I was disappointed to learn that gnomes don’t live in evergreen trees.
As a child, I was told that gnomes lived in the snow and performed woodland magic. If I looked closely, I would see their little footprints in the snow (in reality, foxes), the neon ribbons they left in the trees (ski patrol) and maybe even hear them whisper (the wind).
I now understand that niche fables like this were how my parents convinced me to put on my ski boots and helmet. I guess it worked — I now have a chaotic level of confidence on both mogul and groomed terrain. (Mikaela Shiffrin, who?)
My most vivid memories are tied to the mountains and the soundtracks that played in the background of every adventure. I grew up in Denver, Colorado — just a 90 minute drive to many of the best skiing slopes in the Rockies.
I would try to beat my dad down the bunny hill in my too-big jacket while my toddler brother made snow angels with my mom. We alternated throwing tantrums because of the cold, and my sister joined us once she was old enough. Those early days sound like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
U2’s “Beautiful Day” was probably the first song I knew all the words to because the CD was always tucked under the driver’s seat sun visor. Although, it might be rivaled by The Chick's “Long Way Around” and Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl.”
I was 9 years old the winter that I successfully skied down my first double black diamond — Araphoe Basin’s Pallavicini a run that was as terrain-ridden as it was steep. Taylor Swift’s "Fearless" album played through every curve of the I-70 highway on the way home.
Crowded ski lodges always play The Fray, or The Lumineers. There were days that I walked inside, covered in snow and a few new wipeout bruises. My brother’s favorite photo of us shows him laughing in the background, and me decidedly not landing a jump in the foreground. Overpriced french fries, watery hot chocolate and those crumbly Nature Valley bars become an unbeatable feast when it is 12 degrees outside.
Glass Animals’ “Heat Waves” played as I got off the chairlift on one of the first days I’d been skiing since a health crisis. I’ve never been more proud that my lungs could handle the altitude.
Because to be a Kelly is to be a skier. Moguls over groomed. Don’t let the avalanche blasts freak you out. Always look uphill. Cancel plans on a powder day. It’s ingrained.
Like my roommate suggested yesterday, “Colorado is like your whole personality.”
I’ll take it. Cheers to the 303.
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