Earlier in March we took a family vacation to visit my brother JD and his girlfriend Marion in Lake Tahoe. The trip wasn’t limited to our new family of Cole, Charlie and me. My mom and grandmother, and Cole’s parents all flew west to ski at Squaw Valley. It was a massive family ski trip. It was a trip of many firsts, such as things are these days with a now 6 month old baby. It was the first time my mom and grandmother visited my brother in California, his adopted home of nearly a decade. It was everyone’s first time to ski in California. And, it was Charlie’s first plane ride, which he actually enjoyed and thought the bouts of turbulence were great fun.
For my family, this was the first time in 21 years we took a vacation together. That vacation? Well, that vacation was to ski at Big Sky when JD and I were in middle school. It was spring break. My mom, JD and I skied while my grandmother read and worked on cross word puzzles in our rented condo. That was the trip where I fell in love with Montana and made a promise to myself that one day I’d end up living in the mountains of Montana. You know who else was on their spring break ski trip at Big Sky that very same week all those years ago?
The Schneider family.
Who knows, perhaps Cole and I even skied on the same run or were in the lift line at the very same time? Of all the ski resorts, in all the mountains, in all the world, we skied the same one.
Staying slopeside at Squaw, clan Schneido (that’s what we call ourselves, thanks to our dear friend Nat who combined Cole’s and my last names) occupied one room, my mom and grandmother in another next door. Bruce and Jeanne roomed at a hotel nearby and my brother and Marion stayed at their house in Truckee. The first morning, I awoke the sounds of howling winds and a downpour. The weather at Squaw would prove to be quite the menace, and most days forcing the closure of the upper mountain lifts. But, nonetheless, despite the rain and winds, and then eventual dumping of more than two feet of snow, the terrain off of KT-22 offered more than enough to satisfy my cravings.
And, I got to ski with my brother, and we quickly fell into our old roles of me following him around the ski hill. When I think of skiing and how much I just love it, having shaped me since I was a toddler, I often forget about the connection shared between my brother and me. I tend to narrow my focus and thinking of myself, roaming around Nubs Nob as a child. And JD was right there with me, the whole time.
JD, a couple inches over six feet tall, charged down the chutes of Squaw. And as I followed him through the fog, I was transported back to our childhood. Our ski styles haven’t changed one bit. He’s so playful on the snow, still darting across the edge of a run to pop off a little jump. As a little kid, he was always launching off jumps, doing tricks like Spread Eagles and Daffy Ducks. I lean on the technical side, ever conscious of form. But we both like to go fast. And we both love to ski.
As siblings, we’ve had our fair share of fights and periods of calm. And as we’ve grown up and moved away from Michigan, each of us working quite hard to scrape together a life in the mountains, we’d lost touch a bit. Perhaps we’d see each other yearly…maybe. However, Charlie’s birth has resulted in a reconnection and my brother drove from Lake Tahoe to spend two weeks with us late last fall. On one of the chairlift rides, JD turned to me and said, “I think this is the longest we’ve gone without fighting.”
I shook my head, and replied, “Yup. That’s because we’re skiing together. Perhaps we should always be skiing.”
On our last day in Tahoe, it snowed and snowed and snowed. 26 inches and counting. JD skied with Cole in the morning while I played with Charlie, often holding him up to the window to watch the fat wet snowflakes fall from the sky, with the avalanche bombs echoing in the distance. JD and I took the afternoon shift, and the two of us were giddy in the deep snow. Finding fresh tracks in chutes, we charged through the powder. Toward the end of the day, the snow was so deep in the Headwall area, we had to push and push to find momentum. I hooted and hollered, and JD would look back at me and grin.
He’s a man of few words, probably because his big sister did so much talking for him, but at one point he turned to me, and said, “I don’t want to sound cocky but few people can keep up with me. But you’re like right behind me, the whole time.”
Did my brother just pay me one of the greatest compliments? He sure did. I wanted to hug and kiss him, but I knew that would just disgust him, so I said thanks and we charged back to the lift for one last run together.