Creating Unique Traditions: Our Torchlight New Year’s Ski

“Click, Click, Click.”  Ski bindings lock in boots as people without poles load the last chair of the night and year at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho.

This year two 10 year olds accompany the expedition, nervous but anticipating the experience they’ve waited so long to have.

“The kids have to be old enough to carry the flares, and good enough skiers to not require help,”  Boppa had said when he started the tradition on the eve of the Millennium in 2000.

Thus, age 10 became the minimum age, and it now signifies a certain rite of passage.

Crisp air paints cheeks rosy as the crew recounts the tradition riding up the chair in the stillness of the night – who came what year, who couldn’t handle the steep climb, the current newcomers.  The ski patrol awaits our arrival.

“We’ve been expecting you,” they say, and warn us of the cat groomers as they do every year.  Binding click again, but this time in reverse.

The group begins the trek up the ridge, carrying their skis on their shoulders.  The noisy chatter quickly dissipates as the angle of the hill steepens, and breathing becomes deep and steady.  Breathless “You can do its,” and “Good Jobs” interrupt the pounding of the heart in each chest.  Kick, step, kick, step, we make our way, following the divets in the mountain of the person who went before us.  The 10 year olds inevitably beat most up the mountain.  Young legs pay off.

At the top there are fireworks, high fives, and hot chocolate waiting.

I love the bonding that happens between parent-child, cousin-cousin, friend-friend.  The experience ties heart strings to one another.

We light the flares…

and head down, following each other in an “S” fashion.

What is so appealing about this experience?

 It has 4 elements that  can create a special, unique tradition:

1. The element of challenge – something must be overcome.

2. The element of fellowship – people are embarking on an experience together.

3. The element of fun – those involved enjoy what they are doing, even if parts are difficult.

4. The element of originality – not everyone does this.  In fact, it makes us unique that we do.

Ours may not sound like a “fun” experience to many of you, but to us, it’s one of the greatest highlights of our year.  When we yell “HAPPY NEW YEAR” and wave our flares as we fly down the mountain all aglow, we feel ALIVE and CONNECTED.  To me, there is no greater way to ring in a new beginning.

How about you?  What unique traditions have you heard of or started? What ideas do you have for your family or friends?  I’d love to know! 

And P.S… our tradition has an open invitation.  So if you ever get the hankerin’ to climb a ski ridge in Idaho on Dec.31st, we would love to have you!

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