As I was driving up Provo Canyon not long ago, I couldn’t help but think how much things have changed since I went there as a kid.
Take the whole sport of skiing, for example. When I learned how to ski in grade school, the equipment was strictly low-tech. You know. Wood skis. Cable bindings. Those boots with the thick laces that froze stiff on a cold day. That unlovely teal parka your mom bought for you on sale at Sears. But at least you didn’t have to refinance your home to pay for that low-tech equipment. It didn’t cost much to buy a day pass, either, especially to the Lesser Ski Kingdoms of Utah, such as Timp Haven, an old-time mom-and-pop resort complete with a tubing hill and a Pomalift.
In fact, the relative affordability of the sport in those days meant that lots of kids in Utah County skied — even if they didn’t particularly enjoy it. Which my girlfriend Gigi Ballif and I did NOT. Which still didn’t stop our parents from sending us up Provo Canyon on the weekends to get us out of the house.
Oh, Provo Canyon.
Driving up the old two-way highway was bad news if you were the kind of kid who got carsick — especially if you were sitting at the back of a bus in your sweaty ski clothes wearing ski boots that felt like concrete blocks with a bunch of other kids in their sweaty ski clothes wearing ski boots that felt like concrete blocks. You just sat there, turning various shades of green while holding onto your insides, as the bus puttered and snaked its way up the mountain.
And then, of course, as soon as you got to the parking lot at Timp Haven, your feet in those lace-up boots started to freeze, no matter how many socks you wore.
I personally had a big problem with the freezing feet thing, which is why I once wore Wonder Bread bags beneath my layers of socks. My mother had read somewhere that bread bags "insulated" your feet, thus keeping them warm. I can’t say they kept my feet warm, although they did keep them from getting stale.
Anyway. The point is this: I never really loved skiing at the old Timp Haven, although Gigi Ballif and I had some memorable experiences there, including the time I stuck my tongue (and not just the tip!) on the ski lift in a moment of supremely low impulse control.
Still, I felt a twinge of an unexpected and mild melancholy on the drive up the mountain because of all the changes I saw — the expanded highway in spite of Lillian Hayes’ quixotic crusade to keep it small. The gentrification of Timp Haven, which the whole wide world now knows as Sundance.
I couldn’t find the ghost of my former life there, no matter how hard I looked.
Until, of course, I saw my Gigi. She was standing straight and lovely against the backdrop of those ageless mountains, preparing for the marriage of her splendid daughter Elyse on an autumn afternoon.
And quite suddenly the melancholy was replaced with gratitude for the things that are with us always. The seasons that turn an aspen leaf green and gold and green again. The children who grow and take the same vows we ourselves were once brave enough to take. For better. For worse.
The old friendships that evolve over time.
But do not fade.
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