I am not much of a skier. I was raised by hippies who disdained the pastimes of the patriarchal elite, so the only skis we owned were the cross-country variety, otherwise known as torture sticks. You’d haltingly lurch out into the forest and spend an hour herringboning up a hill, only to zip back down in 23 seconds. Cross-country skis are to skiing what O’Doul’s is to beer, or kale is to food. Once I got to college I embraced downhill skiing—mainly the après part of it.
Skiing, for me, is an excuse to sit outside wearing snow pants and drinking beer—an activity that will be viable this year roughly until the beginning of the Patriots preseason. But I just got back from a trip to Colorado, where I discovered that three factors have conspired to spoil my lackadaisical approach: ticket prices, GoPros and phone apps.
First, the money: No matter where you ski, it’s gotten expensive. And I was at Vail, where a day’s lift ticket ran about $140. When you’re spending $140, there’s an incentive to actually ski more than two runs before retiring to the lodge to sing karaoke and waddle around like you’ve got a load in your pants.
I also had to cough up for rental equipment, which meant trekking to the ski shop and dealing with dudes who’d apparently ingested a handful of Colorado’s legal medibles before showing up for work. When one 60-ish guy walked in to return skis, the rental guy greeted him with “Hey bud, did you shred the gnar?” Understandably, this query was met with a puzzled stare from the would-be gnar-shredder.
Once I was out on the mountain, I began keeping a mental tally of the cost per run, calculating when I’d sufficiently justify my lift-ticket investment. Each time I’d think about quitting, I’d do the math and get back in the lift line to brave another trip up the mountain. Big shoutout to the guy who sat next to me and blew snot rockets as the wind whipped across the chair in my direction. I hope your helmet GoPro captured rad footage of your mucus spraying all over the three guys to your right.
Ah, the helmet cam. Half the people on the slopes were wearing GoPros, some of them mounted to elaborate jib poles sprouting off their backs, making it look like they had snagged part of the chairlift arm on the way off. On the first day, the GoProers were the subject of my withering contempt. Wow, dude, you’re killing that blue square! It’s gonna be awesome to cue that up and relive all three hours of it later. Your friends will think you’re so cool! Wait, you don’t have any friends.
But then I remembered that I had a GoPro in my luggage, so the next day I brought it and just held it in my hand for a few runs. And you know what? It is really entertaining to go back and look at the footage. Mostly because the GoPro provides forensic evidence proving how dumb we all are. At one point, a conversation transpires in which my friend Scott, staring down a steep slope, says, “Wanna see how fast we can go?” This is not a proposal that typically ends well.
About 30 seconds later, my friend Dave loses an edge and cannonballs into the powder bordering the trail at 53 mph, looking like a snowbound version of one of those Wide World of Sports unlimited hydroplane boat crashes from the ’80s. A guy skiing past notices the GoPro and says, “I hope you got that on film.” Oh, I did. And thanks to compact waterproof cameras, that yard sale and about five others will soon be edited into a montage and set to “Yakety Sax,” thus giving me some added value for that criminally expensive lift ticket.
Now, you might ask, how did I know that Dave wiped out at 53 mph? Because we were all running ski tracking apps on our phones, logging distance and top speed. Back in the day, you’d clop over to the bar in your ski boots and say, “I skied a lot, and I went pretty fast. I’m awesome.” The experience was ephemeral, impossible to quantify. Now I can say that I skied 13,277 vertical feet and hit 52.9 mph, and next time I shall surely try to beat those numbers. Like Bourbon Street and Mitt Romney speeches, skiing is yet another formerly wild and carefree thing ruined by phones and omnipresent cameras.
When I learned that I had nearly hit highway speed atop a pair of sticks, I immediately headed to the ski shop to make another purchase: a helmet. In a small act of defiance, I bought one without a GoPro mount. From now on, if I tell you I shredded the gnar, you’ll just have to take my word for it.