For the past three weeks, I've been looking forward to this day.
Of all the things I truly missed about the United States while I was in Italy covering the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, the opportunity to spend the day skiing with my son and daughter was at the top of the list.
I discovered that I didn't miss "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" on television, and that I could survive without eating Mexican food at my favorite restaurant for a few Friday nights.
I discovered that I could even sacrifice a couple of nights a week at the bowling alley; however, I did have an unexplained craving for the Nacho Supreme from the Snow Bowl.
But for me, skiing with my son was the hardest thing to do without.
For some, skiing is a chance to compete. It is about going fast, or going big. For some, it's a chance to test your skills on a steep slope or to escape the pressures of everyday life by floating through several inches of Steamboat's famous Champagne Powder.
Yes it's true that skiing is one of the best reasons to live in a resort town such as Steamboat Springs, but people end up on the slopes for reasons as varied as Baskin Robbins' ice cream flavors.
For the athletes who traveled to Italy, skiing is about competition. But in our family, it's about spending time together.
I spend many Saturdays skiing with my son. We don't ski fast or launch into the air off of huge jumps.
But we escape work and the other pressures of everyday life for a few hours and spend some quality time riding the lifts with each other and sliding down the slopes.
It is an opportunity to discuss the things that really don't matter in life, and to discover the things that really do.
Every weekend, thousands of skiers flock to the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area -- each one for his or her own reasons.
Most people on the slopes this weekend never will travel to the Olympics to compete. They never will contend for a gold medal and may never take part in a competitive ski race.
But, as we head into the final stretch of the ski season, I will continue to look forward to spending time on the slopes skiing with my children.
Not because I'm hoping they will grow up to be Alpine ski racers, freestyle superstars or Nordic skiing standouts.
The only purpose of this ski trip is to get to know my family a little better. That's worth more than an Olympic gold medal.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot .com