Column, Living the Dream

My dad invented my Vermont

By Merisa Sherman

Together, my dad and I stood on a patch on snow just larger than our skis, looking out over the middle of Superstar. It was a perfectly gorgeous bluebird day in early June. There had been a good amount of snow on the headwall and there was plenty on the bottom, but this section of field in the middle? Well … that was a wee bit different. There were skinny sections about four feet wide and 20 feet long and others that were just like the ski sized one we were standing on now. The hike had been buggy, the views amazing — the headwall skied perfectly — but now we faced the big decision: would we take our skis off and walk this middle piece? Or was there another way down?

By Merisa Sherman
Merisa’s dad skis on the grass between patches of snow on Superstar in June many years ago.

My dad, dressed in jeans and a ratty, much loved Killington Ski Club T-shirt, looked over at me with absolute glee. I laughed, knowing there was no doubt in his mind as to which option we must choose.

“Leave no patch un-skied!” He shouted as he pushed off with his poles and began to slide down the fast grass toward the next patch. Dad laughed somewhat maniacally. I watched as he played connect the dots with the small patches of snow, even side-stepping back up to reach a patch he had missed. The man was obviously losing his mind.

But he wasn’t at all. He was simply doing what he always did: embracing life to the fullest. In my dad’s mind, anything was possible if you could dream it. I remember the year he dreamed he could earn his turns on Killington after a September snowfall. He ended up “karate chopping a rock” (his words) while descending Downdraft headwall and breaking his hand. Or that time he thought he could jump his bike off a log bridge before it was a thing. He almost ripped his thumb off and spent that autumn with two wrapped hands: his gauze mittens, he proudly called them.

He loved it. Perhaps because he had stories to tell, but I think mostly it was because he adamantly refused to grow up. Yes, he was a responsible adult who worked hard and was a wonderful father who cared for his family. But he was also just a boy, eager to explore and experience all kinds of adventures — he was Peter Pan.  

For my 30th birthday, Dad willingly spent the night in the woods for the first time since boot camp. That March night, we snowshoed through the woods and slept in the old Tucker-Johnson shelter. He was cold and miserable when we finally emerged from our sleeping bags in the morning. But my dad absolutely loved it, telling the story over and over again to anyone who would listen — even if he never asked to go winter camping again.  

As kids, we were never just on a walk through the woods or a paddle across the lake. We were on an adventure: through the Amazon jungle, to the top of Mount Everest. Whatever tale he could dream up, that’s where we would go. My sister and I lived through his dreams, exploring places that we might never go but he saw no reason for us not to. Whatever we could dream, we could do. For him, life was as simple as that.  

It’s why we drove up to Vermont every weekend for my entire childhood. Killington was his dream world, his summer camp, his playground — his fountain of youth. No matter what nightmare was happening with work back home or what upcoming tests we had at school, he drove us those four hours to come here. To a world where life does sometimes feel like a dream.

In a weird way, I think the day I told him I was dropping out of graduate school to become a ski bum was one of the happiest of his life. He gloated over my Vermont driver’s license and employee season pass while taking pictures of my first green license plates. Dad never pressured me into some painful life-sucking money-making job; his dream was for me to be a Vermonter. 

But not even my dad could dream of how wonderful life in Vermont truly could be. This week, we not only achieved our statewide vaccination rate goal, but blew it out of the water. Our little state showed how a dedicated community could band together, setting an example for not only our nation but for the world.  

Vermont is what happens when our neighbors become our family, when we treat others the way we want to be treated and when we show respect for all. 

Vermont is what happens when we take our dreams and make them into reality.  

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