Mickey Spades and I skinning to the summit of Big Blue

I find poaching ski runs extremely satisfying, and the more I do it the more the cliché, ‘the forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest’ rings true in my head.  The further this winter progresses the more I find myself enjoying the earn-your-turns approach to skiing.  That is, choosing to forgo the lifts in favor of letting my legs propel me both up and down the mountain.

Mickey and I taking a break

Earning your turns is not only more fun than resort skiing, but is also superior to traditional skiing from an exercise and effort point of view.  The act of hiking the mountain is a tremendous cardiovascular workout and leaves you with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of the day.  Additionally, it feels like you are tackling the mountain under fair terms without the assistance of a machine.

Luke skinning 

I personally believe that the act of hiking and skiing is the most pure and natural way to ski a mountain, allowing a person to fully grasp the entire experience of skiing, not just the sensation of careening down the mountain.  Patagonia’s (the company) statement always rings true to me as I am pursuing some self-
serve skiing: “These are all silent sports. None requires a motor; none delivers the cheers of a crowd. In each sport, reward comes in the form of hard-won grace and moments of connection between us and nature.”  It is a simple and poignant statement that best summarizes the way I feel about my outdoor pursuits.   

Mickey Spades on a secret run

This point becomes more clear as I co-mingle with different groups; my friends who back country ski seem to take their time working themselves down the mountain, savoring every turn along the way.  They realize the effort that went into their run and the effort that awaits them if they chose to do another run. In contrast, my resort skiing friends rush from the top of the mountain to the base as quickly as possible in order to get back on the lift and be jettisoned to the top for another high speed run.  It seems to me that these friends who are in a rush to gain runs are missing a large part of the skiing experience.  They merely hustle from the top of the mountain to the bottom, then are hurried back to the top by a high speed quad.  This, to me, does not seem to be the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Me de-skinning

I feel sorry that most skiers never experience the joy I find in the backcountry.  The majority of skiers never leave the comforts of the resorts and miss the satisfaction gained from a hard days effort.  As I look at the skyrocketing prices of ski tickets, I come to the realization that skiing is becoming a rich man’s sport.  But upon further reflection, it is only resort skiing that is a rich mans sport; backcountry/slackcountry skiing is the sport of everyone.  Admittedly, there is a fairly large initial investment, but after that  infinite backcountry runs can be had for the price of some cookies and hot chocolate (or whatever it is that you choose to fuel your adventure).

I am slightly jealous of Luke’s Icelantic skis

I find something very punk rock about sneaking onto a ski hill and getting a run for free that the masses paid fifty dollars or more for.  I also find it extremely satisfying to gain the top of a mountain and emerge from the woods at the top of ski hill knowing that I paid for my run with hard work and fitness, rather than a credit card.  I realize that this type of skiing is not for everyone and that is the best part.  In this day, few people want to earn anything, especially if it requires some hard work and sweat, making this a great opportunity to separate yourself from the masses and gain an entirely new experience.

Empty trails at the Blue Hills

Mickey Spades, Luke, and myself poached some runs at the Blue Hills on Wednesday and enjoyed a day of skiing in solitude.  While the snow fell from the sky we had the hill to ourselves, as it does not officially open until  2:00pm.  We took a run on the backside (secret) then skinned back up to the groomers and took lonely runs until two o’clock.  This adventure awaits anyone who is willing to put in the work for some good skiing and is sly enough to avoid the hill’s staff.  On a final note, the day’s runs were not hard and far from epic, but it was one of my favorite ski days of the year as the runs were in good condition and I only had to share them with my friends.

Mickey Spades on a flat