Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a day filled with delicious food, but also a day to reflect and contemplate what we are thankful for. Recently I wrote a piece for the Birkie magazine entitled, “Why I Birkie.” To sum it up, I Birkie because skiing allows me the opportunity to continuously pursue a set of infinitely expanding limits. Through skiing, I get the chance to reset my interpretations of the impossible. The Birkie–as both an actual race and a concept–has offered people the opportunity to test their mental and physical boundaries by promoting this sense of adventure, uncertainty, and possibility. At the end of the article, I asked readers why THEY Birkie.
A couple days ago I received this amazing story from Birkie skier Nels Mitchel. He wrote an incredible piece on why he Birkies, and I think it is a very fitting read on this day of thanks. So read his piece, and take a moment between worrying about the pies and the looming black Friday and seriously think about why YOU Birkie and what you’re thankful for this holiday season. I’d love to hear why. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your reasons. I promise it’ll make the turkey taste that much better.
I skied my first Birkie because of my father. I had just moved back to the Midwest from Utah. I recall thinking this should be a fun jaunt after doing ultra-marathons in the Rocky Mountains. I called him and said, “Dad, I want to start doing the Birkie with you.”
My wife bought me some skate skis and I tried them out a few times to make sure they worked. I paid dearly for my mountain-induced hubris. I was toast by OO. I remember thinking “Double Ohhhhh expletive! I am pooched. This is only half way!” Keeping with my father’s lifelong example, I just kept going. It was ugly. I cramped and recovered for the remaining 27K.
My favorite moment was reaching bitch hill. I was so late that they were cleaning up. Between gasps, I spat out “You can’t leave! I am a bitch hill virgin!” I was so pathetic they shouted encouragement rather than the normal bitch hill banter.
My dad kicked my butt that year. And, I am proud to admit here, it took me three more years to finally get him. It is another Birkie favorite moment for me.
Pops, being of proper age, gets to start in wave three and half. I was a wave or two behind him. So, I knew if I saw his lime green jacket come into view, I had him. For three years, I had scanned forward hoping to see lime green. I joked with my brother, who also chased him for years, “what will I do when I finally catch him?” Ski with him? Sneak up behind and smell the sweet dairy air? Give him a hug? Trip him?
My friends and coworkers got a kick out of asking “did you beat your old man this year?” I liked the quizzical look they gave back when I said no. I could read their minds. “He looks like he is in good shape. Who is this seventy something dude?” I loved it. In my mind, I would say with pride, “that is my dad.”
The actual moment was quick. I was full tuck in the tracks going down the backside of firetower when I saw it. The elusive lime green jacket with its 30-year purple and gold bib was trail right about a hundred feet ahead and closing. Pops was methodically cutting left through people toward the tracks. Birkie fate had us on a direct collision course and I was flying. I started to realize I was coming on so fast that he didn’t even see me.
“Hiya! Hiya!” I screamed at him to avoid impact. That is Pop’s favorite holler at any sporting event, keeping true to his Scandinavian roots. I startled him. He snapped a look back over his shoulder recognizing the voice. As he let me pass, I pumped my right fist into the air and say, “Hey Pops, Hiya! Hiya!” It went by too fast. What I really wanted to do was stop, hug him and say, “Thanks dad and I love you.” Instead, I did what he taught me. I kept going.
I continue to do Birkies. I still Birkie to spend time with my dad. I Birkie to race my brother. I birkie to stay healthy, make new friends, and experience the beauty of the outdoors. But, mostly, I think I birkie now to teach my four boys something. Boys, keep going. Get up, find a passion, pursue it, and keep going. As you pass me by, just give me a little “Hiya! Hiya!” so you don’t run me over.