How kids are different in the mountains |

How kids are different in the mountains

Alex Miller
Alex Miller

With the white stuff falling fast and furious from the sky this week, I was led to thinking about what kind of effect growing up in the mountains has on kids.The simple answer is “not much.” Kids are kids whether they’re growing up in Vail or Valparaiso, right? Well, probably, but there are some variations – some not so subtle. A lot of it has to do with whether the snow and cold is embraced or rebuffed. In our house, we have one hold-out, a 13-year-old female who’s a snow heretic unafraid of saying she hates the stuff and wishes it would all go away.Growing up in a place where you hate the weather (or any other aspect) can’t be a good thing, so I offer helpful comments to help change her mind. When she says “Yuck! I hate the cold and snow!” I say, “No, you don’t.”I mean, how could you hate snow? It’s the coolest stuff, literally and figuratively. It can change the entire appearance of the landscape in a matter of minutes. You can ski and board on it, sled on it, eat it, turn it yellow and hammer your little brother in the face with it. Our mountain economy depends on it. And yes, I’ve tried that line, too.”Kaylie, our mountain economy depends on snow,” I say. “No snow, no tourists, no tourists no businesses buying ads in the newspapers and no job for Dad and no roof over Kaylie’s head. Get it?”Blank look, but that’s OK. I know deep down she understands snow is good for a number of reasons. She’s just being rebellious. Some day, I’m sure, she’ll embrace it … or lobby hard to go to Pepperdine or Miami for college.The boys are another story. Just as I did growing up in Silverthorne, they cheer the arrival of new snow, and the two old enough to ski understand immediately what kind of positive impacts the snow will have on their here-and-now. That doesn’t mean reason and logic have settled in completely, though. As I watched the teen boy tromp off to school this morning through six inches of powder wearing sneakers and shorts, I almost despaired of our youth – until I remembered my friend Jonathan at Summit High all those years ago. Contemptuous of anything so pedestrian as snow boots, Jonathan wore topsiders with no socks all year round; his only nod to the weather a denim jacket he wore inside and out. And he’s a pretty successful Boston architect these days, so maybe it was OK.I do think there is a definite mountain attitude you get when you grow up here in the hills. Most kids are blase about things like cold, snow and ice, and as parents we might have to occasionally remind them to take a look at the soaring peaks swathed in clouds – sights that many people travel thousands of miles and spend wads of dough to regard. Mountain kids also grow up not knowing much about people who aren’t white, overweight folks, smokers and bowling. They will one day be amazed to discover that not everyone skis or snowboards; that Subarus are not the national car; and that, for many people, exercise is limited to hobbling the distance between their Crown Vic and the nacho cheese pump at the 7-Eleven.Mostly, our kids understand that living in a tourist area has its challenges. You can’t go to Safeway on a Saturday afternoon during ski season and expect to emerge sane. Tourists are often in the way, whether it’s creeping along at .05 mph or clustered in doorways for whatever reason, and we know to politely go around them. Even so, it’s alarming to hear from our kids the occasional disdain for the folks who butter our bread.”Dad, why do the gapers go so slow all the time?”This was from the 5-year-old, piping up from the back of the car and obviously channeling his older brother.I wasn’t sure if “gaper” fit into the bad-word category enough to warrant a sermon, so I just sighed.”I don’t know, Andy. I just don’t know.” Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931 or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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