It’s 2:30am; I’m sitting and staring at an internet browser filled with a mess of tabs filled with weather forecasts and sources for my research paper. The snow tomorrow is going to be deep and I’m going to be in deep trouble if I don’t finish this paper. My browser, my room, my wardrobe, they all resemble my life; a loosely defined mixture of skiing, work and school. Priorities are blurred, sleep is irregular and far too scarce, there is no future, there is now. This is the life of a college skier.

My Freshman year dorm room

This scenario replays itself constantly as we struggle towards a degree while attempting to hold on to what shreds of a normal college experience may remain. Book money buys ski passes, food money buys you gas to the mountain, and any spare time is spent catching up on missed lectures. This simultaneous pursuit of skiing and a college degree drive the mind, body, and wallet to extremes. Our bodies run ragged from sleepless nights and early mornings, while our bank accounts run into the red as student loans pile up. These sacrifices force friends, professors, and girlfriends to question our sanity. Yet sanity itself becomes a paradox: ski to be sane, be insane to ski. This is what they, the outsiders, fail to comprehend.

Worth it? I think so.

The drive and monotony of academia stirs the deep internal desire for freedom that only skiing can give. We chase the freedom by tight roping the balance between work and play, school and skiing, sanity and insanity. The routine surfaces an endless stream of questions that arise daily, forcing us to challenge our lifestyle and ask ourselves, is it really worth it? Is this the way I want my life to be? Is this the way I want to remember college? Is college even worth it? Deep seated, however, beyond these and the boundless other questions is what bonds us together on a fundamental level: the pursuit of the escape that removes the doubts, long nights and failed relationships that the lifestyle brings.

It can be two hours lapping the park after class or a dawn patrol in the backcountry that give us relief. The conditions become irrelevant as the mind frees itself from its academic vices. These are the moments that give us our sanity. Each day and each run bring peace, making the lost sleep, lost friends, malt liquor nights, ramen dinners and poptart breakfasts all worth it. The feeling that we get from skiing removes mind from body, the hangovers, the bruises and the exams disappear for those fleeting moments as we glide down the mountain.

We struggle, we hurt, and we sacrifice, but at the end of the day, it is a charmed life we live. Some may have to work harder for it than others, but few are given these same opportunities and gifts. Appreciation and reflection are often buried deep beneath the flurries of life, yet their importance must not be, because in four years it will be gone, and who knows if this lifestyle will go with it. Thus it is these small moments we must hold onto and cherish as we go forward, because on that once a year powder day when everything lines up just right, and your friends, the outsiders who call you crazy are sitting in class, who is it that is truly missing out?