Note: For all you non-American NS’ers out there, I’m not as familiar with your political systems, but I do know that the outdoor industry is big enough to make significant changes under any form of government. So the details might be different, but the point is the same.
The garden hose was crinkly with ice when I went outside this morning, and my dog rolled around in newly-fallen leaves. Ski season is creeping closer. My skis call to me seductively from the garage, begging me to scrape off their storage wax and prep them for action.
I always feel a little intoxicated in the months leading up to ski season, a little outside myself with excitement, overwhelmed with anticipation, ready to let everything else go as I commit to another year of turns. And that’s why I sort of get it when I see sentiments like this floating around the interwebs:
Update: Unofficial Networks shared this meme. Originally it was uncredited but apparently they ascribe to this indifferent brand of privilege and would like to be credited in conjunction with it.
In high school and college, it was “everyone is just stressing about finals and grades and I’m just waiting for opening day.” Then it became “everyone is just arguing about how much firewood they will need for the winter, and I’m just over here waiting for the hills to turn white.” So I get it, I get the exhaustion with the overwhelming political discourse that’s happening right now. The more primitive parts of my mind are desperate to block it all out, ignore the conversation, throw my skis on my back, and start looking around for snow patches to jib.
But I can’t do that. I can’t just think about skiing and ignore politics right now. I love skiing too much.
In a presidential election year, that race sucks up all the energy and the conversation focuses on two very powerful people very far away from most of us. And while that race is deadly important, I think often it distracts us and burns us out on being politically active when there are huge opportunities to make a big difference closer to home. We don’t have to just choose between the two old white dudes who look like they brag to their golf buddies about their ski vacations. Nope, there’s a whole lot more at stake here.
Even though they don’t feel like it sometimes, ski towns are still real towns, with real city councils, real county commissioners, real sheriffs, and public prosecutors, and all the rest of that dry, boring stuff. And elections are how we rank-and-file skiers get to control how our communities are led. I know, I know, keep the politics out of this and just stick to skiing, but local governments affect every aspect of your skiing experience. So I won’t zone out and just wait for the season, and you shouldn’t either.
Skiing is political. Just from the most selfish perspective possible this election cycle, I get to vote for:
- County Commissioners who will be part of making decisions on how well plowed the road to the ski hill is.
- State Representatives who will help determine what the minimum wage that my friends who work at the ski hill will get paid.
- County Officials who will help determine what sort of affordable housing (if any) is available in my town for skiers.
- A County Prosecutor who will decide how aggressively to prosecute skiers who possess a plant that’s legal in many states.
- Senators who will have the opportunity to work within the federal government to help out struggling ski resorts who are dealing with the fallout from COVID.
- Local Officials who have the potential to expand the ski hill shuttle so that more people can ride the bus and take strain off the parking lot.
- A County Sheriff who will lead a police force that often lurks on the road to and from the ski hill.
- A multitude of State and Local Representatives who will decide how to use tourism money to help build a stronger, vibrant community of year-round residents.
And a President, who, as a world leader has the opportunity to take climate change seriously, and make changes that will help ensure pow days for all of us down the road, or one who sells off our public lands and disregards all science and facts.
And that’s just the selfish stuff. That’s not even touching the ongoing reckoning for centuries of systemic racism, the aftermath of a genocide waged on Native people, the repercussions of our foreign policy in totalitarian regimes, the consequences of this election on women’s rights, queer rights, states’ rights, and more. This is just the easy, privileged, touchy-feely argument. This is just Voting 101 for Out-of-Touch Ski Bums.
I love skiing. I hate dealing with politics. But my love of skiing forces me to engage, to listen, to figure out who I support, and where I stand. Last winter we all lost a month or so of skiing to COVID. Now we’re entering the season with a ridiculous amount of insecurity thanks to our leaders’ pathetic response to this crisis. These beautiful autumn days that should be building our anticipation to go make turns are tainted by smoke from climate-change-aggravated forest fires. I just want it to be ski season. I just want to go skiing, but in order to do that, we need to take the easiest step possible right now, and get out and vote.
No, there won’t be an option on that ballot to vote for “better park builds and more powder days” but there will be an opportunity to vote for people and initiatives that help make those things more attainable. Waxing those skis can wait, get registered, cast your vote, then get in line for first chair.
Final note: I'm sending a free postcard of this image to anyone who takes the time to make sure they're registered and does some quick research on all of the races and items they'll be voting on this year. Head over to my Instagram to get yourself one.