Welcome to The Wicket, FREESKIER’s new bi-monthly column and your home for ski culture, news and general buffoonery. Written by professional amateur ski bum and FREESKIER contributor, PaddyO, The Wicket is a celebration of all things skiing. Click in, drop in and get ready to get weird.
Header image: Bruno Long
Powder skiing is best enjoyed with pals
Let’s play a game, pals. Think about the moments and experiences in your life that make you smile the most. Put yourself in those places, in those times. What does it look, feel and smell like? Most importantly, how does it make your heart feel? If you’re like me, these are memories we return to so often because of their vibrating emotional appeal. They’re joyous. And in every one of these memories, every single moment of jubilation we return to, we are never alone. And that’s because friends amplify our experiences.
“No Friends On A Powder Day” is a slogan we too often hear barked by our community. And I’ve never understood it. The concept of transforming my favorite thing in this world, powder skiing, into a solitary endeavor, much less trying to fully enjoy it while alone, is completely lost on me. Some of the greatest days of my life have been spent on skis, and those days are always filled with close pals. And I bet the same is true for you.
Skiers who say and actually follow through with the “No Friends On A Powder Day” slogan are belligerent narcissistic dickalopes. There, I said it. They’re the type of people that screenwriters base antagonists on. Remember Johnny from Karate Kid? Yeah, he skis by himself. Jafar from Aladdin? That dude cuts powder day lift lines to ride the chair solo.
The need for community and its positive impact on our lives isn’t an off-the-wall concept. Since the dawn of psychology, we’ve known that humans are social animals. Meaningful, long-term friendships are a basic need of ours. Love and belonging, which is essentially friendship, intimacy, family and sense of connection, is smack dab in the center of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Being a selfish, loner prick is at the center of the Dickalope’s Hierarchy of Self. In fact, it’s the only thing a dickalope wants: “me stuff.”
Think about when you were in preschool. Did your parents ever ask, “Did you make sure to play by yourself today?” Hell no. They asked about who you played with, how many new friends you made, if you shared your toys. Do you know what would have happened if you had come home with stories of purposefully shunning friendship and playing with Fischer Price’s Baby’s First Middle Finger To The World? Your folks would have freaked the eff out with worry that they were raising a complete antisocial butthole.
Let’s get something straight. I love skiing mustache-deep snow. I’ll play hooky from work for it. I’ll rearrange plans and shift travel for it. I am a firm believer that powder skiing is better than sex. The slow-motion symphonic happiness eruption that only occurs when schmearing turns and floating through deep white fluff energizes me in a way that is indescribable. But I will not ditch pals for it. Plus, so much of my powder day joy comes from watching my friends descend into the depths and experience that feeling for themselves. Powder skiing, like life, is a team sport.
The greatest powder skiing experience of my life was a January trip to Japan in 2016. It snowed at least two feet every single day I was on the island of Hokkaido. And I was there for two weeks. The skiing was so deep, the snow at such an unknown, new depth to me that I had to learn a new way to ski. To that point, I had never truly experienced bottomless powder. At six-foot-five-inches tall, that’s a near impossibility for me. But I found it in Japan. Every single run, every turn, was the deepest of my life. That is to say, until the next run. I have never known the powder skiing joy I felt during that trip, before or since.
I shared those moments with some of my favorite people, friends I cherish. We closed out runs with high-fives and hugs, whoops and hollers so loud they surely shook the roof of the heavens. And each day would end with giggling storytelling recounting our own turns and the deep arcs we gawked at as audience members. These are my favorite ski memories to return to, and I return to them so often that they’ve become folkloric in my mind. They’re dreamlike and wonderful.
These memories are not without a twinge of heartache though. I’ve always felt a sadness that my ski partner and best friend ScottyP wasn’t there. Our love affair for skiing and its direction of our life has been intertwined since our early twenties. Scotty and I have countless days skiing together, most of those days and the very best of them have been spent hunting for deep snow whirls and thrills. In my mind, skiing and Scotty are synonymous. And until he and I careen into Japanese powder snow together, something will be missing. I have to return to Japan, but I have to return with my friend to truly experience the joy of deep snow.
Let’s change that nauseating slogan to No Friends, No Powder, because what’s the most buoyant ship, pals? FRIENDSHIP! So call your crew and get to plunderin’ together.