by Lee Cohen
I take a deep breath as I watch him and his buddy turn the corner. In a couple of seconds they're out of sight. I don't feel the same about it as I did when I hitchhiked out on my own over 30 years ago. Now I'm a parent trying to have faith, instead of a teenager hungry for some life. I know how my parents felt. I remind myself that he's no longer a kid.
Things are different now. I sound like a curmudgeon, I know, but there were no sponsors for ski bums back then. No comps for freeskiers. No blogs. No chance at fame. The adventure was limited to the adventure. Gore-Tex was brand new. We still wore wool. Ski passes were cheap and ski bums were cool. But skiers with the bug still chase their dreams with the same enthusiasm. They are just as possessed as ever—embracing skiing as the central theme of their lives.
And the roads 18-year-olds get to explore are still there, same as ever, lines stretching out on the horizon. But is the freedom the same? Social media and iPhones. The trappings of our modern world that make other people think we should be at their fingertips. I can't imagine how we modern parents would handle without them. Hail the long dead pay phone as an old-time excuse for staying out of contact. "I never saw a pay phone the last two weeks mom, what could I do?" Kids now are constantly on the radar. To hell with that stuff. To dispense with the tech is as simple as ignoring it. Adventure is still adventure despite Zuckerberg.
Skiing isn't the same for my son as it was for me. There's an entire subculture now. A support system. My buddy George and I were just a couple of kids camping out in the heart of winter to facilitate our skiing, scrounging an existence by working a little here and there for our meager keep. Doing the minimum of what was necessary to continue heading to the hill every day.
Watching my son head out, I revel in the glory of youth. I can't live it again, but I remember it and I love seeing it. The thrill of new adventure while young is the foundation for future adventures. But it will never be as fresh again. He's in that age of eye-opening wonder and awe.
I got the call the third night from BC. "Dad, we're in Golden. We stayed at this supercool hostel last night. It's awesome here. Today we're driving over Rogers Pass. If we can, we're going to ski something. We'll be in Revy tonight." I smiled, asked him a couple of questions about the drive, and tried to imagine Golden as he was describing it to me. Then I spoke the words I figured would go unheeded. "You be sure to give me a call when you get there."
The thrill of new adventure while young is the foundation for future adventures. But it will never be as fresh again. He's in that age of eye-opening wonder.
From the Early Winter 2011 issue