When I was a kid I had a sometime friend named Bobby Sullivan who lived in another neighborhood maybe a half mile away. There was a low spot on the street in front of Bobby's house, and a storm drain that didn't work very well. When a hard cold snap followed right on the heels of a major rain-thaw event - i.e., often - he ended up with a ready-made skating rink of sorts that was maybe eight feet wide and thirty or forty feet long. Moreover, Bobby owned a facsimile of an actual hockey net, with a rusty orange-painted steel frame that was always coming apart at the ferrules. Thus it was that on certain days after school we could be found playing a kind of modified street hockey.
Mostly we did not wear skates. For one thing, we didn't like having to worry about overshooting the thinning edges of the ice. Our skating skills were rudimentary at best anyway. And the surface was far from perfect: The ash leaves and hickory nut husks that had accumulated along the curb before the rain were now embedded in the ice where we could see them if we lay on our bellies, like some very cold and disappointing version of Egyptian insects in amber. Where they surfaced they did not improve the skating. We wore plain canvas sneakers or work boots, but we did use a puck instead of a tennis ball. It quickly got rounded edges and a ratty aspect from all its trips beyond the ice onto the rough chip-seal pavement, but there was a great advantage to the puck in that the Sullivans' beagle was not as prone to chasing it. Instead of a goalie's glove we had a baseball mitt.
The thing I remember most clearly was that as much as we loved playing hockey, there was something else we loved more. (I'm not counting frozen bagels with godawful margarine. Or Tina B., who lived down at the bottom of the hill and scowled enchantingly while playing a cello that was as tall as she was, blue veins pulsing under the wisps of dark hair on her white forehead). The thing we loved was simply sliding on the ice. After a while we would get bored with the hockey and revert to more simple play. Specifically we would back way down the street, where there was nothing but asphalt. (We called it macadam.) We'd sprint toward the ice patch as fast as we could and leap onto it with both feet, seeing who could slide the farthest. We would do this over and over and over. Perhaps fifty or a hundred times. It was unalloyed - the feeling of speed and slipperiness and mastery we had on those days, in our ignorance and our bliss.
Maybe now you're beginning to see where this is going. Which is that some of us simply love going fast on a slick surface in cold weather. I don't know why. In my case, at least, it certainly didn't have anything to do with being interested in sports or being - so far as anyone was willing to acknowledge - athletic in even the slightest way. Seems pretty clear it was more nature than nurture. And it extended to all variations, notably including sledding. Still does.
Meanwhile, it turns out, to my surprise and consternation, there are a LOT of people who actually do NOT LIKE this sort of thing. At all. Not even a little. My wife is one of them. It's a mystery, but it's a fact. And this fact means that we have an important thing to keep in mind whenever we talk about bringing our loved ones along with us in our passion for skiing, which is that some of them are just not going to take to it. They just aren't. Not their fault. Not our fault. Not the instructor's fault. Not the bootfitter's fault. If this happens to you, don't freak out. Dig up an old white pages and dial Bobby Sullivan on the rotary phone. Or check out one of those ski forums I've heard they have on the internet.