SNOW BUMS & ELITISTS – Is Skiing Still Worth It?

Jan 25, 2011 | Cara's Adventures, Colorado, Day Tripping, Spirit of Adventure, U.S. Travel

I had my skis tuned over the weekend, and when I picked them up on Sunday, the young woman who took my money stared at my skis with disdain and said, “Wow, those skis are old. How long have you had them?”

“About seven years.”

“Wow,” she repeated, and not in a tone that suggested admiration. I felt embarrassed, and defensive. Maybe she can afford to buy new skis every year or two, but I can’t. Did I mention I’m a freelance writer? So at our house, we use things until they don’t work. These old skis still work – pretty well, I might add.

These old skis still work – pretty well, I might add.

I thought of an article I read in The Onion in December: “New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable.” It lampooned the idea that everyone wanted the “New Device” for Christmas because the “Old Device” was, well, old. One fake quote said of the New Device: “Its attractiveness and considerable value are, by extension, my attractiveness and considerable value.” I wondered if the young woman at the ski shop felt that way about her skis or snowboard. Maybe she thought I was out of touch, and didn’t consider that I might simply be out of cash.

Which begs the question: if I’m low on funds, why ski at all?

Lift tickets at even such middle-class Colorado resorts as Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain, cost between $74 and $89 a day. Copper did just come out with the “High Four” pass – four days for $219 – and at Christmas my husband and I bought the “Holiday Three Pass” at Arapahoe Basin for $138 each. Normally, I buy season passes at one resort or another for around $400, a great deal if you go eight or more times a season, as I prefer to do. But those go on sale in fall, and this past fall I was tapped out from prepping to release my new book. If it weren’t for a gift of Christmas cash, we might have missed the whole season.

At Christmas my husband and I bought the “Holiday Three Pass” at Arapahoe Basin for $138 each, or $276 total.

At hundreds to thousands of dollars a year for equipment, lift tickets, gas, and food – skiing and snowboarding are becoming sports for wealthy elitists and obsessed bums. Maybe the young woman in the ski shop either has wealthy parents or an addiction to snow. I’m not wealthy or addicted. So why didn’t I use my Christmas money to pay down my Christmas bills, repair my car, or buy my first new shoes in years?

Skiing and snowboarding are becoming sports for wealthy elitists and obsessed bums.

I can’t defend it. I can only tell you how it feels.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a weekend unless I get away from the city, away from reminders of work, responsibility, and citizenship. Luckily, my weekend is Monday, so I don’t have to fight traffic alongside everyone else who wants to get away. In the summer, I hike. But in the winter, I need more of an incentive than pretty scenery to convince me to drive three hours round trip to hang out in the cold. That incentive is the adrenaline-rush of speed. Gravity is a beautiful thing – ah, Sir Isaac, if you could see us now!

Feeling snow sliding under wax-slick skis, my legs leaning from side to side, my body pushed to that razor edge between control and fear, I return to my body, to the moment. The world is powdery white, wicked fast, and up-and-down wonderful. When the speed spills off and I look around, I find myself surrounded by the brawny shoulders and wrinkled faces of mountains that have been pushing upward into the blue and mist and sun for millennia.

I find myself surrounded by the brawny shoulders and wrinkled faces of mountains that have been pushing upward into the blue and mist and sun for millennia.

This Monday, as the ski lift drifts over a vertiginous drop, a sudden explosion pierces my eardrums and I shriek. Just a little avalanche control, but that charge wasn’t muffled like the others. Several people on the chairs ahead hoot and holler, as small avalanches slide down Lenawee Mountain. On the backside lift, an icy wind numbs our faces, and my husband says, “Right now inside my body, all my white blood cells and all my red blood cells are hugging each other, trying to stay warm.” This isn’t just for elitists and bums, but also masochists. That’s not what brings me here. Is it?

I haven’t skied Arapahoe Basin before, which makes it both more frustrating and more fun, as I try to find a safe but exciting way down. Montezuma Bowl is a tricky playground. I freefall down slopes of unpredictable height, pick up speed in narrow chutes between trees, and emerge into the curving bottom of the unknown. I fall, stuffing snow up my nose and bruising my pelvis. My fingertips sting with frost nip. It seems stupid, paying for such punishment. But we’re not stupid. Are we?

I don’t know.

At the end of the day, heavy-lidded on the couch, I feel a deep satisfaction about what I’ve accomplished – that is, not much. I guess I ski down mountains for the same reason people climb up them: because they’re there. I do it because of the rush of rocky heights meeting gravity, snow meeting sky, body meeting soul. It takes me to my limit, and beyond. Not bad for less than $50. I can always buy shoes next year.

But I’ll probably be on the same old skis… bitch.

About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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