Early Season Ridicule
“Are you going….skiing?” he asked as we passed him on the summer hiking trail before dawn. We were just as surprised to see a hunter juggling a rifle and a beer at 6 am as he was to see a skier and snowboarder lugging snowblades and camping gear out of the backcountry. But, as winter starts to sprinkle sugar on the jelly donut of fall there’s a restless rustling in mountain towns around the world.
For most people, this nagging need to ski never fully manifests itself. Maybe your girlfriend notices that you’ve been a little on edge and that your skis, which should be in the garage, are now next to the bed. Maybe you’ve gotten a little loud at the pub gesturing towards distant snowy peaks and pontificating, “Somebody ought to just get out there and ski it!” But still, you wait patiently for your turns until the lifts start spinning. This is the contingent that resents the early season tomfoolery.
Because I grew up far from any ski resort, I’ve never been able to hold back. As soon as there is enough snow to do donuts in the parking lot, there is enough snow to ski. If that “snow” is somewhere high enough in the mountains that there are no parking lots – and may just potentially be a layer of really thick frost – it’s still worth walking up there and taking a look. And if you’re going on a walk to look for what may or may not be snow, you might as well bring your skis.
That’s why the last few autumns you could find me carrying a too-heavy pack up a too-steep and too-rocky trail to slide around on a too-small snow patch. But, I’m not alone. Thanks to the magic of social media it’s easy to keep track of who’s walked how far to ski what how early, and somehow, every season we manage to outdo ourselves. Somebody’s already skied Main Chute at Alta. Someone else walked twenty miles to get pow turns in September. The first backflips of the year have long passed since October. What’s next? Corbets in August?
It’s easy to get frustrated with people who will go to any length to get a few turns before the season actually begins. It’s easy to let jealousy tint your response to yet another “Faceshots in September” video. We grumble to ourselves “That’s ridiculous, don’t those bums have anything better to do?” “Why would anyone walk twenty miles in September to make a few turns in the fog?” “What a waste of time.”
To others it’s just as crazy to pay $100 a day to sit your $300 pants on a sardine-packed frozen piece of metal just so you can risk an $8000 knee surgery.
Skiing is, by its very nature, ridiculous and that’s part of the magic. When you try to make skiing serious by taking away its inherent hilarity, you’re only shortchanging yourself. So don’t worry about taking anyone’s pre-season antics seriously and don’t let their hopeless desperation frustrate you. There will always be people restless for winter, and walking a long way to ski while everyone else is still drinking pumpkin spice lattes. Don’t resent the idiots wasting their lives chasing turns and core shots before the taller dandelions are even covered. Instead, next time it snows, think about taking that touring setup you paid way too much for to the sledding hill and try hitting some sick jumps the kids with the saucer built. You’ll look ridiculous, but that’s sort of the point.