I think that maybe the whole point of skiing is the fact that it’s ephemeral, it’s short-lived. For most of us, we can only make turns for a set number of months out of the year, and even within that short season, we’re still just chasing fleeting moments of pleasure. Looking back from the tail end of this truncated season it’s hard not to notice that the good parts about skiing, the highlights, the seconds that justify why I spend so much time and energy and money on this pursuit, are far outnumbered by countless banal moments.
I spent exponentially more time driving to go ski than I did making powder turns this season. I spent many orders of magnitude more time sitting on chair lifts than I did in the air. Hell, some weeks I definitely spent more time reading about, writing about, and watching skiing than I did with my boots actually on, with my edges actually in the snow. And again, the older I get, the more I start to think that this messed up ratio of energy expended to actual moments of pleasure earned is really the point of the whole thing.
For most of us in North America, it’s been about a week since the lifts stopped spinning. Inbounds skiing is over. Canceled. Kaput. By the numbers we’re losing just a small percentage of our seasons, most of us were going to be done by mid-April anyway. But it’s so abrupt. I feel like I’m grasping, trying to wave down my Uber as it speeds off. I had plans man! I’ve barely used any of my Mountain Collective days. I never got that 540, I never really stomped a clean frontflip this year! Spring skiing is my favorite!
I had a dream the other night about closing day: Sunshine, all the friends, slush, the Chinese Downhill, charging wiggle laps on snowblades. Then I woke up and tried to use just the barest minimum of toilet paper since lord knows where all of it disappeared to. And somewhere between trying to decide if I should fold each square into quarters or eighths, I started crunching the numbers.
Inbounds skiing’s gone, my season is “lost” to me. What does that actually add up to though? Take the highlights, the moments that make it all worth it from these last four weeks that I’m missing now, and add them up. What’s their grand total? 8 hours of magic? Probably less if I’m really honest with myself. Eight total hours of the good stuff, the pow turns, the hot laps with friends, the beers in the lot. Discount the driving up to the hill, the time spent waiting in line, the couple of icy runs before things warm up, all the crappy, but necessary stuff we do when we go skiing. Eight hours.
Between my last two weeks of content on this website alone, I’ve spent more than eight hours writing and drawing about the stuff I’m missing out on. Most of us probably spent more than that mindlessly scrolling Facebook and Instagram, cruising the NS forums or watching Real Ski edits on repeat. I lost eight hours of the good stuff. Maybe you lost a little more, or a little less. When you zoom out a little though, none of it is that much.
A bunch of under-payed, overworked, under-appreciated folks just lost their jobs, suddenly, and for no fault of their own. In the next few months, a whole bunch more are going to do the same. And that’s just employment. Plenty of others are going to lose a family member or close friend. I lost eight hours.
The whole point of skiing is that it doesn’t last. Sure, you can stretch it out, scratch rocky turns early and late in the season, even chase it to the southern hemisphere. But no matter how you slice it, there’s no cheat code to limitless pleasure. If there was it would be too easy, there wouldn’t be any point to it.
So go build your hike parks, cobble together some PVC rails, try out that new touring setup, or just play a whole bunch of Shredsauce. Resort season 2019/20 is over. We didn’t get to ring it out in good style, we didn’t get to milk those last turns before we toast the season and prepare for summer. But sometime next fall, we’ll wake up to a little frost on the ground. The hills will flame in orange and gold and then slowly fade to white. The snow guns will fire up, and we’ll start planning again, obsessing over those nuggets of perfection that skiing carves into the arc of our lives.
And when it does come back, when I do ride that first chair, pressure the front of my boots and dive into that first arc, I’ll remember how I feel now, gypped of those eight hours. Eight hours? How many days do I need to ski just a few more runs on, how many times do I need to wake up just a little earlier to earn back those moments? Not many, but they’ll be twice as sweet when they come. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and don’t hug Boomers.
Note: This is it for me this season. A big thanks to Twig and everyone on Newschoolers for giving me this incentive to throw words at the internet. As advertising budgets everywhere get cut, now is the time to support media and creators we love. The landscape of ski content is always changing, and my biggest hope is that out of this shakeup of the status quo, new voices that represent more diverse and interesting perspectives on skiing can emerge and grow. I love writing about skiing, but I love reading about it more. If you or anyone you know wants to tell their stories but has questions, I’m always stoked to talk!