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[Op-Ed] Don’t tell me how to ski.

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[Op-Ed] Don’t tell me how to ski.

WORDS — Bobby Moyer

When I close my eyes at night, I can visualize the feeling. The undulating surface passing under my feet. The bite and pinch of plastic holding me in place and the pulsing flow of lactic acid building in my thighs. The combination of allowing gravity to do its work while trying to equally fight against it. My knuckle brushes across the surface and, at times, even a hip. Retracting my legs, I begin again. Wind ripples across my cheeks, but I hardly notice. I’m only awaiting the next moment. Something indescribable is taking place. It’s a sensual feeling akin to sex or the rush of a drug I probably shouldn’t be doing. It pulls me deeper and enlivens my spirit. 

Skiing, that’s the feeling. It lives in my mind and will never leave me. Even if I’m not doing it, I know it’s there. I don’t remember learning how to ski, just like I don’t remember learning how to walk. It’s just always been something I’ve done. I consider myself lucky. 

The thing that attracted me to skiing in the first place is probably vastly different than what I think it is. My parents probably have stories of why I wanted to do it, but in my mind, it’s always been speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed. Last time I checked, there weren’t speed limits on ski mountains unless you ski at Vail… and who would want to do that anyway? 

However, not everyone feels as I do, and last year an article titled “Slow Down, Aspen!” appeared on the FREESKIER website that discounted nearly everything that makes skiing, skiing in my mind. 

Let me ask you a question. 

Why do you ski? 

The easiest and perhaps most common answer to this is because it’s fun, because it’s freeing. After all, what else do you do that allows you the freedom of expression, the freedom of feeling that comes with strapping wooden sticks to your feet and flying down a mountain.

There is something inherently liberating about the sport. Yet, this aspect has slowly and all too drastically begun to fade away. The rock-n-roll attitude of Glen Plake, the straight-lining, go bigger, go faster mentality of Shane McConkey, the out-of-control nature and shocking style of Bode Miller has dried up nearly as quickly as the snowpack. 

What happened? Has our sport really gone soft? I’m here to tell you, it has—but not in the way you might be thinking. 

It would be easy to get cynical and say skiing is dead or dying, that, like some things, it’s past its prime. Those thoughts fill my head when I think of the sport I love and which I spent nearly all of my life competing in. But allowing that mentality to dictate how I feel about the sport would be just as absurd as listening to the guy who tries to tell me to slow down. 

SKIER: Sam Blakeslee
PHOTO: Whitton Feer
LOCATION: Aspen, CO

Skiing, at least to me, is rock-n-roll. It’s the ending to Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing in the Name.” It’s a sport that breeds creativity. Every day the canvas is newly blank and nobody can tell you what to paint. Yet, there’s a newer narrative shift that says “no” to that, that says this is what’s cool, or right, and leaves behind years of history and tradition, that tries to shape that formulation, that thought inside my head. Nobody should be able to tell you how to ski, or why. It’s an activity, a sport that doesn’t ask questions but instead answers them in what it gives.

In ski towns worldwide, if you find a bar that the locals frequent, you will hear a constant stream of complaints echoed among the patrons: “It hasn’t snowed enough,” “there’s too many tourists,” “lift lines are so long.” Some guy in the corner will probably be yelling about shaped skis killing the sport. Arguments will evolve, beers will be thrown back, Instagrams will be posted and nothing will have changed. It’s the endless regressive cycle of ski towns everywhere and the absurdity of it all is as plain as day. 

Ski media sometimes flaunts these ideas, and practitioners of the sport fuel it. We entirely miss the point, and the conversations surrounding skiing become hyper-focused on irrelevant bullshit that does absolutely nothing but take away from the ethos of the sport. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t be afraid to say “fuck you” to anyone who tries to tell you how to do it. In the words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” 

What skiing needs, if it needs anything at all, is to learn not to take itself so goddamn seriously. Whether you’re a seasoned pro going out to film and shoot photos, or Joe Schmo from Texas trying to figure out how to get off the lift, remember that nobody gives a shit about what you’re doing and you shouldn’t either. You’re not as cool as you think you are, so go have some fun. 

The next time someone starts complaining or tries to spout some irrelevant garbage about how or why you should be doing it, forget about them and just go skiing. Let the wise words of my friend, the late Sam Coffey, remind you, “If you’re having a bad day, it’s probably because you aren’t skiing.” 

Strafe Outerwear endorses this message.
Have fun, ski fast.

This story originally appeared in FREESKIER Volume 24.
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