I stumbled across this old column somewhere in the depths of the internet. Basically, it says that you can tell a lot about a person just by watching their skiing:
“I’ve come to the conclusion,” she said, “that people ski the way they live their lives.”
“Look at the people around you. Take Amy, for example,” Pat said, mentioning a friend who’s a student and part-time ski model. “She skis beautifully: smooth, in control, with purpose. That’s exactly the way her life is. Her sister, Val, on the other hand, skis just a little out of control, just a little wild…the same way she lives her life.”
I started thinking about this, and I’m pretty sure there’s an element of truth to it. People I know who live their lives conservatively have a very conservative ski style - Slow, methodical turns; focused on making each turn perfect, completely content with getting to the bottom and seeing a Farmer Dave –type track that affirms their consistency. People who live a little more towards the edge ski more aggressively, taking a few risks, trying a new line, or catching a little air. But I feel like the concept breaks down when it comes to me.
My skiing style stems from the final scene in Aspen Extreme.
Breaking the standard orthodoxy of the “Powder 8” competition, TJ Burke and his young partner go off course, off the judge’s monitors, and out of bounds for some sweet, sweet cliff jumping action. I loved that scene when I was a younger, so I immediately tried to copy their moves. I didn’t really care about falling because TJ didn’t land everything perfectly, and the hip checks and butt drags that he did have probably helped him control his speed on the steeper terrain (RIP Doug Coombs - best ski stunt double ever). I had some spectacular crashes, some brutal injuries, and some embarrassing moments, but then I started having some success. I felt really good when I began to nail some of the tricks in the movie – the 720 and Iron Cross 360 were definite highlights. And I always took the mindset of exploration, rather than orthodoxy, in line selection. To this day, every time I go skiing, I continue to try to explore new areas and take new risks. Three years ago, I added the 360 to the top of the Rumor headwall not because I had a death wish, but because I wanted to TJ Burke the trail – ski it in a way that nobody had ever done before.
Which is what makes my career path so different. On skis, I look at a line, question whether something can be done, and say “I’ll give it a try”. In life, I look at my position, determine where I want to go and say “Ehhh, I’ll get there eventually.” I think for me, it’s a question of consequence. The worst thing that could happen on a failed Rumor Headwall 360 is a fall and an injury. The worst thing that could happen with a failed career decision is poverty, desperation and despair. So I choose a life of security – secure job, secure income, secure house – instead. I’ve written about this before, and these types of thoughts always seem to creep into my mind at the start of ski season. So the question becomes, should I make my skiing decisions as conservative as my life decisions? Or should I take a few more risks with my life decisions, as I do with skiing?
For TJ Burke, the answer was easy. A promotion at the Auto Plant wasn’t a great way to get some security (even in a highly paid union job), it was bad news. It meant that he’d continue to live in Detroit, slave away in a factory, and ski at Mount Brighton for the foreseeable future. That alone was enough to spur him to make a drastic change in his life. And so, every year I watch the movie. And every year, when TJ asks the question “Wanna get out of here?” I get closer and closer to saying “Yes.”