I woke up excited to go skiing. It had been a tiring weekend, I was ready to unplug, go wander up a new mountain, and make some turns back down. An hour into the climb we bailed, turned back by terrible skiing conditions, terrifying avalanche conditions, and a general lack of motivation. As we milled around at the car, trying to decide on a Plan B, I realized I didn’t want to go skiing anymore, at all.
All it had taken were a few crappy turns, and a reminder that skiing kills people sometimes, and I was all the way ready to be done. I just wanted to go drink mimosas in the sun. But one of the guys in our group wasn’t done yet, he was gung-ho to ski some more. So he went and cranked out two more laps on a safer slope. And as I drove home I couldn’t help thinking: “That guy really loves skiing more than I do.” Immediately followed by “well, that’s not that surprising, I don’t really love skiing that much.”
I don’t know why it’s taken me this many years of identifying as a “skier” to come to this realization, but man, on the passion scale, I’m a lot closer to the tepid middle than I am to the “I LOVE this sport with every fiber of my being” end of things. And that’s ok, I think.
There’s a lot to love about Skiing, big “S”. There’s a lot to love about skiing, little “s”. And I love plenty of things about both, but I’ve realized over the past few years that I just don’t have the same amount of love for little “s” skiing as a whole bunch of other people do.
Big “S” skiing is the whole damn thing, the entire activity, and everything in its periphery. It’s the locations and the culture and the people and the content and all the rest. And I LOVE big “S” skiing. Sure, we've got plenty of issues we’re working through, and there’s a lot of room to grow, but I love all of the stuff that comes along with being a skier. But when it comes down to it, I love all of that stuff a lot more unconditionally than I love little “s” skiing, the actual feet-in-boots, skis-on-snow, riding-lifts-and-making-turns of it all. I don’t love the act of skiing as much as I love the rest of it.
Sometimes the act of skiing sucks. Sometimes your boots really hurt and your layering isn’t right and your skis feel like crap and the snow is terrible and the lines are long and the light is flat and it just isn’t any fun. Often when that happens, there are redeeming qualities: terrible conditions are a blast with the right people, I’ll tolerate uncomfortable boots if they take me to fun new places. I’ll wait in long lines to ski slush with my friends. But all of those redeeming characteristics are part of big “S” Skiing, not little “s” skiing. And like I said, I love the capital “S” version a lot more.
Maybe that’s part of why I’ve never dreamed of being a professional skier. I’ve never really wanted to even imagine dedicating my life so wholly to the act of skiing. It’s never looked attractive to me, I’ve always known I wasn’t wired for that. And of course, I’m not good enough anyway.
But on the flip side, I’ve always wanted to be a professional in the ski industry, ever since I watched that first Warren Miller DVD that came as the free prize in a box of granola bars. I fell for capital “S” Skiing right away, and I’ve been incredibly driven to make it my life ever since. I learned how to ski my Junior year in high school. Four years later I accepted a full time job in the ski industry. I knew that I wanted to be part of this bigger thing, even if I wasn’t truly obsessed with the very act that this entire industry is built around.
I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago when I ditched partway through a perfectly good fresh snow day to go paint instead. I just wasn’t meshing well with my skis, wasn’t really feeling it. I didn’t love skiing enough to keep doing it, so I went home to paint it instead.
Maybe the most telling contrast I’ve found is how I feel when I’m drawing and painting. I LOVE illustrating, little “I," the act of making images, of creating visuals. I think about it nearly every waking minute, I want to do it all the time, even when it’s not clicking, when new techniques are frustrating me and dealing with clients burns me out, I want to draw so badly. I love it. And finding something that I love so thoroughly, that I’m so obsessed with has given me context for my relationship with skiing.
But that means I feel like a phony sometimes, creating all this skiing-related content, writing about and drawing it most days of the week. I feel like a fraud occasionally, selling something more than I experience. I’m (literally) painting this picture of what I imagine skiing to be, even though I know it’s not fully all that to me. That’s ok though, I think, because skiing is so rarely just about the act, the little “s” and it’s near impossible to separate that act from the broader culture. So even when I’m a little burnt out on making turns on snow, I’m still in love with the world in which that is possible, in which skiing is the norm.
I think it’s ok if you don’t really love skiing that much, but think of yourself as a skier. I think it’s just fine to be a not-very-good skier who is obsessed with skiing. And I’m happy for anyone who is so in love with the act, the sensation of skiing that they can center their life around it. Skiing is fun, let’s go slide around a little.