What makes your skiing yours? What makes a turn, or an air, or a lap feel like it belongs to you? I don’t just mean style. Style is part of it, sure, but so much of style is expressed in how we do things, not just why. What I’m talking about is more granular than style, more easily quantified. What are the actions you take, when you’re skiing, that make it feel like you’re skiing for yourself?
I know, I know, for most users of this website, we’re technically only skiing for ourselves. We’re not chasing race results for a team, or trying new tricks for a sponsor. We’re doing this thing because we love it, because it makes us feel more like, well, us. But, when I think about my skiing, about the choice I make every time I’ve got my boots on, there are certain things that stand out to me as slightly irrational, or at least arbitrary choices that I try to make when I’m skiing.
Here’s an example: when I was just getting into touring, I tried to throw at least one cossack on every big objective I skied. No matter how tired I was, no matter how hard the skiing was, how challenging the peak, how heavy my pack, I wanted to throw a cossack every time I walked up a mountain and skied back down. Cossacks were my one trick that I had dialed, and they felt so, so good. Full extension, holding the legs apart, thrusting the poles, doing it for myself because man, it just felt cool. It didn't look cool. But that's not the point.
There was no point to those cossacks, nobody ever captured them on film. They didn’t make those days easier or safer, they didn’t make me famous or get me sponsored, but when I look back at that period in my life when I was learning so much, when my skiing was changing and growing so much, those cossacks were my touchpoint, the thing I did every time to remind myself that I was still skiing like Cy Whitling.
There was another season where it was tail grabs. A tweaked shifty that brushed my mitten with my tail started it. From there on, I just wanted to grab tails, no matter what. Didn’t matter who was watching, what I was jumping off, I wanted to grab tail.
Recently I thought maybe my skiing had matured out of that, that maybe I just had style now, instead of a collection of mannerisms that I try to express anytime I’m on skis. And then I set out to skin and ski 10K vertical feet in one day, and ended up obsessing over trying to do at least three shifties during each of the 13 laps it took. And I realized that I was doing the same thing, trying to stamp my name on my skiing, even though it had evolved to be more efficient, more uphill oriented than ever before in my life. I still wanted it to be mine dammit, even though I felt like I was becoming a skimo scamper boi.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of this phenomenon in other people’s skiing. It’s hard to catch, so you’re always guessing. But I think the way my partner wiggles unnecessary turns, or porpoises in pillows might be something similar, something hers.
Or maybe I’m just an anomaly, over-analyzing my skiing. But at the end of the day, there are actions, motions that I make, every time, to remind myself that my skiing might be influenced by a lot of people, it might have grown from diverse sources, but parts of it are mine, done by me, for me.
What makes your skiing yours? What do you do, for you? Do you slash groomers and then ride through your cloud, reveling in the ice crystals on your tongue. Do you go out of your way to take poleless laps every once in a while, reliving your tall-T days? Is there something in how you finish your turns that’s a special flourish just for you?
The world is full of soulless tropes about how skiing is just self expression, man. But if that’s the case, what aspects of your skiing express your true self? What parts of your skiing make you feel like you own it?