The sign mysteriously appears when the snow starts, at the foot of the golf club driveway, announcing the start of the ski season at Como Park: “Welcome to Mount Como.” When my husband tells a friend visiting from Switzerland, a snowboard instructor, that his kids took downhill ski lessons there, the Swiss fellow looks puzzled. “But there are no hills,” he says.
Now this is Minnesota, the land of understatement. Please don’t flaunt your wealth, your worldliness, your peaks. Our hills are good enough. During the winter, the Como Park golf clubhouse becomes the Como Park Ski Chalet. At Mount Como, there’s a snowmaker, a rope tow that shreds your ski mitts, and lots of very enthusiastic ski and snowboard instructors who come to the last, festive, balloon-festooned day of ski school dressed as clowns, wizards, and cows.
It’s kind of a loud secret. The secret part is the fact of a long-running ski school in a place with such little change in elevation. Who would have guessed? What makes it loud is the organized mayhem on the first day of ski school: people lined up haphazardly to be fitted with highly experienced boots, bindings and skis; loose clumps of ski-ready kids waiting to hit the slope; parents on cell phones, a hand covering the nonphoned ear; all happening at high decibel.
The winter I took lessons, the school, in its infinite wisdom, segregated the adults from the children. Briefly, we were orphans until Paul, who managed the program, decided on the spot to be the adult instructor. He decided we didn’t need to know how to snowplow and before I knew it I was paralleling down the hill sitting on my skis. If you live in Saint Paul and don’t want people you know to see you learning to ski, don’t take lessons here. My daughter’s best friend’s father shouted encouragement to his kindergartner and to me. Paul, my instructor, happened to be related to my kids’ piano teacher.
Last week, the sign was gone. Once the ground stops squelching, the golfers will be out. But I know, come winter, that I’ll slow the car down the day I see the sign again, and I’ll remember the ski school at Como Park. My kids don’t take lessons there anymore, they have bigger hills to ski. It makes me sigh. For every season, there is a mountain.
Aleli Balagtas prudently does not ski downhill. Occasionally, she cross-country skis—at Como Park, of course. Sometimes she writes. More often, she has good ideas for writing that she soon forgets, in the confusion of getting kids to soccer games at the right times.
Mount Como photo courtesy of Sharyn Morrow. Browse Sharyn’s photostream on Flickr.