Time is the Longest Distance Between Two Places
“Time is the longest distance between two places.” —Tennessee Williams
I spend a large portion of my ski season pursuing backcountry lines or uphilling at the resort. Reflecting on it I have come to realize that for the majority of the time I am out skiing, only a small fraction of that time is actually spent skiing. Rather, the vast amount of the time I spend “skiing” is consumed by skinning or hiking uphill. While I love skiing, I think that there is something about earning your turns that makes them even more satisfying…otherwise, I would probably just be chasing the maximum amount of runs by riding the lifts.
Strangely, as the season wears on and I begin to develop routines and have visited favorite locations multiple times, my mindset while moving uphill changes. What feels easy or passes quickly one day, the next day becomes an epic, seemingly endless trudge. The truth is that while I take some enjoyment out of the earning part of the “earn your turns” ethos, the reality is that I remember the uphill part of the day more fondly than it deserves.
Going uphill is hard and the methodology of backcountry skiing is designed to make you forget just how miserable going uphill can be. Most backcountry ski trips end with the descent—that is, you went up something and then went down it. (If you weren’t already aware, the descent is the fun part.) The lasting impression from your time out ends up being the great run you had, whether it be finding backcountry powder or just getting to enjoy an empty groomer. Even if it was a descent on a lousy trail or if it required survival skiing, it’s still probably remembered warmly. By the time you are done, the elation from the descent has clouded any memory of the toil that is moving uphill.
On rare days, I find myself at the top of a run feeling like I just left the car or base of a run, and I think to myself “well, that was easy.” It’s days like this that I savor—days when I get the bliss of descending downhill without the grunting that is uphill. It’s these magical days when everything comes together that distance my bleary memory from the struggle of my ascent. While these uncommonly easy days are great, in the end I pay for them as they leave me believing the ascents are shorter and quicker than they really are, further skewing my views on uphill travel.
With most things you hope that the more you do it, the easier it gets. Each day I head out to ski, I hope to myself that it’s going to be one of those unicorn days that I leave the car one moment and am clicking into my skis at the top of a run the next. While rarely the case, it’s the thought that keep me out there moving up.