Roger Marolt: ’The skiing was great’ and other local lies
Which is more satisfying: An amazing day or the claim of great skiing in poor conditions?
It’s like local taboo to say the skiing is lousy, as if the real sport is to see who can claim they had the best ski day no matter what. It’s a fear of running out of superlatives. Some are so serious about claiming the skiing is great, despite all evidence, that you start to believe they think their “local” status depends on it.
I used to be one of those types. People asked how the skiing was, and I would say “awesome” every time. It was particularly satisfying to say when it was absolutely not true. Even after the wind blew hard and drifted 6 inches of wet snow into frozen drifts between moguls, leaving their icy domes exposed with nobody on the mountain, it was satisfying to walk through town, skis over my shoulder, and tell anyone and everyone how fantastic the skiing was.
“And,” I would add, pausing a moment, watching their anticipation peak, “I had the whole place to myself!”
We know how satisfying it can be to feel the joy in converting somebody’s fear of missing out into absolute pain by directly confirming that they did. I would not say it is a simple pleasure. Oftentimes you have to work at it, but there is no denying it feels great to make sure an acquaintance knows their regrets are not wasted and they really did pass up something special.
The thing I resent about Instagram is that they turned this game into one for lazy people. Take a picture, post it, and that’s it. You can only assume you invoked jealousy. It is becoming a lost art with the younger generation in doing this effectively face-to-face, using only a few words and a smirk. Sadly, the carefully orchestrated despair accomplished through this method has been replaced by the dopamine rush of “likes.”
But it wasn’t just about the bragging rights of claiming a spectacular day on the slopes when only you knew it actually wasn’t. Some skiers are not dummies. Telling these experienced participants that the conditions are great when they aren’t doesn’t fool them. They can guess accurately enough what a bad day on the slopes looks like from beneath a down comforter at 6 a.m.
However, this dynamic can work to the exaggerator’s favor, too. If conditions on the mountain are terrible and you come down and say they were awesome, that can cause a moment of pause, and even experienced skiers might assume that you must be a super-human skier in order to master those terrible conditions. Dang straight you are. At least that’s what we tell ourselves to justify promoting this type of storyline day after awful day.
I have outgrown this nonsense. I am finally comfortable enough in my own ski boots to call a rock “a rock” and manmade snow “ice.” If I come off the mountain now and the conditions are subpar, I will go so far as to exaggerate things for the worse. Now, for example, the conditions are honestly only terrible, but I will tell anyone who asks that it is dreadful out there.
It’s not really a lie, either. Remember the historic storm cycle we had two winters ago when in late February we stopped measuring the 24-hour snowfall totals in inches and replaced them with feet? When slopes that hadn’t been skiable in decades were fluffy lusciousness? Where every turn felt like a dream on Christmas Eve? Close your eyes and picture it. Label that experience “awesome.” Now open your eyes and look out at Big Burn. Dreadful, right?
I think an expert skier should be to snow what a sommelier is to wine. It should be a source of pride, snobbery even, to distinguish the out of this world from the ordinary. The best you could say about a wine drinker who couldn’t tell the difference between a Lafite Rothschild from a Mad Dog 20/20 and called both “awesome“ is that he is a “character.” You want to be known as a “character” on the slopes? Put on the one-piece with day-glo accents and keep telling everyone how great the skiing is every day.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy terrible conditions. I have enjoyed many rotten days with terrible snow conditions in atrocious weather. Surviving days like that make the experience satisfying and rewarding. We have had some challenging days on the slopes this winter. How does that sit with you?
Roger Marolt has had some fun skiing in the rain, but it wasn’t because the skiing was any good at all. Email him at email@example.com.
Storytellers sought for ‘Voices of the Collective’
Storytellers are invited to be part of a Live Storytelling event taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 23 at The Collective in Snowmass.