Featured Photo: Colton Jacobs | Skier: Cody Cirillo | Location: Revelstoke, BC
Consider the sport of skiing.
For most of us it’s more than that.
For most of us skiing is not competitive. It is happily devoid of organizers, scores, teams, and the entire judgmental concept of winners and losers. For most of us, skiing is a seasonal excuse to be outside in high places. Skiing for us is a passion, an addiction, a spiritual connection to Nature, a religion, or, at the very least, an enjoyable activity that defines us.
But in our ardor for the sensual pleasures skiing affords, we often forget what skiing means to those who don’t ski. Or those of us who do but don’t take much of anything too seriously.
Unlike, say, a few grouchy schussboomers you know?
Fundamentally, skiing is the act of going up so you can come back down. Skiing’s very essence is simple-minded, repetitive and unproductive. Not all that different from the task Zeus gave to Sisyphus for cheating death – twice! Certainly, there are easier and far less costly ways of getting yourself high.
Clinically speaking, our obsessive behavior characterized by highs and lows is what those in the medical professions call Bipolar Disorder. Euphoria leading to Depression. Certainly the polar part applies and if depression is defined as “going downhill fast” then that would seem to be accurate, too. There is also another more psychological description you would be hard-pressed to deny.
Skiing as Masochistic Behavior.
Consider all the hardships kin to skiing which normal people cheerfully seek to avoid:
Danger. People die skiing. In avalanches. Tree wells. Exposure. Unexploded snow control charges. Collisions with other skiers, snowboarders, snowplows, bears….falls from cliffs…non-fatal injuries…frostbite…bear bite…massive intake of alcoholic beverages…rocks…STD’s…falling from lifts…being chased by bears…
Discomfort. It’s cold. Oxygen deprivation due to altitude. Waiting in lines for food, fun and bathrooms. Absurdly stiff, heavy boots. Noxious gaseous discharges in tram cars and gondolas. Carrying gear from the car park to where you can actually ski. Storms. The lack of storms. Being eaten by bears.
Cost. Travel. Lodging. Gear. Lessons. Food. Tickets. Medical expenses. Magazine subscriptions. Bear repellent. Then there are all the overlooked but important mental and emotional ski-related situations leading to stress such as:
This line is hardly moving. We’ll be here for hours!
What do you mean you lost our reservation?
How can you be out of decent rental skis?
This burger costs how much?
Bartender? Hello? Can I get some service here?
Am I invisible? What do I have to do to get a…
You there… Hello?
This stick of lip balm costs how much?
What do you mean our daughter left her ski class with a snowboarder hours ago. Where the hell is she?
What do you mean half the mountain is closed because of wind…ice…global warming…protesters…not enough snow…too much snow…the wrong kind of snow…some kinda multi-day competition…
What do you mean the road’s closed because of wind…ice…visibility…construction…a sink hole…avalanche debris…wait, are those bears?
To the non-skier, these objections would provide ample arguments for saving money and avoiding all the aggravations skiing seems heir to.
For the rest of us—keen to slide down mountains alone or with friends as often as humanly possible— we don’t ski in spite of anything. We ski regardless. Anything that makes more skiing possible is our friend. Good or bad, it’s part of the package. Part of the whole experience. It’s in the pact we make with ourselves and the elements to overlook, accept and endure in return for those moments, weeks and years we push off at the top, gather speed and joyfully create our own ways down.
If that’s Bipolar Disorder, then I’m all for it.
I mean, why not embrace an acute, unrepentant, harmless, snow-fueled madness?
Perhaps you are afflicted, too.
Medically speaking, if there is a cure for skiing, I know I have never heard of it.
With luck, I never will.
Or as Alice of Wonderland fame told the Hatter when he asked, “Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are!”