Last Christmas holiday, three generations of my family descended on Stratton, Vermont, where I took several screaming-fast runs with my hardcore nieces, Nicole and Kelsey. Nicole, 11, is in the racing program. She skis powerfully, as fast as possible at all times, and in perfect control. She's seriously passionate about skiing. Kelsey, two years younger, is simply out for an adrenaline rush. She just loves to ski. Want to make a run down a novice slope, Kelse? "Great!" she says, eyes gleaming. How about a black diamond? "Let's go!" she says with the flash of a smile. Whatever the choice, she hurtles down the fall line, skirting other skiers and checking her speed with half-turns as circumstances require. She punctuates her turns with a flourish of angulation and the casual flip of a pole, as if to say, "I can turn anytime I want, anyway I want." She is completely spontaneous. That's the way skiing is when you're nine.
Stratton's machine-made snow felt surprisingly like powder beneath my skis, and I was feeling frisky and energetic and a bit like a kid myself. So, late one afternoon when Nicole and Kelsey pleaded for one last black-diamond plunge, I volunteered to join them. Shadows cloaked the terrain and the wind stung our faces and the soft snow was pretty well scraped off, but none of that slowed us down. One last run stretched to three last runs, with Nicole charging in the lead, Kelsey chasing right behind, me doing my best to keep up. We all felt that combination of sadness and satisfaction when we saw the closure rope across the lift corral and our last run truly became the final one. That's the way skiing is at any age.