Written December 15, 2013
The Olympics are a big deal. The ski industry is a big deal. Freeskiing, in the form of ladies and guys on skis tossing themselves down a course filled with jumps and rails or out of a halfpipe made of snow, is suddenly a big deal. It’s relevant to everyone, from your local TV sportscaster to some person sitting in a Madison Avenue office trying to sell conveniently packaged breakfasts. Because of that interest, the volume (both in sound and quantity) of arguments (both for and against) has grown exponentially as freeskiing accelerates towards Sochi.
Some skiers on the edge of making the Olympics are hedging their bets, sending me long explanations as to why they don’t even want the Olympics. Skiers who’ve never stepped away from the contest arena are telling anyone who will listen that, come February 24, when the Games are done, they’re going to go out and soul shred. The guys who put their time into filming street or backcountry for videos are up in arms about the industry’s resource allocation. And some, especially those convinced of their competitive skill, are explaining in PR speak why the Olympics are great. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.”
Maybe that’s an over statement, but we’re all exhausted by the arguments, right? So I’m here to propose another path. No, it’s not going to be the overused cliché of “Go skiing.” (Irony is defined as me disavowing that statement.) My answer is to focus on the one thing aside from the act of skiing that actually matters. The skiers who define skiing.
To that end, we’ve focused on the personalities you’ll meet during these Games. We asked the skiers featured in our Epics gallery, why they love to ski. We let Torin Yater-Wallace and David Wise, the two top American halfpipe skiers, speak for themselves and show what separates them and what makes them so similar. Conveniently, you voted Henrik “the Dollo” Harlaut and Maude Raymond as Skiers of the Year, and they are worthy subjects, who balance slopestyle competition with true and unique style. And will the girls fare well in this massive, Olympic slopestyle course? We discuss. We also break down some of the other athletes who will fight for podium spots in Sochi.
Freeskier is a magazine about skiing. That is true, but it is also, more specifically, a magazine about and for skiers—weekenders, college ski clubbers, bums and pros. That diversity will not change when these first freeskiing Olympics have come and gone. If our sport had not been included at all we would still have these cliques and debates about what it means to be a skier.
For better or worse, the Olympics are here and the back and forth will continue. Hopefully we can step aside for a moment and focus on the people, the skiers, who matter to us. And when the events are finally upon us, we can revel in them. We can skip a powder day if it falls on the same day as the Olympic final. We can cheer and root. We can share in the winners’ joy. We can feel sorry for the others who worked so hard and did not succeed. Through it all, we can be unrepentant that we are fans not just of skiing, but of skiers.
Olympic Issue Download: This letter was originally presented in Freeskier‘s special edition, 2014 Olympic issue, available now on iTunes. Slight changes have been made to the text. Photo of Tom Wallisch shot by Bryn Hughes, in Pemberton, BC.