Marolt: The skiing is so good right now!
December 19, 2017
"The skiing was pretty darn good today." I wish I had a pretty darn good day of skiing for every time I've said that. Skiers may be the most dishonest assessors of conditions of all athletes. Or, maybe we're just clueless. I have no idea.
Lately this lack of awareness and/or honesty has been obvious. The current ski conditions are so poor as it would be fair to say we very nearly don't even have any ski conditions at all. The snowpack is a paltry two feet deep, measured somewhere from a deep hole in the woods on the top of Snowmass with a ruler held at an obtuse angle before the sun is up by a man wearing perv-dark sunglasses.
Nonetheless, go ahead and ask anyone coming off the mountain how the skiing was today — "Awesome!" "Incredible!" "Really good!" "It sucked!" Whoops, apparently there are a few tourists in town who have never skied before.
It's not like this in any other sport I can think of. Surfers will gladly let you know when the waves are flat or when there is no power behind them. They don't like choppy waves or ones that "grow fangs." In fact, assessing the quality of the surf and identifying every fault with it on a particular day are signs of expertise. It proves that you have seen it all and have experienced the rare and incredible wave only a few times in a life devoted to the sport.
Sailors detest the doldrums. Golfers deplore wind. Bicyclists are annoyed by a breeze. Scuba divers despise the churn. Runners hate the heat. Skaters are revolted by rutted ice. Baseball players fear the shadows. Football players loathe loose turf. Mountaineers curse the storm. Come to think of it, even ski racers don't like the snow when it's soft.
So, why do we recreational skiers have a thing about complaining, or maybe more accurately admitting, that the conditions are less than ideal? It has to confuse the casual observer when the same skier comes down one day after 13 consecutive trips down Spar Gulch on icy manmade snow littered with pebbles between sheets of ice bordered by bare slopes and another a month later after skiing the entire mountain blanketed with two feet of champagne powder and assessing both days as "so good!"
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It has to be a physiological deficit. It could be that, since it is very hard to distinguish ourselves in a sport without any clear objective on the field of play by anything other than wearing the latest ski fashion, we have to prove we are the best by denying that the conditions are anything other than perfection. In an odd way it sort of turns skiing into an endurance sport — I am a superior human being because I can go out in any condition and suffer through it more complete denial than anyone else.
I learned everything I know about this from my dad, God rest his soul in Heaven where the skiing actually is perfect every time. A lifelong Aspenite, Olympian, frequent heli-skier, one of the original backcountry extremists who has skied every notable and obscure ski area in the word and even had an "un-skiable" mountain in Alaska named after him after he did, he never finished a day on the slopes without claiming it was "super fantastic."
Come on Pops, we logged a lot of piste on the P-tex together. I was there. I know what it was really like. Just between us, tell the truth this once. What did you really think?
"Super fantastic!" And then the grin.
Now, don't get me wrong. While I don't subscribe to claiming every day of skiing is awesome, I have no problem exaggerating the actual good ones. Where the surfer can turn a 6-foot wave into a 12-footer, an angler grows a brookie into a 10-pound cutthroat, and the duffer tells about sinking the 18-footer that was more like 5, I can join the crowd on a powder day blowing hot air on ankle-deep drifts and piling them into snow up to my waist in a few secret stashes that only I know of.
The way I see it is that the legend is right: It is a bad idea to cry wolf. But, when the wolf eventually does show up, you might as well scream for all your worth … even if the wolf turns out to be the neighbor's 10-pound shih tzu.
Roger Marolt never, ever exaggerates unless it's necessary. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.