Hitting the Slopes

I consider us having been very lucky this past winter.  Thanks to the consistent snow we received, I have been able to avoid the lifts for the majority of the ski season.  While I understand the necessity of the lifts and often enjoy the convenient access to skiing they provide, I find myself drifting away from them and gravitating toward my skins and my legs, choosing to power myself up the mountain as opposed to being brought up the mountain by a machine.  I simply find earning my turns a more rewarding experience.

As we edge closer to Spring, the trails on the backside of Wachusett hold less and less snow and become muddier by the day.  Last Friday after a slog to the top, where I encountered more mud than snow, I grabbed my skins and headed to the slopes.  I figured that if there was enough snow for skiing, then there should be enough snow for skinning.  The enjoyable part of this is that the ski area has slowed down, leaving it with a much mellower vibe and significantly less traffic on the slopes.

Skinning up the ski trails has provided a unique look into the ski culture for me, and I am fascinated by how I am treated by the other skiers I am sharing the trails with.  Many skiers treat me with indifference, hardly noticing me as they zip by lost in their own thoughts or skiing.  I like this group, as they are out enjoying themselves and seek neither to be bothered nor bother others.  They are merely going about their business down the mountain as I go about mine up the mountain.

Unlike the group that treats me with indifference, there is a large portion of people that feel compelled to “interact” with me as I quietly trudge toward the top of a run.  The most popular interaction is shouting something at me.  The most popular thing to yell is “you are going the wrong way,” which I did not find clever even the first time I heard it.  To me, these people are missing a large part of the beauty of skiing as they rush down the mountain, merely to stand in line then sit on the chairlift as they are brought back up the mountain.  I would much rather be in constant motion and in control of where I go, at what pace I go, and when I go.

The only group that is worse than the “Yellers” is the group that thinks that they are, or more often thought they were, Bode Miller.  This group seeks to get my attention by buzzing by me, often within inches, at Mach 1.  I am unsure of this group’s motivation, but I speculate it is their effort to let me know that they are bad ass skiers.  If you are one of these people I am not impressed that you can fly by me at one hundred miles per hour on the blue trail at Mount Wachusett. It is not impressive.  Furthermore, I wonder if they would be in such a hurry to get to the bottom if they had hiked to the top, rather than ridden the lift.

The last group, the group that I regularly encounter, is the group that is generally interested in what I am doing.  They stop and ask simple questions such as what type of skis am I using, how long does it take me to go from bottom to top, or how I get the skis to go uphill.  Often times, this group will have some experience backcountry skiing and ask me if I am training for a trip or share with me an experience they had skiing in the backcountry.  It is this group that makes dealing with the “Yellers” and the “Bodes” possible for me, as they interact with me like they would with any other person.

Skiing is a diverse sport with many sub cultures.  As I slowly plod toward the top of the run, I am not just a skier but an observer of the many cultures represented at the mountain.  I have enjoyed this late season snippet of ski life and have met and talked to some interesting people over the last few weeks.  I am, however, looking forward to getting off the slopes, and into the solitude of ‘The “Stash,’ but I will probably have to wait until next year.