Beckwith: When the hills come alive
I credit music for taking my snowboarding abilities from middling to sending. There was something unnerving about the chatter of my board at Mach 6. Obviously, a board isn’t going to snap on an icy groomer, but the sound of the stress being inflicted on an edge kept me from fully trusting my increasing skill level. Then I popped in a pair of earbuds, dialed up a playlist and everything changed.
The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind. It’s like Wile E. Coyote running across the canyon gap before Roadrunner holds up the “Look down” sign, sending Wile E. plummeting to the canyon floor. I mean, if Roadrunner doesn’t point it out, Wile E. makes it, right? If I can’t hear the scraping sound, it’s not happening, right?
However, even though music on the slopes started off as a tactic to cancel out noise, it’s blossomed into a full-blown obsession. I’m at the point where I have to have my tunes. The chatter doesn’t even bother me anymore, but I need a soundtrack. If you haven’t tried skiing or snowboarding with music, I can’t recommend it enough.
There are a few things to consider before you do though.
I refuse to buy ski jackets online because I have to make sure my phone (or iPod, if you’re still holding onto the mid 2000s) has a designated pocket. I don’t want my headphone cord exposed any more than it has to be. Also, if you put in your ear buds before you pull on your neck gaiter, the gaiter will hold the buds conveniently by your ear when you have to remove one to converse on a lift or run.
Spring skiing can be a little more difficult because lightweight gear often isn’t outfitted with a phone pocket. I like to tuck my phone in a flannel breast pocket with a hoodie over top. And just a heads up — the hoodie pouch pocket may seem like a good idea … until you fall. I busted my ass a few years ago and learned that walking up the slope to find your phone sucks. Doesn’t that sound like a pain? I mean, who wants to hike around looking for gear after eating it? Oh, that’s right, skiers.
While Pandora or other streamable music services work on a solid portion of the mountains, there’s nothing worse than having radio silence in the middle of a run. Also, if you’re a data-conscious person like myself, a long day on the hill will take a chunk out of your data, prompting texts and emails from your provider like a friend annoyingly announcing how much time you have left on vacation.
If you do have service but don’t have the premium version of your preferred streaming service, you could end up listening to commercials while making turns. And no one wants to hear about Qdoba desecrating the term barbecue with their new “brisket” burrito. I recommend pre-downloaded music, Spotify Premium or Pandora 1.
I say earbuds because you don’t want to be like that bro who thinks his Beats headphones justify not wearing a helmet. I bet he’ll look real swagged out hemorrhaging blood in the middle of Sneaky’s. I can’t speak to wireless earbuds because I can’t afford them. A friend of mine bought a pair online but found out they’re too big and cause discomfort underneath a helmet. I would just worry about losing them, not on the mountain so much as in general.
Also, my reasoning behind keeping your cord as covered as possible is because I’ve had multiple sets stop working, and I’m guessing it’s because cold and moisture aren’t friends of electronics as I’ve never had a pair kick the bucket in the summer. An exposed cord can lead to your tunes periodically skipping, as well. I don’t why or how but the more layers, the more consistent the quality. Lastly, like anything else, you get what you pay for, which is code for the $12 earbuds from Carl’s Pharmacy have a monthlong lifespan.
As much as I’d like to go on and on about how EDMs remixing of rap classics is an affront to hip-hop heads everywhere or that bluegrass is glorified jug music, I won’t. Music is one of the most subjective things on Earth. My advice is to create a playlist you can dance and move to. I like myself some aggressive, loud rock, but if I rock Deftones on a powder day, I’d smack a tree or fly off a cliff. The level of intensity in your music is up to you, but it does translate. Even Denzel Curry’s “Ultimate” scares me a little when it comes on.
As chronicled in my lauded On the Hill segment, I’ll bust out the filthy shuffle on the lift, run, bus, wherever. (Side note: when operating the GoPro selfie stick, hold the camera high because the low, wide-angle shot with the wind plastering your jacket to your frame isn’t exactly flattering.) With obvious exceptions like funerals and sit-down dinners, dancing rarely makes anything worse. And the same goes for music. If I could have a theme song play every time I entered a room I would totally do that. However, until I can commandeer speakers like Tony Stark, I’ll just have to stick to earbuds. And music on the slopes. Always.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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