The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 23, 2014

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A portrait of family skiing: The Rockwells

KILLINGTON-The series of photographs on the wall are riveting images of a family intimately tied to big mountain skiing. One family photograph, taken some twenty years ago, depicts two young girls on skis flanked by their parents. It's a captivating photograph. Everyone is smiling. The family is apparently standing at the base of a mountain. And it appears as if its lightly snowing. The two girls in the front of the image are Katherine and Susan Rockwell. Behind the two are their parents, Charlie and Madeline Rockwell. Today Katherine is the Program manager of the Pico Mountain Snowsports School. Understand, it's a natural transition as Katherine was actually on skis long before she walked. In fact, she was on her mom's skis before she was born! It's true! Her mom, Madeline, Rockwell, was teaching skiing at Pico when pregnant with her eldest daughter Katherine.

"Skiing is something our family all has in common," reflects Katherine. "We grew up skiing. It's always been a part of our lives."
In today's frenetic world, the image, taken before digital photography, provides a glimpse into one family's love of skiing, and of the mountains. This image depicts their family on skis. On the wall are other photographs. Another image depicts Katherine skiing deep powder. Yet another photograph is of her parents, in their twenties, at Middlebury College. While not all of the photographs involve skiing the images of skiing are prominent, and reveal a young woman who grew up on skis. In fact, she started teaching skiing while a young teenager. Then, following college, she secured a position as a "line instructor" at Killington. Today, after several promotions, she is at Pico, and she is working to help families maximize their experience.

An hour later, as I skied down Pico Mountain, I watched Katherine and her Dad  matching high speed arcs. It was beautiful, but not surprising. In this case Katherine is the 2nd generation to carve out a living teaching skiing. In fact, her mom still teaches skiing full-time at Bromley Mountain. And her Dad, Charlie Rockwell, who taught at Killington years ago, can reflect on decades of work as a member of the elite Board of Examiners for the Professional Ski Instructors of America - the group who teach, train, and certify ski instructors at resorts throughout the East.

In the world of ski teaching, PSIA Examiners are considered at the pinnacle of the sport. And watching Katherine match turns with her Dad, its clear she is continuing a tradition balancing extraordinary skiing skills, with an equally strong commitment to teaching, and maximizing family adventure.

"Being with family is a very important part of our life and skiing is something we have shared together," notes Charlie Rockwell. "It's a common thread in our lives,."

In truth, not all families ski with this power. The day before I watched Katherine and her Dad at Pico Mountain, I watched her mom Madeline teaching young skiers at Bromley Mountain. She is a powerful skier who also holds full certification from PSIA. It was evident that she has great pride in her family, in their accomplishments, and she has enjoyed the common interest they share with skiing. In fact, while their younger daughter Susan is now living outside Washington DC, working in education, Madeline told me Susan still joined the family skiing each year over the holidays.

Putting all this together, these images, and these lives, may provide a trail map for family success. Today, Charlie and Madeline Rockwell reflect on more then 40 years of marriage, and as their family continues its tradition of teaching skiing. Perhaps there is something in these lessons as important as any ski lesson.

The kids grew up skiing. That's important. And it's important, I think, too, that they saw their parents passionate about skiing, and about living a healthy, clean, lifestyle in general.

There's more though. They also saw their family interact together. And they still interact together skiing every year. It's a tradition that has last and that they all continue to cherish.

Today both daughters are well-educated, intelligent, and confident skiers. And both are the kind of people who care about other people. In truth, this more then a simple story about two daughters who grew up skiing. It's about parents who love skiing and passed on their passion. It's a story of a family who play together on the slopes.

Does your family ski together? Do they enjoy the time together on the mountain?

Honestly, I wished I could have captured this family on film. It seemed, well, special. It was special sharing a lunch with Katherine and Charlie. It was special sharing dinner with Charlie and Madeline. It was a fun day. A good memory.

 "Sometimes it's about the family more then the terrain," says Katherine. "Sometimes it can be more about family then about double black diamonds. If you choose wisely it can be a great experience."

 "It's important to allow each person to experience the day in a way most enjoyable for that person," adds Charlie Rockwell. "Sometimes they can ski different trails and meet to ride the same chair. Sometimes they can meet at lunch. It's important to choose and plan appropriately."

Family skiing? In many ways Pico Mountain personifies family skiing. It's always been a place where families have skied. And where families learned to ski. Today, with Katherine Rockwell serving as the manager of the Snowsports School, the tradition continues. May you treasure your family adventures. From your first run, to your last run.