the best lifts and tree skiing. It may be the best resort for an intimate, crowd-ditching experience. It may be fun and beautiful and right-freakin’-here.

What I want to know is, will skiing Schweitzer better my life? Sadly, there is no word-on-the-street pipeline that will feed me that information. All that I know is that life is pretty good as it is … even if I am the sheepish black sheep in a family — and community — of shredders. 

Jen Jackson Quintano writes and runs an arborist business with her husband in Sandpoint. Though the two kinds of work are vastly different, both keep her connected to — and curious about — her North Idaho home.

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