As skiers, snowboarders, snow-minded people we get caught up in the chase.
We chase snow all over the world.
When watching a ski film, it wouldn’t be unusual to see a new location about every 10 to 15 minutes. Each year I travel in the pursuit of snow. A lot. All in pursuit of the fluffy goodness that we all want to surf through.
So yeah, it’s the stuff we dream of and what we long for.
But how about our local hill? Is it enough?
If you’re like me and you work in some way with the snow, I hope you’ll say yes.
But for our purposes, let’s break this into 3 segments. Those that have a hill. Those that have a snowy hill. Those that have a mountain.
Let’s start with the mountain folk.
I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming visiting my buddy Matt this year and had the opportunity to ride out the backcountry on a powder day. Need I go on? (I will…)
It was as incredible as you’re probably thinking. We had near perfect conditions, and due to the storm that took down power-lines to Jackson and shut down the resort for a few days, much of the mountain was fair game for a good part of the day they reopened. But the backcountry was untouched.
However, it was the passionate folk that make this place up, that run these ski towns and the mountains, that stopped me in my tracks. The people in these towns are special. From Jackson to Aspen, it’s incredibly tough to earn what most would consider a “decent” living, and yet the locals scrape by. They love it. The rich and famous come and go, but the mainstays of these towns are hard-working, life-inspired mountain folks.
Clearly, “this” is enough. Locals sacrifice cushy jobs and the chance to earn higher income to be in places like Jackson Hole that just recorded 593” of snowfall for 2017.
Your soul is on fire, constantly fueled with the goods.
Ok, the snowy hill folk.
You know exactly who you are Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts. It’s not a ridiculous amount of snow, but the snow still falls on the hill. Enough to not rely on snowmaking, but not enough to have a full season without it.
This works out quite well, because while the yearning to chase powder elsewhere is still very much alive, there is still the promise of somewhat consistent snowfall year-to-year. Now, the changing climate and fluctuation in global weather patterns could diminish that, but for the most part there is still a feeling that the snow will come for at least a few more years. And this keeps the locals at bay. There’s enough to go at on the hill and the powder comes just enough to keep the bump lines from getting frozen entirely solid (though that’s not always the case).
And “that” is enough.
The fire is fueled with enough fresh snow and a mix of the blown crumble, and that gets you by until you visit the West again.
Ok, so what about Texas?
What about Texas? Well, unfortunately for now you still can’t ski in Texas (but you can surf).
How about New Jersey? Maryland? North Carolina? Surprisingly, you will actually find places to ride a couple planks down a hill on snow in each of these states. I patrol, teach, and coach every winter at my local hill in New Jersey. When I say hill, I do mean it’s a hill. And we don’t get much snow at all. This year however, we hit record lows as the spring thaw hit early and hit hard to the point that by mid-February I was patrolling the greenery, and less-so the public.
This is a photo I took at the summit of Mountain Creek on February 25th, 2017. Those of you familiar with the area will notice the blue “Great Northern” trail sign in the top-left of this photo. You can see the trend for yourself here as more winters are experiencing the fluctuations of temperature and precipitation.
Now, I grew up in England.
Believe it or not, I put my first set of skis on with wet bristled matting underfoot at Sheffield Ski Village. And at a young age learned that falling meant a nasty rash from the wire carpet below. How welcome it was to feel snow underfoot for the first time in the French Alps just a year or two later. How fortunate I was to learn an appreciation as I began my journey with the fluffy stuff.
Because in New Jersey, I hear a whole lot of grumbling.
“Ugh, it’s icy, not going”
“Dude, why do you even wanna ski that? It’s not even fun”
“Yeah, it snowed, but its only like 2 inches”.
COME ON! OF COURSE WE WISH WE GOT MORE SNOW, but let’s be humble. We’re in New Jersey and at this stage we’re grateful to even get a nice snow.
But snow is snow, man-made or fallen from the sky, and I can tell you that I had just as much fun riding around on what snow we had left on February 25th as I did in Jackson Hole.
… are you kidding, I can’t say that. Jackson was a world of its own. I will say this, though. I have an absolute blast on my local mountain. Ice, rain, slush, sand, crud, and sometimes even snow.
And, I’m going to get serious for a minute because this is actually rather important.
The “need” for endless powder is actually a relatively small issue in the grand scheme of things and there really is nothing to complain about. Really, there isn’t. The snow is not our right, nor is it your right to be on the mountain. It’s a privilege that we are able to do any of this. And sure you can complain about the lack of “good qual snow” but it’s negative, and why be angry about something you can’t change? Attitude is a big player in the problems we see on the mountain, from angry aggressive snowboarders, to skiers who think no one else can be in their way. I say this sincerely but gritting my teeth: at that point you should just keep your gear packed away. I think I can comfortably say that the Mountain would be nicer without seeing you at all.
There’s a sense of entitlement, and a certain “better than this” attitude that has spread amongst some of the local skiing establishments in the Northeast, and I’m sure it pops up elsewhere too. And while it’s easy to see where it starts, it’s hard to understand why. There’s a sense that the lack of “real” snow and massive dumps is unfair. But you chose to live here. Furthermore, not a single one of us can reasonably say that we were skiing even reasonable powder lines on our first day, or laying out euro carves in the corduroy the second time we strapped in, or hitting bumps the 4th time we got off the chair lift. No, not even Candide. And yet every one of us had an immense amount of fun. Enough to keep you going this long. If you don’t believe me, ask any person in the beginner-intermediate range to go ski or ride and I’m about 80-90% sure that they’re unlikely to care about the conditions. Because that’s not what it’s about.
If you’re wondering what my point is, here goes.
It is enough.
We ski and ride to connect. With nature, with ourselves, with other people, with the unknown. Not for the weather.
And you can recognize this yearning, or leave the thought right here, but there is some beauty in knowing why we do this, and hopefully in understanding the why, we can learn to leave the negative behind. At the end of the day, you make of it what you can.
So, ski, ride, shred it all. Appreciate every opportunity you have to put one plank or two under your feet. Whether you’re one of the New Jersey crowd like myself, or the Jackson Hole mountain folk like a few of my friends, don’t become someone who looks back at the season and wishes they got more days on the hill.
Because you could have. You just didn’t go.