Sidelines: Little Miss Colorado

Ella Menu enjoying a hot chocolate on Main Street in Frisco, Colorado. Gavin Menu photo

I’m learning with every passing year that our children won’t always follow in our footsteps and share in our interests, hobbies or recreational pursuits. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when both my children — Ella, who is 10, and Charlie, who is four — told me they enjoyed watching golf. And I mean they really like to watch golf, like an entire round. They probably fed off my love of the Masters, which begins this week. It used to be a family joke (except I was being serious) that daddy would be left alone during the final round of any major golf tournament while other family members lowered beer down through the window and slid nachos under the door of our TV room. I was not to be disturbed by requests for cartoons or the newest Disney releases. This year, much to my delight, Sunday at the Masters will feature an entire spread for the family with my children gasping at every near miss of the cup or huge drive down the fairway.

We’ve made a connection, all three of us (my wife still refuses to watch golf), and for that I am grateful. But it pales in comparison to my daughter’s newfound love of Colorado. My family moved to East Hampton when I was 10, but I was born in Aspen — clearly my family has an affinity for high-priced resort towns — and my father still lives in a mountain town called Frisco, which is about a two-hour drive from Denver. At the age of 79, he skis between 50 and 100 days per season. He volunteers at Copper Mountain, which is just five minutes away from his house on a free, public bus, with the biggest perk besides his ski pass the ability to provide his three children with free lift tickets and ski school for his grandchildren.

I took Ella to Colorado for the first time two years ago on a five-day ski trip, and she immediately found comfort in the Rocky Mountain air. The steep hills of Copper Mountain were not intimidating, but welcoming. The huge mound of snow had her elated. The beauty of the pine-covered mountains impressed her, and she fed off the love of skiing shared by my dad and I.

As young parents, we hear all the time about how quickly our kids grow up, to enjoy every moment and to not wish away their childhoods. We’re in a bit of a sweet spot right now with our daughter. She is old enough to do things like skiing, but young enough to still love doing it with us. Last year she did two days of ski school, but on our trip last month, she did just one and was thrilled to spend an extra day touring the mountain with the big boys.

We were riding the lift on our last day and I looked over at Ella and she had a huge smile to go with her very stylish ski outfit (as I mentioned, our interests don’t always align). It was the only day that we had bluebird skies, one of those Colorado afternoons on the mountain that makes you forget about everything bad in the world. I asked Ella what her favorite part of the trip had been since we were leaving the next morning, and after shuffling through a variety of sweet treats as serious considerations, she looked at me and said, “Definitely skiing with you and Papi,” which is what she calls my dad. Skiing has been an important part of my life, and in that moment I realized that even though one day she will prefer to hang out with her friends, we will always have Copper Mountain. And my little Miss Colorado will remember that it was me who introduced her to the wonderful world of downhill skiing and what a glorious spring day in the Rocky Mountains feels like. Mix in a little hot chocolate — with extra whipped cream, of course — and for a short period of time, together with my dad and my daughter, we found our own little piece of heaven.