The photograph, on the wall, is a riveting image of a family intimately tied to big mountain skiing. This family photograph, taken some 20 years ago, depicts two young girls on skis alongside their parents. It’s captivating. Everyone is smiling. The family is apparently standing at the base of the mountain. And it appears as if it’s lightly snowing. The two parents, both glowing, are Charlie and Madeline Rockwell. The two young girls standing in front are Katherine and Susan Rockwell. Today Madeline is a ski school supervisor at Bromley Mountain. Charlie Rockwell, who can reflect back on decades as a member of the elite board of examiners for PSIA – the group who train and credential ski instructors – regularly trains pros at Bromley. Their eldest daughter Katherine, also a fully-certified ski pro, is the program manager who oversees Pico Mountain Snowsports School. And Susan, who still skis but solely recreationally, has pursued a career in education on the outskirts of Washington, DC. Still, the photograph captures the spirit of a couple, and family, deeply involved in the mountain experience.
“Skiing is something our family all has in common,” reflects Katherine . “It’s always been a part of our lives.”
In today’s frenetic world, the image, taken before digital photography, provides a glimpse into one family’s love of skiing, and of the mountains. This image depicts a close-knit family on skis. On the wall in Katherine’s office are other photographs. One image depicts Katherine skiing deep powder. Yet another photograph is of her parents in their twenties at Middlebury College. While not all of the photographs involve skiing, the images of skiing are prominent in revealing skiing as a key fabric in this family’s life story. Particularly engaging is the story that Katherine was actually on skis long before she walked.
“I was teaching when pregnant with Katherine,” adds Madeline. “Katherine was on skis before she was born.”
Recently, after spending part of a weekend skiing with Charlie, and seeing Madeline engaged in her work teaching skiing, I watched Katherine and her dad matching high speed arcs. It was beautiful. But not surprising. Given that Katherine has spent a lifetime on snow, it’s clear she is continuing a tradition balancing extraordinary skiing skills with an equally strong commitment to ski teaching, and maximizing family adventure.
Putting all this together, these photographic images, and these lives, may provide a trail map for family adventure. Today, as Charlie and Madeline Rockwell reflect on more then 40 years of marriage, and as their family continues its tradition of teaching skiing, and skiing together, other families might find the lessons as important as any ski lesson.
“Being with family is a very important part of our life and skiing is something we have shared together,” notes Charlie. “It’s a common thread in our lives.”
Madeline and Charlie’s daughters began skiing while very young. They skied every weekend. Every winter. They saw their parents ski. They saw their parents teach skiing. And they heard their parents talk enthusiastically about skiing. There’s more though. They also saw their family interact together. And they still interact together. They saw their parents talking to each other about skiing. And they saw their parents talk to them about their feelings about the sport. It worked.
Today both daughters are well educated, intelligent, and confident skiers. And both are the kind of people who care about other people. In truth, this is more then a simple story about two daughters who grew up skiing. It’s about parents who love skiing. It’s a story of a family who skied together, and who learned to play together. It’s a story about a new generation connected to a sport as one might connect one turn to another down a favorite trail. And it’s a story about two daughters who continue an involvement with education, with one daughter, Katherine, electing to apply that interest in the family business: ski teaching.
Does your family ski together? Do they enjoy the time together on the mountain? Not all do. We know that. At lunch with Charlie and his daughter Katherine I saw families sitting together, while each were on cell phones with other people. Some seemed rushed. Hurried. Harried. Too few actually were smiling. Yet this father and daughter talked. They shared. It was all good.
What story does your family photograph convey? Honestly, I wished I could have captured this family on film. It seemed, well, special. It was special sharing a lunch with Katherine and Charlie.
“Sometimes it’s about the family more then the terrain,” says Katherine. “Sometimes it can be more about family then about double black diamonds. If you choose wisely it can be a great experience.”
“It’s important to allow each person to experience the day in a way most enjoyable for that person,” adds Charlie Rockwell. “Sometimes they can ski different trails and meet to ride the same chair. Sometimes they can meet at lunch. It’s important to choose and plan appropriately.”
Family skiing? For the Rockwells, its an important part to their lives. It always has been. And likely always will be. Wherever your family breaks for lunch, may you too treasure your family adventure, from your first run to your last run.