Woohoo! Yayy! Skiing! And drinking! It’s no secret that many people who ski a lot will drink, smoke or partake in various drugs while on snow. After you ski the same laps over and over again at your home mountain, it’s natural to want to spice it up. So you light up your joints, crack a beer, and go after it, I’ve done that plenty of times. A day with terrible conditions can suddenly become an amazing day with the proper additives. Sometimes an even better day can be enhanced with a light blaze or buzz. It’s all great fun, and everyone’s having a great time! What could go wrong! And here’s the part where you’re starting to realize that the author is extolling the virtues of something fun. He’s definitely about to turn it around into a “drugs and alcohol are bad man” piece of writing. This ain’t that. Okay, maybe a little, but not really.

Until this past year, I’d usually drink about 4-8 beers over the course of a ski day. Some days I would ski sober, but those were far a few between. I worked full time, did night school, and when I had my two days of freedom, I wanted to go party. I had the best time with my friends on the mountain, and really enjoyed the feeling of skiing with a buzz to what was often a bit more than a buzz. The problem was that I would typically drink those 4-8 beers, and then go party at night, have some shots, drink some more, and then go sit in a chair all week at my job. Then the next weekend would roll around and I had to get my fix in. Only 2 days! Gotta make the most of them! Ski, drink, party. Ski drink party. Okay, now back to real life! I could feel that my skiing wasn’t as crisp, and that I wasn’t as strong, and that maybe I was putting on a little weight, but I was having a great time! Then I stepped on a scale at the end of last year, and saw that I was 205 lbs. This may not seem like a lot for someone who’s 6’4, but I don’t have a big frame, and am naturally pretty light. For what my baseline was, this was about 20 lbs in extra beer weight I was lugging around. It was definitely affecting my skiing, and my health, mental and physical. I was having knee pain, and back pain. As it happens, when you sit in a chair 5 days a week without any exercise, then dial it up to 11 for the weekend, things start to hurt, particularly when you add an extra 20 lbs into the equation. This past summer, I put some real work in trail running and shrugged that weight off like Chris Rock shrugged off Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars. I’m proud of that. I feel better, and look better.

Then, ski season rolled around again this year. I made a conscious decision to go back to skiing sober, and I noticed something. I was getting better at skiing again. I was stomping new lines, and sticking with better skiers more easily. This was a stark difference to the 2020-21 season where I essentially got drunk and had fun, but didn’t work on my skiing at all. Cardio helps more than any muscle mass could when it comes to skiing. Sure you need some strength to work skis, but for your average freeskier, being in good cardiovascular shape helps prevent injury, and gives you that extra stomp energy you need when you’re doing something new late in the day. I point to all the examples of the top skiers these days, they’re usually running or doing something in the summer to maintain that cardio. Back to what this article is about though, I hardly missed drinking while skiing as soon as I felt that progression switch kick on again. This year, I’ve been able to ski more than I ever have before. If I were doing it how I did last year, drinking every ski day, I don’t think I would have skied this much. A good friend of mine just recently told me that he used to worry about me smashing into someone on a groomer, but doesn’t really anymore. He said that sober skiing clearly helped my form, and abilities this year. Looking back on the year prior, I definitely had some crashes which could have been far worse, both for myself and innocent bystanders. I genuinely think having alcohol in my system helped me avoid injury during those crashes, since I was more relaxed, but I’d rather have avoided those crashes altogether.

I certainly still love seeing people enjoying what they enjoy on the mountain, and most of the people I rip with still enjoy beers while skiing. I do too now and then, but the difference is it’s only a few days out of the year, not every day. Drinking less means you enjoy it as an additive more, and it doesn’t become your natural state. The same goes for any other drug in my opinion. If I decide to drink while I ski now, it’s more as a reward for hitting what I wanted to hit during the days prior. “Ok, you did good, have a day off, just enjoy the sensation of going fast, and mob with the crew.” This spring, I’ve had a few weekends like last year, where I definitely went a bit too hard on the sauce. I had a good time doing it, but the few days of feeling like crap after didn’t seem as worth it to me, or maybe I am just getting older at 25. I was almost peeved at how it made me ski and feel, as opposed to embracing it. I don’t know if this was exactly the article I set out to write, but if I were to make a conclusion here, it’s “Don’t have too much of a good thing, because eventually the good thing becomes a normal thing, and ceases to be a good thing.” We’ve all seen plenty of articles about how rampant partying and alcoholism are in skiing, so I won’t add to that library. I just want to say, feel free to take a break from it if you want to. I’ve certainly enjoyed my mostly sober ski season, and it has gotten me back to what I really love, the skiing.