Thursday, December 15, 2011

When Did Skiing Become Lame?

What happened? Skiing used to be cool. Athletic. Outdoorsy. Fun. I just bought the 40th anniversary edition of Powder and I almost cried. Not because everything was so much better back in the 70’s (although the moustaches and mogul runs were sick):

NDG11, Hot Dog with Dick Barrymore from Nuit De La Glisse on Vimeo.

I just miss the skiing that I grew up with. The nostalgia brought out some feelings that I didn’t even know I had. All of the newer pictures in the magazine show an activity, all of the older pictures show an experience. Somehow, right around the time that Greg Stump stopped making ski movies, skiing got lame. I used to see people chugging beer on the way up the Triple chairlift at Gore. I used to ski the ridiculously ungroomed and unmaintained trails of Big Tupper Ski Area (alongside Scott Gaffney, according to one article in the mag). I used to look up to the people pounding bumps at the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge (now discontinued?).

Then, sometime between Shane McConkey’s death and now, skiing got really, really, really boring. Look around the lodge now. Where are the partiers? Where are the chicks in stretch pants? Where are the zany antics? Where are the mustaches? All I see now are Transpacks and Ski Totes, corporate ownership of big mountains, contractors doing food service, and lame people doing lame things on lame mountains with lame rules. Did you know that there’s a state law in Vermont that says you can’t drink your own beer on a deck outside of a ski area bar (or the bar loses its license)? WTF? The state where Fred Pabst founded multiple mountains (including Bromley) can’t tolerate a cooler full of PBR on a warm spring day? If the people from 80’s ski movies were subject to these rules, the movies would have been 15 minutes long.

Every time someone comes along to challenge the corporate police state and actually have a little fun, they get shut down hard (see: G.N.A.R., The Movie). Listen, I understand the other side of the argument. Skiing is a family sport now. It’s more important for ski “resorts” to cater to the wealthy clients (who prefer a calm atmosphere of fine dining, posh hotels, and manicured runs). What’s wrong with that? Well, I’ll leave it to Telluride town councilman Rasta Stevie to explain:


Exactly. Telluride is all about funky culture. And when Stevie leaves, and all his brethren leave, there will just be a bunch of rich dweebs saying "Where has everybody gone? I thought this place was funky!" Well, crazy white Rasta guy, I’m looking around my mountain, and I’m not seeing a lot of funky culture either. And don’t tell me that snowboarders are the new heirs to the crazy party throne (which is actually what I call my toilet). A lot of those guys are just as lame as the tight ass skiers.

So what’s the solution? I guess I’ll turn to Gandhi’s advice and “Be the Change” I want to see. I have to switch up my usual mountain experience, and try some new things. Torchlight parade? Yes. Full Moon Backcountry ski session? Yes. Unconventional terrain competition? Overnight Winter camping and ski adventure? Pond Skimming? Yes. Yes. Yes. In the intro to the aforementioned magazine (which I read on the crazy party throne), Neil Stebbins has a lot of tips to help improve your skiing life. Here’s one:
Ask yourself: Do you ski the same places the same way every season? Do you and your friends all look the same? Listen to the same music? Look up to the same people? Look down on the same people? I know, you think that’s why your friends are your friends, but trying new things can be rewarding. Difficult, embarrassing, but nearly always worthwhile. Surprise yourself. And your friends.
I’ve been doing the same things in the same way at the same mountain for too long. It’s time to start making skiing fun again. Who’s with me?


  1. I'm with you, Matt. Besides getting rockered skis, which will be huge fun, if it ever snows, I've been diligently watching my new 4-DVD set of all the Stump classics, which will keep me grounded in the old school. Just for fun, I'm going to work on the Scot Schmidt "tuck the legs up" thing for the limited air time I manage in my old age. And I think you will find that there are still a few areas that are a little less tight-assed than you are used to.

  2. Bravo Matt. I say bring on the shenanigans. Skiing should be fun and full of adventure.

  3. Not sure I really agree here. Retro fun is very much on in ski world. Meatheads have been doing it for years but they are just one media display of a cultural shift, other small ski movie companies are pushing it to. The younger generation has the retro absurd ironic-because-it's-post-ironic thing down pat and its been brought to ski culture... embraced by many of all ages and of course capitalized on by those that want to make a buck by selling to the counter culture, both internally and externally.

    The great thing about skiing is there are so many different ways to enjoy it. Way more than ever before. Don't like the rules imposed by one ski area? Ski another or don't ski them at all and make your own rules. It's a great time to be a skier and seeking out something fun and exciting.

    For me, I've never been bored with skiing. I keep looking for the new and novel that I find interesting. It is what made me drop my season pass at Jay Peak to play the field and try new areas and find new adventures.