Skiing Well Means You Can Truly Appreciate Winter, Winter Series 4 of 5
This article is the fourth in a five-part a series on why I now love winter.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO- The adage “locals do it in the trees” is an appropriate one. There are a number of levels of skiing, and sure, you can enjoy each one of them, but the better you are, the more you'll enjoy your time on the slopes. As a beginner, it’s the thrill of learning a new and exciting skill—and one that will give you a fair adrenaline rush. It’s fun. And it’s a way to be outside and enjoy the winter.
As you get better, you begin to appreciate skiing as a meditative exercise, much like running. You are completely locked in on what you’re doing, and sure, you might have some idle thoughts running around your head, but for the most part you are living completely in the moment in front of you, focused on flying down the mountain. At this stage, skiing becomes somewhat of a workout—you realize that as your form is more and more precise, it’s your body that does the work. Your leg muscles thicken, your core develops, and you realize that you’re stressing these muscles the faster you go. The less you have to worry about how “well you are skiing”, the more you think about the environment you’re skiing in, and how your body is a vessel to let you do that.
When you get really good, good enough to be able to ski without really thinking about it, well, that’s when you can start having fun with it. It’s when you can start hitting the little jumps at the side of runs, and when your turns become more and more precise. It’s when you start dipping in the trees, mostly in search of fresh snow to cruise through, but oftentimes to escape the other skiers in a solitary quest for the blanketed silence that a snow-covered tree grove provides you. It becomes less about hitting a certain run than about harnessing the laws of nature, in this case, gravity, to glide through an environment that you really wouldn’t have the chance to experience on foot. The actual skiing becomes secondary to the places skiing allows you to go.
It takes a while to get to this level. I don’t really think it’s possible except for those that have grown up skiing, or chosen to make it a focus of their lives at some point. For whatever reason, it’s always been a skill that I’ve wanted to learn, and now that I have it, I understand why: I can truly appreciate winter. I know how to prepare myself for the cold, and how I can go have fun in it. Sure, it’s taken some work. Skiing isn’t that fun at the beginning, and it’s not the easiest thing to pick up for those that might become enchanted by it. But it is worth the effort once you do.
For the first time in forever, I find myself thinking about what I’m going to do next season, and I really can’t picture myself living the rest of my life away from the rhythms of a mountain. Day in and day out exposure to the conditions sure makes you picky about what days you choose to enjoy and which you'll skip, but it also means that you’ve seen the best of the best, and understand what everyone is talking about when they want to wake up at 7 a.m. to hit the slopes early on a powder day. It’s a weird, privileged world to have been a part of, but it’s also one that I’m incredibly thankful for. To live in a time like this, where economic specialization has given us all of the tools we’d ever need to deal with the elements and have ourselves a good time, is a special thing. Even if it does cost a bit more money, I’m sure as hell looking forward to next winter.