Words: Izzy Lynch
Photos: Zoya Lynch
Legend has it that my mom was skiing in half-zipped ski pants over a swollen pregnant belly until mere days before I was born. I surprised her two and half weeks before my due date, on May 5th, closing weekend at Lake Louise in 1985.
According to her, this timing could not have been more perfect (despite having to miss closing day at her favourite resort) . She had skied the entire season, and by the time winter rolled around the next year I would be big enough for the backpack. Sure enough, I would spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons being lulled to sleep by her smooth swooshy turns down the backside of Lake Louise.
Four kids, 5 ½ years later, and still- the mountains, family and weekly adventure were never a question in my mother’s mind.
Friday all-nighters were more frequent than not, packing coolers and counting and double counting ski boots, mitts and scratched goggles while we slept to ensure nothing was left behind. Early morning departures in a rusty old one-ton van happened every single weekend- crayons and stale PB&J crammed into the crevices of the seats and my dad’s Hank Williams tape on the stereo as we drove west from our home in Calgary.
“The mountains bring me solace,” she recently told me when I asked her why she did it. No matter what was going on in our lives, her steadfast commitment to get us out the door and into fresh air never wavered. Week after week, she would quietly tackle the piles of laundry, the packing and unpacking, and the mad dash to get out the door. The joy she exuded once we all clicked into our skis was contagious for anyone who was around her.
Last spring, I too got to experience the sensation of sliding on snow with a belly held up by half-zipped ski pants. We named our son Knox because it means “from the hills” and the timing of his birth could not have been more perfect. I anticipated by winter I would be able to resume my ski career and get to share my love for the mountains with him, just like my mom did for me.
What I didn’t anticipate was how many days simply getting out the door to ski would feel like an insurmountable feat. That I would wake delusional from interrupted sleeps and question if packing the breast pump and organizing schedules for a day in the mountains was really worth it. On our first trip to our family’s backcountry lodge, I thought of my mom as I crammed diapers and sleepers and enough warm clothes for 7-month-old in a duffel with my usual ski gear; beacon, shovel and probe. Now, more than ever I marvel at her ability to have done it so happily with four kids.
Still, I couldn’t refuse the mountain’s call and each time I clicked into my skis this winter the exhaustion and effort it took to get there was momentarily forgotten. Every skin track, every summit and every turn I made was appreciated more than ever before. Already, the experiences shared in the mountains with Knox have been some of the most memorable moments of my life. I owe them to my mom, and her incredible dedication to showing us to stay true to the path you love no matter what it takes.
Izzy & her sister Zoya are currently working on a short film about their parents unlikely journey to becoming owners of a backcountry ski operation and a VR experience narrated by their mom that shares what the mountains have taught her. Both are set to release this fall!
Follow Izzy’s adventures with (and without) Knox on Instagram.