(i wrote this last week, and saved it thinking I’d get back to it… but that’s unlikely, so I’m just going to post it. I’m not sure it’s done but it’s as done as it is going to get.)
It’s already been a whole week since we got back from our trip to Utah. We got a little dose of everything I needed: sun, good snow, family, more sun, more snow…
I grew up skiing, and I tend to think of it as integral to my family culture: that is what we did in the winter. We kids skied, my parents skied, my grandparents skied, back in Switzerland where they grew up—and skiing is definitely, at least now, part of that country’s identity.
I hear talk of global warming, lessening snowfall, and potential dire consequences for ski resorts, and I can’t quite imagine it. I just assume that skiing has always been around. But I looked up the history of skiing online and really, it’s only been a recreational sport for the past 150 years or so. That’s not that long,really, but skis themselves had been used for thousands of years for utilitarian pursuits: hunting, traveling, war, etc.Then I saw that the first tow rope wasn’t built in North America until 1932 (in Canada) and the first chairlift was in Sun Valley in 1936. That’s after the photos I have of my grandmother skiing in the Swiss Alps. I knew, growing up, that lots of the ski resorts in the U.S. didn’t exist until after WWII, with the 10th Mountain Division returning from using skis in the war, but I never really thought about what was before.
And what irritates me nowadays is how every resort is “lux-ing” itself up, for lack of a better phrase. Growing up, the cafeterias served food—cafeteria food: burgers, chili, fries, mac and cheese, and maybe some premade sandwiches. It was just food, nothing fancy, but something to keep you warm and get you back out there. The lodges were room to put your boots on, and at least back east,the place to throw your bag on a hook for the day. We’d bring lunches a lot of the time, and you’d pull out your lunch, maybe Mom would buy you a hot chocolate, and you’d sit and the low budget tables, on basic crap chairs, and get warm enough to go back outside and attack that deep blue glare ice that New England skiing is so famous for.
Nowadays, even the smaller, regional ski areas (not actual resorts, really) are redoing their lodges to have fancy rustic furniture, stone fireplaces, noodle stations, and Kobe beef burgers. You pay a ton for a ticket, then you have to pay a ton for some food, and at least half of the people seem to feel that you have to pay a lot for your gear (I have been made fun of by friends at times, for having skis that weren’t curved enough, or wide enough, or what have you). It’s depressing, and just a little bit weird when you think about it.
But weird or not, I still love skiing, and while I do love the backcountry, my avy skills are in a continual state of rust, and I get spooked by the people with tons of experience that seem to be dying in avalanches these days. And, it seems, I live in a place that can go a whole winter without much snow in the mountains (I moved to Alaska to avoid that!). I appreciate chair lifts, and ski patrol, and avalanche control, and I’ll keep paying what they want for the experience having that provides.