Archived Story

Lesson learned during family trip

Published 8:33pm Friday, January 10, 2014

I didn’t get arrested in Wyoming, but it was close.

Over Christmas our family went to Jackson Hole to spend the holiday with my daughter Riley Frances. Riley Frances has a wonderful living space, the second floor of a house that she shares with two roommates who just happened to be coming east at the same time we were going west. So the whole Boone family got to have our own kitchen and Christmas tree and fireplace in the land of ice and snow.

Like many of you reading this, we have almost zero experience with serious ice and snow. Riley Frances, now in her second winter of working for the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, is the hands-down family snow expert.

So when she gave Mary Lyman and I slick disks with handles for Christmas presents and told us it was great fun to go sledding, we thought, “Hey, why not?”

Riley Frances said that earlier in the season she and about 20 friends went sledding at Snow King, which is commercial ski slope right in Jackson, one of the steepest slopes in America and an easy walk from her house.

So all three of our children, Christopher, James and Riley Frances, grabbed the house “sleds” – which are nothing more than trash can lids with no handle in the center – and we hiked up the hillside behind Riley Frances’ house. It was cold. Really cold by Alabama standards. We had on long johns and ski pants and big jackets and hats and gloves. And we were walking up a zigzagging mountain trail in shin-deep snow. When we arrived at the edge of Snow King 30 minutes later, steam coming out from under our jackets, there were skiers above us on the lifts heading uphill and skiers zooming beside us heading downhill and tiny little people way, way down there at the bottom of the hill.

Riley Frances explained that the last time she did this it was a one-time shot. You slid down and then walked back to the house on the street.

She put her sled down, sat on it, gave herself a little push and within a second or so became a tiny black speck on a huge white slope. In a flash James and Christopher followed her lead.

They were literally flying down the slope, with no hope of controlling their descent, a huge wake of white snow shooting up all around them. James said he was trying to yell and his mouth filled up with snow. They couldn’t see anything. The skier dudes on the lifts above were hooting and hollering and waving their hands.

After a drop of hundred yards all three fell – or bailed – off their sleds. One of the sleds slid down toward where a bunch of people were, and could have hit somebody but didn’t, thankfully.

Mary Lyman and I just stood there by ourselves, wondering what we should do. After about a minute, Mary Lyman looked down and saw three missed calls from Riley Frances (which we later learned were to say, “DON’T DO IT! THAT WAS THE MOST TERRIFYING THING I’VE EVER DONE”). And then a guy in a red ski patrol suit stopped right beside us. Mary Lyman looked at him and said, “Are you here to save us?”

Within a few seconds we realized in no uncertain terms that we were in violation of a large number of rules, regulations and laws, including the laws of gravity and common sense.

The only other time Riley Frances had slid down Snow King was shortly after the first snow, before the slopes were open commercially. At that time, the fresh powdery snow made for a relatively gentle sledding adventure, where one could stop and take photos and talk on the way down. Now that people had skied on it commercially for several months, the powder had turned to ice and the experience was … different. No hope of stopping. And we were trespassing. And Riley Frances was crying because she didn’t know and she had gotten the whole family in hot water.

The ski patrol officer made Mary Lyman and I walk down the mountain, holding our sleds, which made me both hot and bothered.

But when we got down, we discovered that, probably because of Riley Frances’ sincere non-rule-breaker tears, the Boone family escaped with a stern warning – no arrest, no injury … and a family story that will certainly be retold for generations.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.