Welcome to The Wicket, FREESKIER’s new bimonthly 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.
Introducing FREESKIER’s new column, your home for ski culture, news and general buffoonery.
Many moons ago, when ski lifts were powered by post World War 2 hippie hopes; ski resorts had a lift ticket problem. To combat multiple skiers using a single lift ticket, passes were stapled or glued directly onto jackets. But no one was excited to ruin their coats in order to wiggle. In the early 1960s, at Killington Ski Resort, Martin “Charlie” Hanley solved this issue by inventing what his wife Jane called, “the ticket wicket.” It was a thin wire that was threaded through a jacket zipper tab upon which an adhesive-backed lift ticket was folded. Like most things related to skiing, it was an awesome move and completely ridiculous.
Essentially, the wicket was just a beefy U-shaped paperclip. But it was a huge solve for lost revenue for the resort. Killington also sold the wicket to other ski hills, 62 resorts in the first year, 100 in the second, and then sales boomed nationally and internationally. Even with zip ties and super fancy electronic tickets today, wickets are still used around the world. The wicket is a superbly funny, funky, nostalgic part of ski culture that forces a smile. I get overly excited to use one and typically spout, “Ooooh, sweet. Old school!” when a ticket office employee slides me one. But the wicket truly represents something that I love about our ski community: creativity, inventiveness, a healthy dash of weird and a “sure, that’ll probably work” attitude.
Does the invention of the wicket have a huge impact on our day-to-day turnin’? Maybe not, but maybe it does. I think the wicket falls into the same bucket of lovable and strange ski thangs that we have a sentimental devotion to, things that pushed the industry and the culture, and delivered all us skiers to today with or without our knowledge. Things like the neon onesie, the gaper gap, rear entry boots, straight skis longer than skiers are tall, the ski bum mustache, the tall T, the feathered mullet, the afterbang, the McConkey turn, the double dipsy and the dipsy doodle, Dolores LaChapelle, Stein Eriksen, ketchup soup and free oyster crackers, the “tow gripper” and “nutcracker,” James Curran, the moonboot, 50-cent après chicken wings, ski boot dancing, the loosely braided side-pony, the goggle tan, the eye-catching skier rump, ski pole tricks, and so on and so on, forever and ever and ever. And I think we need to make more of a conscious effort to celebrate everything about skiing, from the weird to the saccharine to the philosophical; hence this new column, The Wicket.
Recently, I texted my friend Scott, “What does skiing mean to you?” He responded with, “You expect me to text you this answer? Being a skier has essentially defined my life for the last twelve years.” As the kids would say, I LOLz’d v hard af to this. He was and is right. There is no easy way to answer that question, no quipy retort to sum up two boards upon cold powder snow.
Scott and I moved to Telluride after college. I’d skied only three days my entire life and Scott had maybe two weeks under his belt. I made snow. Scott drove a groomer. We were the greenest of greenhorns. But we had fallen in love with the town, skiing the technical steeps and deeps of the San Juans—ski runs that were far more advanced than our skills—and we were enamored by the energetic vibe that surrounded it all. Once we were exposed to our first taste of real skiing and the community that celebrated it, we wanted to be a part of that club for the rest of our lives.
Today, Scott is the Director of Mountain Operations for TelSki. Not too shabby for a Hoosier who moved to Colorado in 2007 with a cavernous void of words like gnar, rad, and sick pow in his vernacular. He and his college sweetheart, his wife and my dear friend Meghan, are raising their daughters in Telluride with mountain passions as important to their upbringing as the ABC’s. They live next to RD and Zoe, who we also went to college with. They too are raising their son with two planked lessons in mind. And as for me, my life and career have been directed by my pursuit of untracked snow. It’s not a thing I do, skiing is who I am. It’s who we are, all of us.
I was asked once what my perfect day looks like. Without skipping a beat, I said this: wake up early at Scott and Meghan’s in Telluride, have coffee, breakfast, conversation and kiddo time with them and RD and Zoe, ski deep untouched blower pow all day with all of them, après giggle time, and dancing after dinner. And lucky for me, I get to act that day out multiple times every winter. Because skiing, and what it’s capable of doing for us, is vital.
Skiing is important because of what it does to our hearts and our funny bones. If the soundtrack to a happy life is laughter, then I’d have to say that the volume dial looks like a pair of powder skis. A small piece of wire with a sticker-ized lift ticket stuck to it was not on my mind when I moved to Telluride. The wicket didn’t teach me to ski or to love skiing. It didn’t write my first ski article or help me figure out how I could create a career path that was just a camouflaged ski bum life. But it was in there somewhere.
And with that, pals, I’d like to welcome you to The Wicket, FREESKIER’s new column. Here we will get weird, get serious without taking ourselves seriously, report on timely news, rant, lovingly poke fun of ourselves, get nostalgic, dig into our culture and celebrate all things skiing. Because, just in case you forgot or were wavering on the fact, skiing is the best g’damn thing going.
Happy winter, er’body. Let’s get wiggly.