Aspen On the Hill: New ski tunes for a new ski season
All four local mountains are open, the ropes have dropped most everywhere in Aspen and my ski playlist is taking shape.
If you’re like me, curating a list of songs is a beloved early-season tradition — right along with tuning your gear and putting a fresh coat of duct tape on your jacket and gloves.
As opening day approaches, I listen for potential tracks to score my season on the hill — checking soundtracks of the fall’s ski movies and edits, listening to new releases and imagining hearing them as I drop into Highland Bowl. Ideally, it ends up being a mix of mellow cruisers, bright sunny-day pop and pump-up powder day anthems. You’ve got to be able to hit shuffle and head downhill — no pausing to skip duds, of course.
You can go down a weird rabbit hole of research on this stuff — the internet will tell you the ideal numbers of beats per minute for every kind of exercise. But after a decade of making ski playlists, I’ve concluded it’s basically just about finding music that makes you want to move.
Some favorites on my newly minted 2018-19 playlist so far are Lil Wayne and Swizz Beats’ club banger “Uproar” (the release of a new Lil Wayne album just before ski season is a godsend), Anderson .Paak’s cinematic “The Chase” and Leikeli47’s propulsive “Tic Boom.”
On the electronic front, I’ve been digging Dillon Francis and Residente’s infectious “Sexo” and Aesop Rock and Tobacco’s dreamy “Acid King” (Tobacco has been the most consistent presence on my ski playlists — something about the DJ’s fuzzy production on tracks like “Dimensional Hum” and “Hairy Candy” fits just right).
Pretty much everything from Mike WiLL Made-It’s “Creed II” soundtrack will work, too, but so far my favorite is the epic “Runnin” with Nicki Minaj and company.
The ideal ski song needs a head-bobbing and consistent beat. It doesn’t hurt if it’s got some chest-thumping lyrics about generally being awesome (it’s impossible to bonk, I’ve found, with an ego boost in your ears like Lil Wayne’s “S On My Chest,” The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy’s “Victory,” Kanye West’s “I Am a God” or Rihanna’s verse on “Lemon”).
The genres on my playlists have shrunk over the years to mostly dance music, Latin pop and hip-hop. By springtime, I’m sure I’ll find and add some new rock and blues, ambient tracks and some mellowed-out folk, but the 48-song playlist I’ve started the year with is pretty much all rap and electronic with a dash of throwback soul and R&B.
This young season, I’ve been loving the addition of some Isaac Hayes — the galloping drum beat on the instrumental “Run Fay Run” is a natural accelerant — and some Curtis Mayfield (an offseason binge of HBO’s “The Deuce” sent me down this path through its theme song of Mayfield’s “Don’t Worry”).
My taste isn’t everybody’s taste for an on-snow soundtrack, of course. I know some who stick with classic rock and who insist Hendrix and the Dead will never be topped for ski tunes. There’s just one truism across genres: avoid songs with long intros or interstitial dialogue. The last thing you want to be doing is skipping or fast-forwarding in the middle of your ski day flow. A new song like Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” for instance, has a perfect up-tempo drum machine beat for my ski song palate, but the slow build of its minute-long keyboard intro is a buzzkill. You don’t want that popping on when you’re midway into sending it down Zaugg Dump.
This year’s ski playlist remains a work in progress. By season’s end I will have cut many tracks and added more, working toward a more perfect soundtrack. And by closing day, hopefully, I will have been riding so much that I’ll be sick of all these songs and ready to retire them.
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