Making an Introduction

Making an Introduction

Khai Johannes

By Khai Johannes \ April 3 2024

“I’m not babysitting until he’s potty trained” I told my sister as I cradled the weight of my year-old nephew in my arms. It’s not that I don’t love kids, quite the opposite in fact. I love kids because I am a kid. Kids love me because I have a childlike free spirit but also an income. I also can handle roughly the same number of responsibilities as a child, which is why I needed my nephew to have the skills to flush his stuff on his own. Once Kanoa traded in diapers for undies, we became inseparable. Our fast friendship formed over games of hide-and-seek and hours at museums. I strived to be a constant in his life, never missing a birthday and popping up at his soccer games where he and his teammates were more concerned with the snacks that followed than scoring goals. Even once I moved away, I’d trade hours of travel for moments with Kanoa. Then the time came when it was his turn.  

While Kanoa is aware I’m a kid at heart, I somehow convinced my sister I’m enough of an adult to keep an eye on a nine-year-old. On the spring break of his 4th grade year, Kanoa boarded a 737 leaving his home and headed for mine with only his gameboy as supervision. My partner, his aunt, was tested in the early onsets of the trip as Kanoa and I picked up right where we left off. Games of tag and hide and seek disturbed the natural flow of our home while his Auntie RaShelle worked on providing us with nutrition. 

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The first couple days of his stay were spent close to home, exploring parks and playgrounds. On the third day, I planted the seed of snowboarding in his mind. We were touring the Utah Olympic Park in Park City when I casually pointed to one of the many mounted boards and said, “you could do that this trip” and left it at that. On our drive home, after hours of walking around Park City, Kanoa asked from the backseat, “When do you think I could snowboard?” 

The seed has roots.

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Back in Park City, we were at Woodward Park City, one of the best places for beginners! It may seem crazy that the area with the most insane terrain features would be great for a first-timer, but the learning area is perfect to get someone comfortable with their new tools. Being at Woodward offers two other incentives for teaching a beginner:

  1. Seeing the potential of what can be done on snowboard or skis is a constant inspiration to get back up

  2. If they reach their limits of learning you can take a break with some tubing or indoor fun! 

At the top of the magic carpet, wearing a mix of my gear and his, Kanoa did something I didn’t know was possible: he…rode. Just rode the entire bunny hill, top to bottom. His very first time on a snowboard, Kanoa was pointing the nose downhill and made it to the bottom! Not knowing how to stop, he forced himself to fall at the bottom where I caught up to him feeling equally shocked as I was proud. 

“Dude! What?” were the only words I could seem to find. 

“Can we do it again?” he asked. To me, the question was rhetorical. I was already unstrapping his board and carrying it back to the magic carpet. 

I did my best to teach him what I know, but I’m not an instructor. After a few runs his mind floated to the other activities Woodward has to offer. He’s nine, the fact I kept his attention on one thing that long felt like a win. 

“Can we go tubing now?”

I remember all of those dads on Disney Channel who would force their kids into something (say, basketball) and their kid resents them because all they want to do is dance. I didn’t want to be a Disney Channel Dad. Our passions are our own and we can only share them with others, we can’t make them feel as we do. With that in mind, I lamented and Kanoa was back on his butt, but this time it was far more comfortable. 

Of the week Kanoa was with us, only one day involved snowboarding. After that day at Woodward, we returned to our regularly scheduled program with parks, pools and playgrounds then sent him back home. 

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Nearly a year’s time would pass all the while I assumed my nephew hadn’t given snowboarding a second thought. I had hoped for a click similar to someone playing matchmaker but hadn't seen any sparks flying. Then, one snowy day I received a text message. 

On my phone was a video of my nephew using his mother’s childhood snowboard (circa 2000’s) sliding down a neighborhood hill with the caption Kanoa is looking forward to snowboarding on his next visit. I felt the swelling in my chest and the tears felt warm on my face as they rolled down my winter chilled cheeks. 

For the last few years as I’ve made my way through the snow industry, I have wanted to find a way to get more people like me into the mountains. To help diversify what the snow community is in every way. It felt like a task taller than the mountains I rode. As I looked up at this metaphorical mountain it seemed to disappear into the clouds. In that moment, while watching my nephew ride that small neighborhood hill I realized I’d begun my contribution. 

Some companies have the might to leave behind a well-groomed cat track for many to follow. Ski Utah has put its might towards providing a snow experience to many through its Discover Winter program. I, however, lack the influence, resources and reach of Ski Utah. What I can leave behind, rather than a cat track for many is a skin track for one. One more person to join the snow culture and bring with them the diversity that will lead to the longevity of the sports we love so much.

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