GET OUT: Mom’s merciless pace

By on January 6, 2015
Morning light at the beginning of an epically long cross country ski. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Morning light at the beginning of an epically long cross country ski. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KOUTRELAKOS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The infamous holiday rush may entail a variety of things for different people. To some, this time means getting sucked into the dregs of working 19-plus days in a row. To others, this may mean time off from their 9-to-5 gig. For me, this means my parents are going to come for a visit. As the fruit of their loins, I thoroughly enjoy the warm food, good company and love shared during this time of year. However, my body tends to ache at the end of the day from attempting to keep up with my East Coast, marathon-running, unstoppable mother.

My mom does not believe in downhill skiing. She does not understand why people would choose to pay money to freeze their butts off waiting in line and sitting on a ski lift. She dislikes big crowds and prefers chatting with large spruce trees on her vacations to Jackson. I can’t say I blame her. Her completely legitimate arguments may guilt me into keeping her company in the woods while the rest of my family melts into the masses at Teton Village.

My mom cross-country skis. I attempt to follow. This could be a pleasant and relaxing activity, unless you know my mother. She combines a myriad of day trips into one long, endless day.

We begin around 9 a.m. at the Death Canyon Road parking lot and ski up to the historic White Grass Ranch. We meander around, pondering the nuances of this former dude ranch as we circle profusely around each cabin.

From there, we loop the endless meadow at the base of Maverick and ski back down to the junction of the White Grass and Death Canyon Road. We head up to Phelps Lake overlook and take in the views of a lake covered in white. My mom wants to ski down the summer trail to the lake but I feel like this option may be too extreme for my ability on skinny skis. We head back down to the parking lot and ski south on Moose Wilson Road.

From there, my mother paves the way until we hit the Granite Canyon Trailhead. We head up the canyon for a while. I ask my mom if we can turn around. She looks at me, perplexed. “You don’t want to go up to the Granite Cabin?” I explain to her that this is not summer and Granite Canyon holds a myriad of avalanche paths that could be dangerous to the not-so-nimble cross country skier. We turn around and I sigh a relief, thinking we are going back to the car.

But the journey has just begun. From there, we ski north on the road and wander around the Lawrence S. Rockefeller Preserve. We continue west up an old road cut until we hit the eastern shore of Phelps Lake. As we wander past an interactive bridge that was once part of the Rockefeller’s road, I ask my mom if she will wait for me to drink some water. She makes loops around me to stay warm while I take a sip. After my break, we wander around the moraines for a bit, breaking trail through the deep fluff. Actually, my mom breaks the trail. I wallow behind her catching every bush, rock and tree in my path.

We continue along the north side of the lake and look at the jump rock. It is very much covered in snow. We ski onto the lake so we can have a front and center view of Death Canyon. My mom looks eagerly at the Phelps Lake Moraine. “It’s only 500 vertical,” she says. “Let’s go up so we can ski down the Death Canyon Road again.”

I sigh. She looks so happy. I can’t say no to that smile. She cruises up the moraine with her slippery cross country skis and the arm strength of the Jolly Green Giant.

I plug along behind her, trying my best, as she becomes a black speck in the distance. I would have no problem with this hill if I had skins on, but the fact that I keep slipping backward is quickly depleting any confidence I ever had on snow.

As I near the top of the moraine, my mom yells down at me. “You can do it! Your friends are up here!” A group of people grins at me from the top of the moraine. I know they are laughing at me on the inside as they ask about my day of cross-country skiing with my mom.

At this point, we have been out for eight hours and stopped for a mere 10 minutes in total. I’m pale, delirious, and my blood sugar is plummeting. “I’m having a great day,” I gasp. “Just a day with the mom.”

After this slightly embarrassing situation, my mom and I make our way down the road. When we get to the vehicle, she keeps her skis on and looks hopeful at the dimming sky. I ask her why she isn’t getting in the car. Why she isn’t tired and strung out and starving like I am. She looks at me, her eyes disappointed. “You mean you don’t want to go ski Bradley and Taggart?”

After convincing her that it may be a good idea to drive home, I begin a sweat-soaked shiver. Profuse whiplash and hunger begin to ensue. I guess that wasn’t so bad. Just a day out with my mom.

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About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

2 Comments

  1. Crusty Monkey

    January 8, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Now I know where you get your love of being out all day from!

  2. Vance Carruth

    January 20, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    You’ve described your Mom’s tireless pace beautifully. I have first hand experience to back up your claims as over the years since I first taught her in 7th grade in Baltimore, she has always lived her life in overdrive…full of energy and passion, and that hasn’t changed. I no longer hike or ski with her simply because I cannot keep up with her pace on the hiking trail or on cross country skis! However, I would never want her to be anything other than what she is, a beautiful, caring, inspiring friend whose life you are certainly emulating since I could never keep up with your pace either! The expression, “Like Mother, like daughter” definitely applies in your case. Beautifully written. I often describe your mother has being an “animal” when it comes to the Tetons, she’s done it all more than once and I have no doubt she’ll keep doing it till the day she stops breathing!

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