While the West Coast is a different environment for many East Coast skiers to CC, the hardy, have-fun mentality of skiing ice and rocks endures.
As a Connecticut native, I wanted to explore the East Coast skier mentality. I wanted to see if their ski culture had shifted because of the changes in resorts. Most importantly, I wanted to explore an East Coast skier’s journey west.
The way many skied growing up influenced their current style. Senior Thayer Maclay’s racing background in Vermont helped him gain a foundation in variable conditions.
“Because there’s ice, you’ve got to be more on top of your s***. Being able to hold an edge on really bad conditions is nice when it does actually get to be bad conditions out here,” Maclay said.
Freshman David Mulcahy raced at Nashoba Valley, a Massachussetts mountain boasting 240 vertical feet.
“I think to my slalom training when I’m dropping into a bowl or something that’s really steep. I can make really quick turns, do hop turns, and I’m good on my feet because of that,” Mulcahy said.
The East Coast isn’t blessed with powder dumps as often as Colorado. Many times, early season skiing out here is the eastern norm, leaving patches of ice, rock, or dirt. Despite better snow, larger terrain here can still be scary.
“East Coast skiing [has] all the same aspects of it: cliffs, steeps, trees, glades, moguls, bumps, just in small proportions. [Here] it’s scaled up,” Maclay said.
“It is insanely steep. Going up the lift I’ll be like, ‘Ah this is so steep, how will I ever ski it,’ [but] then I go to it and it’s not that bad,” freshman Emilia Whitmer said.
Many transitioned to West Coast skiing during family ski trips or even working at a Western resort after high school, like Maclay and sophomore Nielsen Davis.
Senior Tyler Snover grew up skiing terrain parks with his friends, but channeled his park style into shredding more natural features.
“Before skiing out west I’d never skied cliffs or anything. I’d only skied powder when we had the occasional powder day at home. I definitely ski less park out here because there is so much good snow,” Snover said.
For most East Coast skiers, the draw to the West Coast is, of course, the snow. According to Mulcahy, fat powder skis back east even have a surreal nature, like a thing of ski movies.
“I’d been racing [in Vermont] for so long that was all I knew in terms of skiing,” Freshman Josephine Brownell said. “I really wanted a change, where I could go out west and have some awesome powder days, but also race a couple weekends. I was just tired of skiing on ice during overcast days,”
The harsh East Coast conditions encourage a hardier skier, and coming out west with the mentality that any snow is good snow, the differences are monumental.
“I was at A-Basin in October and people were like, ‘That’s not worth it,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m skiing before December. This is October, I don’t think you understand; I have to wait months from now until I can ski back home,’” Mulcahy said.
Many famous skiers, such as Bode Miller and recent slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin, come from the East Coast. The number of Mountain Academies in the East help to produce great skiers.
“You’re going to have really good kids just because they have to go hard; either they’re skiing straight ice or they’re skiing dirt ruts,” Mulcahy said.
On the contrary, western skiers emerge more comfortable with backcountry and big mountain terrain.
“You probably have more extreme people in the West just because they want to go bigger, harder, higher, whereas the East you’re more of a soul skier, like I just want to go out and get some good days in,” Maclay said.
Skiing consistent powder in the West may have some side effects, such as “snow snobs,” referring to skiers who go out only in optimal conditions. Growing up in the East nullifies that complacency for many.
“It’s definitely a change from being on the East Coast where you were psyched about having six inches and thought that was a powder day. I’m more of a ski snob now than I was in high school, but at the same time it’s still fun even if there’s no snow,” Snover said.
Most hope to keep the sport fun and spontaneous at CC.
“After hitting the same features over and over again you try and come up with new ways to hit them, keep it fresh. We’d try and build wooden jibs and whatever, little jumps, just do new things,” Davis said.
“There was supposed to be a huge storm, like a blizzard, but it was a small storm, like 3-5 inches, and I still drove out to the local hill. [We] made a jump off a catwalk lip. It’s that excitement about the East Coast,” Mulcahy said.
Companies like Line and Ski The East promote the goofiness in East Coast skiing, generating pride by coming from these smaller mountains. The energy, quirkiness, and tight community keep East Coasters coming back.
“Mad River Glen boasts the slogan ‘Ski It If You Can.’ In the spring, they ask for people to volunteer and shovel snow from the woods onto the trails. The old lodge holds people’s individual mugs and grandmothers come plug their crockpots in, and the single chair is a historical monument in itself,” freshman Gabriella Palko said.
For many East Coast skiers, the challenge remains keeping up excitement during “bad” Colorado days. According to Whitmer, sometimes just imagining oneself skiing back in the East Coast is enough of a reality check. Checking snow reports isn’t always a factor in deciding whether to go skiing.
“You’re in the trees, you’re in the woods, you see the animals. I’m not really a religious man in the sense that I don’t go to church, but I do go skiing. The West, it’s a new chapel, a new shrine, a bigger thing, it’s a new area to do it, but skiing is still skiing, regardless of where it is,” Maclay said.
Many think they couldn’t have appreciated East Coast skiing without growing up there, and still enjoy visiting their home mountains.
“Out East, we endure the damp cold, howling winds, grey skies, sheer icy slopes, and the occasional exposed rocks. Here it’s like people expect every day to be bluebird, warm and sunny with fresh powder,” Palko said.
Next time you go skiing in less-than-ideal conditions, find yourself with an East Coast skier, and you just might have a fun day when you thought it impossible.