Don’t count on a great ski season
December 7, 2005
There is a disturbing trend in Aspen. Formerly a subtle nuisance, it has recently come into vogue. It is excess in practice, the ultimate game of accumulation. It’s the in-your-face competition where quantity snubs quality every time.Amazingly, this town is suddenly full of people who count their turns.Last week the local papers were rife with letters extolling the virtues of reducing snowsports to a numbers game. Someone suggested that you have to get at least 100 days of skiing each winter. Another person claimed that nothing less than 125 days on the slopes would add up to a great season. Somebody else chimed in that the true test of a great experience is counting the vertical feet you descend. Yet one more person argued that you have to keep track the number of runs you make. What sort of nerds have we become? It wasn’t long ago that you only rarely might overhear a couple of dorks visiting from California talking about stuff like that at a table in the back of Cooper Street Pier. Now, people are openly discussing it in public, like it’s something to be proud of!Let’s see, the last time I actually counted the number of days that I skied in a year was, hmmm … NEVER! Why? Because, there is absolutely no good reason to do it. Would you ever begin a month by setting a quota for the number of scoops of chocolate ice cream you will eat? That’s enticing. How about setting a goal that you will kiss that special person in your life 400 times before Columbus Day? That should do the trick to let the steam out of any romance. There’s nothing like turning a pleasurable activity into an obligation by forcing yourself to quantify it. There are many reasons that people like to ski or ride. One might be that you want to get better at it. In truth, many people want to be awesome at it. That’s OK. It’s a sport. It can be competitive. Most of us can’t help comparing ourselves to other skiers we see from the chairlifts, the people we are sliding with, or Bode Miller. So what does counting the number of days you spend on the hill have to do with this?More days on snow do not mean you are the best skier or boarder. I promise you that there are people around here who had fewer days on the mountain last season than Don Ho, and none of us could stay within a Hummer’s fuel tank range of them in the gates, bumps, or halfpipe anyway. Have you considered that people might be less impressed when you brag about the number of days you spent on the slope?”Yeah man, I didn’t miss one single day last season!””Really? Wow!” (i.e. Then why aren’t you any better?)Yes, to improve you have to spend time on the slopes. But, spending one day a week concentrating on making better turns might be far more beneficial than going up 10 days in row linking windshield-wipers down Spar Gulch all afternoon with the sole aim of meeting your vertical feet allocation for the month. Then again, perhaps you’re into the social aspects of our sports. That’s great, too. It’s really nice to have this venue at our doorstep where we are able to meet friends and enjoy one another’s company in such a magnificent setting. If you want to catch up, there couldn’t be a more perfect place to do it than slopeside, absorbing it all between turns. Nobody is in a bad mood when they’re out in the fresh, cool mountain air. It’s easy to meet new people. The gondola was designed for that. And, is there a better opportunity to share a table with strangers than over a delicious meal at one of the great on-mountain restaurants?So, tell me again, how does counting the number of times your ski pass gets scanned fit in with this aspect of the sport? Please tell me that you don’t honestly think bragging about it is a great icebreaker on a chairlift ride. I’ve got an idea – If you can’t seem to suppress your latent accounting tendencies, why don’t you try counting the number of different friends you shred with this season to determine if it is a success or not? That probably never even crossed your mind, did it?Finally, maybe you’re into outdoor winter sports for the adventure and the opportunity to commune with nature without the risks involved with actually going out into it. I like that part of skiing. It’s wonderful to get away from the hustle and bustle for an afternoon to remember what it’s all about. A trip or two up Highland Bowl is exactly what the doctor ordered to relieve a little holiday/housing/job/traffic/feeling like a loser because you’re wasting your college degree stress.Still, I don’t get how counting my laps fits into this reason for donning the board(s) either. Damn it, if I simply stop when I’m tired instead of after reaching some prespecified count, will my soul be less cleansed for the lack of not attaining my goal? That doesn’t sound very Zen. Counting the days will not make you a better athlete, a social force to be reckoned with, or more spiritually aware than those of us who end up with a lower tally than you on April 16. It’s asinine to count your days on the snow. The only thing it suggests is that chronic constipation is a bummer. If you must keep track for some weird personal reason that nobody could possibly care about, you shouldn’t ever reveal it.My suggestion for a great season is to get out on the mountain as often as you can, or want to. If you need to watch the vertical feet count rising in the notepad on your nightstand to get motivated, you have a problem. Wean yourself of the habit gradually by working Sudoko puzzles on the gondola, or whatever else it takes. You’ll enjoy it more when you quantify it less. And, fewer people will think you are goofy. Count on it!Roger Marolt is counting e-mails at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have you sent your quota?
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