Marolt: Less can sometimes be more, and more can often be a bore
January 27, 2016
May I be honest? At times I feel skiing is boring. I know; nobody in the world's greatest ski resort says that. I'm not saying the emperor isn't wearing any clothes here; maybe it's just that he's wearing his Gore-Tex inside out once in a while.
I'll say it a different way for those who can't get close enough to get your arms around it: I've been doing this "sport" for 50 years, and aside from an occasional dash down a NASTAR racing course that happens to get in my way, there's no objective in skiing. You can't say that about many sports except for maybe nightclub dancing, and people get unwittingly sucked into it just because they're drunk.
Golf, tennis, yoga, bicycling, running, hiking, weightlifting, throwing darts — they all have inherently measurable objectives, and don't tell me you don't time your jogs or try to hold a difficult yoga pose for longer than the last time you tried it.
The best you can hope for from skiing? I felt really good on that last run. Yeah, you looked really good on that last run. Do you want to do it again? Sure.
Do you want to know the ultimate signs that skiing is not as exciting as we might hope? It's a tie between the 100-day ski pin or any of the numerous apps you can download to keep track of the vertical feet skied. These are attempts to give recreational skiing an objective. They make it all about patience, obligation and managing free time.
This isn't a middle-age thing, either. I was bored skiing as a kid, too. We searched for and discovered all kinds of crazy ways to make our days on the slopes more interesting.
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Once we found a huge spool of orange surveyor's string (I think that's what it was) near the bottom of Lift 1A. Our mission for the day was to find out just how long that string was. We took it to the Sundeck restaurant at the top and tied the loose end off on a ski rack. With a ski pole through the center of the spool, we skied backward down the mountain, crisscrossing through the woods, unrolling it. Lo and behold, there was enough string to make it almost all the way to the bottom. We still didn't know exactly how long the string was, but we burned some time.
It was a satisfying day on the hill. For the rest of the season, you could spot lots of skiers with pieces of that string tangled in their boots and bindings every day. Lift-line mazes were littered with it. That stuff was everywhere! Weeks later, we made it a point to see who could find a section of it on the most obscure run.
There was also the 40-meter jump at the bottom of Slalom Hill to break the monotony. We spent as much time building it up, packing it down and slipping the ramp and runout as we did soaring off it. We spent entire days trying to out-distance one another on that thing. We were clearing about 150 feet, and the crashes were horrific. In this day when we are not allowed to go straight, I'm sure it would be outlawed.
We even made our own unique downhill racecourses to spice things up. Setting up the route, we tried to stay in the trees as much as possible. Our courses were the equivalent of technical singletrack mountain-bike trails today. Armed with walkie-talkies and wristwatches, we took turns timing one another over the meadows and through the woods from the top to the bottom of the mountain. We usually finished with lots of bumps and bruises, many tears and a lot of sap in our clothes. Good times!
There was the One-Minute Club we created that promoted fast, reckless skiing down S-1, Aspen's most treacherous ski run. There was the thrill of Cabin Jump at Snowmass, where you literally had to jump and clear an old cabin. And there was the greatest self-made event of all — the Black Diamond Fest, a timed event where you had to ski every black-diamond run on Aspen Mountain in one day, which was a heck of a stretch even if you never stopped or slowed down and ate, drank on and peed off the lifts.
I guess denial is the thing. If you never admit that skiing gets a little dull, it will be dull.
Through years of trial and error, Roger Marolt has determined his sweet spot is about 40 to 50 days of lift-served skiing per season, proving to himself, at least, that often less is more. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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