Each time I ski along the River Run trail, along the Methow River and across from the rugged Goat Wall, I yodel. I listen for the echo and seem to hear my father’s voice in the mountains yodeling back.
Dad was avid skier and a master at yodeling. He taught me to ski. He taught to yodel, though I have never achieved his power in projecting the voice to resounding effects. When he enlisted with the 10th Mountain Infantry (where he trained troops to ski on Mt Rainier before heading off to WWII), he joined fellow soldiers to form a choral group up at Paradise Lodge. (He went from Paradise to join the “Devil’s Brigade” in Italy.) One of the songs in their repertoire was “Two Boards Upon Cold Powder Snow”. I have the refrain lodged in my memory bank and it pops to the surface when I slide through crisp, cold air along beautiful tracks or plunge down slopes. (And yes, I realize the line “Two boards upon cold, powder snow, that’s all that a man needs to know…” is a bit dated and sexist. I can not cancel a fond link to a man I loved. Others can rewrite the refrain as appropriate.)
We managed to yodel in the Canadian Rockies (on a Canadian Mountain Holidays ski tour), the Green Mountains (at Stowe and Smugglers Notch), in Iran and Afghanistan.
In the photos above, my father is the guy standing in dark blue with me (in the Michelin Man orange coat), and he is making his graceful turns on the slope. You may note, I also inherited his love of Ray Ban sunglasses.
Though Dad became very ill in his late 70’s, he was determined to write an autobiography For The Love of Skiing and have it self-published. He asked if I would illustrate it, and I was thrilled to join the project. I learned later that our conversations about the illustrations by phone between the West and East Coasts, took all his energy for that day.
One of the last times I visited my Dad before he died, we were walking near a small rock face on the shore of Lake Champlain where my parents had built a house. To honor our time together, I yodeled and a small echo returned…and then my Dad tried to utter his booming call…but failed mid-breath. It struck me that he body was failing him and he would be gone soon. It broke my heart. We walked on in silence.
So I continue to yodel while on “two boards”, no matter the snow conditions, so that I may cherish the echoes of the past and present, for the love of skiing and my Dad.