Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Skiing and Nudity

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The period between now and the first turns of the season is the hardest time of the year to be a skier. It starts to get too cold to do things outside, but not cold enough to get enough snow in the mountains. It’s dark outside when you get up, and (after November 7th), dark when you drive home. There are only so many ski movies you can watch, magazines you can read, and gear sites you can browse before your brain devolves into a gray sludge that won’t become normal again until you feel cold wind in your face and fresh snow beneath your feet. Adding frustration to the general malaise, my mountain bike has been in the shop for the past three weeks. What part on a mountain bike could possibly take three weeks to fix, you ask? Exactly my point. So I’ve been resigned to riding my road bike, scanning internet sites, and dreaming about winter.

One site that caught my attention was Like the Famous Internet Skiers, these guys are addicted to snow, and their site is a collection of trip reports, information, and video that is virtually guaranteed to pump you up. In addition to the weather reports, resort news and gear reviews, the site boasts its own freeride team. Sick!

Because the site is “Unofficial”, they don’t always hem closely to the resort’s party line (although they do like to party, and they definitely rip rowdy lines). You may have heard of their recent incident involving the game of G.N.A.R.. If not, here’s some detail:

McConkey and Gaffney created G.N.A.R. — short for “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness” — as a point-based system for determining who was the “raddest” skier at Squaw within a given time frame, be it a week or an entire season. G.N.A.R. points are awarded based on the discomfort a situation presents and your attitude towards conquering it. Following that formula, stomping a big cliff air might get you 500 points — but skiing that same line naked after shouting at the top of your lungs that you were “about to rip the s--t out of it!” would earn you over double the points. G.N.A.R. points are also won or lost for random acts as defined in the rulebook: Losing your goggles in a crash costs you 1,000 points, while skiing into the High Camp hot tub fully clothed earns you 10,000…

The Unofficial Game of G.N.A.R. commenced on Tuesday March 9, at about 4:30 a.m., or at least that’s when the first contestant arrived at the KT-22 lift line to claim his 5,000 points for first chair. What transpired once the lifts spun is unlike anything the Valley had seen in many, many years.

Not only did every skiable line get ripped, but the zany competition pushed the athletes to up the ante and toss tricks or look for other means of scoring extra-credit points. One skier tossed an inverted Lincoln Loop off the Fingers to earn a 1,000-point trick bonus. Dozens of skiers dropped technical “BN” lines — BN being short for Butt Naked — and earned even more.

The freak freeskiing fun showed no signs of stopping until about 2:30 p.m. when a BN run went sour. Squaw Valley General Manager Mike Livak personally caught one of the contestants skiing naked after a Palisades lap. Livak was not amused. He pulled the skier's pass (5,000 point penalty) and asked to speak with Unofficial. Despite attempts, Unofficial was unable to contact Squaw management that Tuesday evening.
The G.N.A.R. negotiations began unexpectedly the next morning when Squaw Mountain Manager Jimmy King met up with the crew as they waited in line for KT-22 to open. He immediately told them the game was over until further notice, pulled their passes, and asked to hold a meeting with everyone involved that morning.

I think the real story here (besides the fact that Rob Gaffney and his brother Scott grew up skiing at Big Tupper), is the increased corporatization of Ski Areas and the resulting blandness of the skiing experience. The naked ski days at Crested Butte are gone and panty trees all over the country are sporting old, faded bras that haven’t been in style since the 80’s. And speaking of the 80’s, where are all the hijinks that seemed to occur so regularly in my cheesy movie collection? I haven’t seen a crazy prank or on-slope ski-off in years (it’s possible that the dearth of over-the-top antics means that there’s a shortage of smarmy Austrian antagonists, which may be related to the recession). Resorts are being groomed, corporatized, and childproofed to death. And now, it looks like you have to travel to Europe to see a decent bikini race.

Really, I just want to see ski areas retain their individual identities. Not every area has to be Stratton. The Starbucks/Helly Hanson/Faux European Clock Tower-filled base village doesn’t have to be at the bottom of every mountain. Some resorts should be developed with the family market in mind, but others should retain the wild atmosphere that dominated the earlier days of skiing, the 70’s freestyle era, and the early 90’s “extreme” movement. So, a few guys and girls are skiing naked for a G.N.A.R. competition . . . Big Deal. And a few people want to get naked at the end of a long ski year . . . Who cares? At the heart of it, I guess I just want to see more nudity. Perhaps my brain has already turned into gray sludge.


  1. The most recent movie to take place at a fun ski resort needed a time machine to take them there.

  2. Ha. Excellent point. I was actually going to include something on "Hot Tub Time Machine", but couldn't find a clever way to say what you just said. Well done.