Two guys decide to go skiing for the weekend and 40 years later, it’s Friday night all over again.
Appropriately, my dad met Bob Leonard because he was in a bar. It was a Friday night in the early 1960s and Dad had dropped in for a beer at a local watering hole in Dorchester, Mass. He was frustrated because the group ski trip he had been looking forward to had just been cancelled. On hearing this, a buddy on the next barstool suggested he call his cousin Bob. Bob was a skier who, turns out, was supposed to have gone on the same trip. Minutes later, my dad—never the shy one—was on the bar’s pay phone.
“Hey, you wanna go skiing this weekend?” Dad said to Bob.
From then on, Bob and my dad—along with their future wives and other friends—spent nearly every winter weekend of the ’60s skiing and partying in the Presidential Range as members of the Bretl Hupfers Ski Club. It was the era of Orr and Esposito, and many weekends ended with a Bruins game at the garden on the way home. The older I get, the more I learn of those wild, youthful weekends.
As couples turned into families and some of them bought vacation homes in the valley, we were lucky enough to be dragged along—a dozen kids running wildly around whomever’s house we ended up at on a given night. Saturdays and Sundays were for skiing at Attitash—following our dad’s tracks at first, showing off whenever we could; later racing each other to the bottom and doing our best to avoid our parents altogether. My younger brother and I were the babies of the group, always desperate to keep up with the big kids. At night, a dozen or so kids filled every bunk in the house, sneaking peaks out the big window at the end of the hallway in hopes of falling snow.
Nearly four decades later, the venue has changed but the behavior has not. For me and a few of those other kids, Killington serves as a worthy replacement for the Mount Washington Valley. The Pickle Barrel and Wobbly Barn substitute admirably for the Red Parka Pub or the Scarecrow, which we still visit on occasion. The late-night, bunk-room banter is much the same, I imagine, as it was 40 years ago for our dads. One night, after perhaps a few too many Captain and Cokes, we took to calling each other by our father’s names. Housemates who didn’t grow up with us didn’t find it nearly as funny as we did.
In October, my dad was back in Dorchester, this time with several hundred of Bob’s friends for a get-together celebrating Bob’s life. As I reflected on his premature passing, a skiing friend who didn’t grow up with us said something that I hadn’t thought of: “You know, without your parents and skiing, none of us would even know each other.”
For me, skiing has been the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. Over the past 10 or 15 years, some of us have moved away, moved back and moved away again. But no matter where we go or how many—or few—days we squeeze in from November to April, we’ll always have those weekends as kids, when nothing mattered more than a couple inches of new snow on that wooden railing outside the house.
I often wonder what it is that makes me sit in traffic every Friday night, or throw on four layers of fleece to brave the single-digit temps of a Vermont January, or shell out more than I can afford for a season pass. But I know this much: It’s not just about the turns, the snow and the parties. They help, but it’s also about that ride up on Friday nights, the music blaring, stories and jokes being told, the whole weekend stretching ahead of us. It’s still about sneaking peeks out the window in the middle of the night. And on very rare and fortunate occasions, it’s about two generations of cherished friendships, all stemming from one simple question posed 45 years ago. “Hey, you wanna go skiing this weekend?”