John F. Russell: Changes in altitude, attitude

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I knew the day my first child was born that fatherhood was going to change a lot of things in my life.

I guess it's no surprise that I no longer can sleep until noon or that my last hot night on the town included popcorn and watching "Snow Dogs" with a snoring 4-year-old and her older brother, who just couldn't seem to stop laughing every time Cuba Gooding Jr. was dragged behind a group of mischievous Siberian huskies.

But this week, as I tried my hardest to keep up with a diehard skier who had agreed to be a model for some photographs, the realization of fatherhood hit me between the eyes harder than one of my boy's snowballs.

This skier moved effortlessly through the slush, patches of untracked snow and moguls, changing directions at will as if he had skied 70 days this winter -- and he has.

I kept pace with him like someone who has spent less than half that many days on the mountain, cruising down ski trails with names such as Buddy's Run, Calf Roper and Rainbow.

When I am skiing with my 4-year-old daughter, who just started skiing this year, I move to the runs under the Headwall ski lift or, when I'm really lucky, I get to ski Swinger off Beeline.

These days, living on the edge is standing on the face of Headwall gambling that my daughter will not be run over by some poor fellow with a Texas accent and a limited knowledge of how to stop.

Where's Warren Miller when you need him?

Truth is, I never was one of those guys who could cruise down a black mogul run at breathtaking speeds and make it look like a day at the park, and I'm not talking about a terrain park.

I grew up in Denver, and skiing was something I did with my friends on most winter weekends. We had a great time, but none of us were world-class skiers.

I never dreamed of becoming an Olympian, but that didn't stop me from falling in love with skiing.

I didn't mind giving up $20 a week for a lift ticket or spending between three and four hours on a bus to go to the Winter Park Ski Resort, where I learned to ski.

I used to watch all those hot-dog skiers making their way down Drunken Frenchman and Outhouse and think to myself, "Someday, I'm going to be that skier."

I'm not bad, but I've given up hope of becoming that skier -- you know, the one who has to confidence to launch off a rock, pull a trick and then land between two aspens. I can't ski the moguls at top speed, and my legs still get tired when I try to ski Heavenly Daze from top to bottom.

But that's OK.

Fatherhood has taught me that I don't have to cheat death on skies to be a great skier. All I really need to do is show up on weekends with my children and share with them my love of the sport.

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