In Michigan childhood, they called it 'Easter Vacation.'
In Princeton, we learned to call March school vacations 'Spring Break.'
After one too many Stowe and Sugarbush spring ski trips -- finding bright green moss narrowing the trails; actually skiing in black garbage bags because it was raining so hard; going on excursions to watch hams cure and cheese ripen and maple sap turn into syrup, -- we learned to take 'Spring Break' in Snowmass, near Aspen.
There the sun always shone. In Colorado, it snowed most nights. They weren't kidding about fresh powder. We walked through snow crystals to dinner in a different restaurant each night.
We shared these mountainous excursions with the girls' Princeton Day School friends and their parents.
Once I made chili here, carrying it, frozen, on the plane, so we could have them all over after a skiing day for a hearty trailside meal.
We had been lucky enough to secure 'a ski-out', -- a condo above the second lift. With that setting, after the first run, we never had to stand in line again.
After last runs, our friends could gather easily, parents usually stopping when shadows made moguls more difficult. The 'kids' took late moguls as challenge.
The girls and their schoolmates loved to 'bomb the black lines.' They would meet at a summit resturaunt at lunch, after family runs, zooming the most difficult trails for the rest of the day. It was their game to take them as often and as late as they could manage to catch the last lift back to the top.
I remember working to master the special way of standing in the lift line -- both poles in one hand, knees slightly bent, alert yet relaxed. Pretending that you weren't a refugee from the East pretending you belonged.
For this (then) non-athlete, I'll always remember the afternoon I came back to the condo and gazed upwards, realizing, I'd made that 10,000-foot mountain my own.
What fascinated at Snowmass and Buttermilk was how hushed everyone was in the lifts. We were lifted through green cathedrals of pines. There were 10,000-foot+ drops on one side. Sometimes, if we were early enough, there was hoar-frost on every limb on every side of us. Crystalline, luminous, it would later drop with a sibilant hush onto the fresh powder that was every night's gift.
People were so still on those chair lifts that we could hear the song of the metal, as stout cables whisked us to the summit.
After the crowds on Eastern slopes, it was heaven to swoop into a snowy forest, play slalom with the pines. The quiet in there made the lifts seem to have been noisy.
Light slanted through limbs, as it does from the rose window of Chartres. That light was straight as beeswax tapers, and as golden.
An Aspen tradition was to make first trails in fresh powder, which was a normal facet of skiing those capacious woods, and also through 'the bowls.'
My favorite day. I was skiing on the very edge. Suddenly, below me, I became aware of an enormous bird. It was like an eagle, but not the colors I knew from Michigan -- rather a toasty brown. It soared so smoothly. exidomg power without stroking. On and on we went, the eagle and I, in limitlessness I was rarely to experience again.
Later I would learn its name was Golden.
Such were the gifts of Spring Break in the late 1970's.