Vail Daily column: Tears always an option
February 27, 2017
"Hey, Mr. Carnes, we're taking bets as to when you'll start crying!"
This was shouted to me across a jam-packed dressing room/warming hut/snack bar at Howelsen Hill up in Steamboat Springs last Friday morning.
"Ha-ha-ha!" I replied to the junior ski racer, without a stitch of emotion.
I knew what was going on.
I wasn't about to be sucked into their childish little game.
A year ago I wrote a column about my youngest, then 16, finishing his ski racing career at club level, which in this case of course meant Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, where he had been racing for eight years.
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The impact on him and my family was, and still is, measurable in many ways and the profundity of those years helping to shape the adult he was reaching for will never be forgotten.
He spent all of last winter free skiing to his heart's content, and the constant smile on his face was all we needed to know — the "fun of skiing" had found its way back to his personal psyche.
Last summer a good friend convinced him to consider racing at the high school level. She had done so after years of club and really enjoyed it, and besides, it would be their senior year and a last chance to represent.
His mom and I will be forever grateful to this young lady, Whitney Merriman, for her powers of persuasion, along with senior Peter Mitchell, junior Michael Resnick and sophomore Shane Cole, for their combined support and friendship in forging such a memorable year for our son and the entire Vail Mountain School ski team.
Without too much redundancy, thanks to Vail Daily Sports Editor Chris Freud and his exceptional coverage in last Sunday's paper, I will remind all who care that Vail Mountain School took the overall state titles for both men and women, alpine and Nordic combined. The first time such a feat has ever been accomplished in our valley.
On Sunday I had the privilege of announcing a Youth Ski League race in Beaver Creek, with aspiring racers as young as seven competing for brightly-colored ribbons and a week of bragging rights at school.
Less than 48 hours after watching my son complete his final high school race (with a heartbreaking hike on the fourth gate), I was witnessing little kids just beginning their ski racing careers, and it was at that point I fully realized the depth of the semi-sarcastic remarks shouted in Steamboat.
The young man knew exactly how I felt, as a parent, and was most assuredly expressing his own emotions as only a teenager can do — with subtly hidden intent.
He was spot on, and it was everything I could do at that moment not to show the emotions I felt.
But feel it I did, right after the race on Sunday. However, thanks to a fantastic Beaver Creek Race Crew I was unable to show those specific emotions until returning home.
Wait, that came out wrong.
Due to the extreme professionalism of the race crew, I dared not show my emotions for fear of ruining a perfect race day (OK, it was probably a silly manly thing too, but you know what I mean).
I wanted so badly to talk to each and every parent watching their little ones compete, and to let them know what a positive impact the sport of ski racing can have on a Vail Valley child's school years and how they should cherish each race, because you never know which one might be their last.
But alas, I'm only a lowly announcer, not a pulpit basher.
If only I had an outlet to express and share my opinion on subjects, then I would let those parents know.
Tears are always an option.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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