In the past, being a “skier” didn’t require a definition, or category; it was a point of pride and a loaded identity. But with increasing divisions among the ski community, the skier’s background is becoming more decisive to his or her identity.
Ski media is quickly influencing how someone identifies as a skier, and it seems that merely saying you are a skier is now inadequate. Webisode segments such as “Salomon Freeski TV” and professional skier Eric Pollard’s “Nimbus” have come to define backcountry and freeskiing, while others like Line’s “Traveling Circus” have come to define East Coast creative park skiing. Other professional athletes release edits in massive parks like those of Keystone, Breckenridge, or Mammoth, constantly redefining what it means to be a stylish park skier. Big races like “Birds of Prey” spread across television, as do the World Cup and the Winter Olympics. Skiers now can customize what kind of skiing they want to achieve through movies, television, and, increasingly, YouTube.
But what does the prolific explosion of new ski media and free webisodes mean? Does being able to identify the type of skiing I enjoy diversify the sport or divide it further?
I began my ski “career” skiing at small mountains in Connecticut and taking lessons over weekends at Okemo, VT. I decided to race at 12 years old and suddenly stepped into a new world – the world of competitive skiing. My weekends became filled with team training, and each night my mom tuned my skis for the following day’s training. Race weekends required early morning starts to other mountains and long drives home to finish my homework before Monday’s classes. Though I am thankful for the fundamentals I learned while racing, it was too competitive for my taste.
I continued racing in high school, and while I had fun hitting gates, I always wanted to leave my heavy race skis to play in the park. I never told people I was a racer because I didn’t want to be seen as only a racer. Skiing had suddenly become too compartmentalized; I generalized people based on what they skied and how they looked. I didn’t see skiers; I saw park rats, racers, freeskiers, newbies, and gapers.
Upon coming out to Colorado, I wanted to welcome each ski day as an opportunity to reinvent my own skiing. One day I could lap the park and be a park rat, while the next day I could shred back bowls as a powder hound. During the week, I watched webisodes like “Traveling Circus” and always imagined myself using those styles in my own skiing. Whether buttering 360s on a groomer, tapping a tree in a back bowl, or weaving through moguls, I realized a park background doesn’t mean a skier is confined to a skiing park. You don’t need to be having backcountry face shots to think of Eric Pollard as you carve groomers.
Take time to search YouTube videos, company channels like Line, Stept, or Level1, or even athlete pages like Tom Wallisch or Gus Kenworthy, Lindsey Vonn or Ted Ligety to find what inspires you to ski. Create your own style and cherish everyone on the mountain as fellow enthusiasts looking to have fun in the snow.