Critiques

Why Do People Love to Ski and Snowboard?

With the official start of winter nearly here, and ski resorts all over the world opening for the season, this seems like a great moment to address a profound question in the sphere of winter wellness: why do people love to ski and snowboard? Said another way, why would anyone in their right mind voluntarily choose to don clunky heavy boots, several layers of clothing, a helmet, face mask  and googles, and then strap two sticks or an over-sized skate board to their feet and hurl themselves headlong down a mountain? Unless they were being pursued by a bear, or the Huns, or creating a YouTube video, really, what’s the point? Dear reader, we’re glad you asked. In our view, here are the top reasons that people love to ski and snowboard.

why do people love to ski and snowboard?

In our family, four of the five of us love snow sports. Two ski and two ride, and one agrees to join the trek north from our home in New York with plans for indoor tennis, reading by the fireplace, visiting old friends and exploring the back roads of New England. When people ask our non-skiing family member why he doesn’t ski, he says he dislikes the cold. But perhaps the more pertinent question is: why do the other four of us ski and snowboard? Like, really, why?

It’s gear-intensive, expensive, highly weather-dependent, and involves a ridiculous amount of preparation and work before any semblance of fun can be had. People did it when their survival depended upon it. But in the modern age, surely there are better ways to spend one’s precious vacation time? And money?

These are very good questions. Here is our response. In fact, here are our thoughts on the top reasons that people love to ski and snowboard:

1. Because we like the return on investment.

Yes, it takes money, time and stamina to get yourself to the top a mountain. Quite a lot of all three of those things, actually.

But there is NO better feeling on a crisp bright winter morning that taking that first glorious run.

It’s similar to how you feel when a plane is racing down a runway, only much better. Finally, after all the preparation and waiting, the adventure is beginning — you’re on the brink of glorious speed, power, control and beauty — it feels as if you yourself are about to depart the earth and take to the sky. When the snow is good, you’re with the right companions, the trail’s not crowded – it’s pure magic. And soul-restoring. And So. Much. Fun.

2. Because it challenges us.

Anyone who’s being truthful will admit that skiing (or riding) is about fear. And mastering it.

Almost no one – even those who learned when they were two years old – has never had a scary moment when they’re out on the mountain. Things happen. Conditions change, runs are icy, they’re crowded, someone nearby is out of control (or at least on the verge of it), we’ve talked a lot of smack about our skills to our friends and now we have to do a double -black diamond run that we really don’t think we can handle.

Everyone has a moment of real, genuine fear at some point in their skiing career. The question is what happens next.

In our family, we’ve all had “freak-outs” – moments when we are literally frozen in place. Can’t go back, and too scared to go forward. Those are the moments when we learn a few things.

Like: who comes to mind when you are most afraid? Whose voice is in your head, gently encouraging you to just get going? What would have to be at the bottom of the mountain to get to you move? What causes you to get un-stuck when you’re stuck: prayer? Humor? A familiar face or voice?

We all have something. And it can change from year to year. Sometimes it’s “what would [fill in the blank] do?” Sometimes it’s a prayer to the Almighty. Once it was the vision of a really large martini at the bar at the base of the mountain. It is hugely helpful to know what that thing is long after the run is over. You’ll appreciate it/him/her a lot more afterward, if it’s a person you’re thinking of.

And when you get stuck in real life – maybe that same thing will get you unstuck again.

3. Because it teaches us grit.

The rule in our household is that when we’re on a ski trip, everyone goes out – every day, no matter what the weather is doing. If you’re doing snow sports in New England, this has to be your rule, otherwise you’d rarely leave the comfort of your accommodations.

4. Because we like the people.

We hate that when people picture skiing and snowboarding they think #SkiSoWhite. Of course, it’s true (and no, it is not lost on us that the photos in this post are distinctly lacking in diversity on that front). Probably 95% of the people we see when we ski in New England are not of color. And probably 99% are not black, which is what we are.

So what’s up with that? Well, see above: it’s an expensive sport that demands a love of cold weather and everything that comes along with that. Plus, people of color have not always been welcome in places where the population loves snow sports (yes, we’re looking at you, Boston).

Lots of our friends think we’re crazy — if you’re taking a luxury vacation, why not take it on a luxurious beach in a warm location? To which we say: warm weather is always available. We love taking spring and summer vacations by the sea, and while we’re not big beach people, we’re cool with hot weather vacations.

But why choose when you can have both? Winter is here, whether you like it or not, so why not embrace it?

We are all in with winter. And so are the people we see on the slopes. They’re loving the crisp air and the stunning scenery — loving the speed and the wild abandon. Willing to make real sacrifices in order to gain joy. Highly like to be hardy, adventurous, active and stoic.

They can be spirited and really funny (one guy we shared a lift with told the story of one of his mentors who loved to ski – he’d get to the top of the mountain when the winds were high and the “real feel” was about 20 below zero, look around him, and proclaim: well, at least there are no mosquitoes!) We dig that badass attitude.

Without question, this doesn’t apply to every single person you’ll encounter. But we’ve seen kindness, friendship and actual comity bloom among strangers when we’re skiing, especially on the lift. And it’s hard to make assumptions based on appearance when everyone is covered head to toe – you have to judge people on what they do and say, and not how they look. How cool is that?

5. Because it allows us to hear ourselves think.

Or not. When your mind has to focus on the basic mechanics of staying alive and out of harm’s way, it eliminates the possibility of worrying about anything else. Work, family, and personal stresses of all kind recede, and hours can go by in which all your mental baggage has to be put down. You can empty your mind and refill it with cold fresh air. Your subconscious can noodle away uninhibited by the noise of daily life. Almost always, the mental baggage will feel lighter when you pick it up again after your time on the mountain is done. You might even find that you can leave it by the side of the road and just keep going.

6. Because it’s good for us.

Skiing and riding are both great exercise. They burn calories, get the joints moving, and lead to really deep and restorative sleep at night (trust us, there’s no sleep like ski sleep).

7. Because we love the vocabulary.

Alpen glow, deep powder, black diamond, mashed potatoes, corn snow – we love all of the lyrical names that people have invented to describe the snow conditions and the quality of the light on the mountain.

8. Because we can eat anything we want while we’re on a ski trip.

We’re not sure exactly what the physics of all of it entails, but we do know that a hearty breakfast, a waffle or some hot chocolate in-between runs, and apres-ski cocktails can all be consumed, and we still don’t gain weight when we’re skiing. Seriously, that’s reason enough to do it.

9. Because there’s still time.

It’s possible that one of the reasons that a ski day is so precious is because we’re all keenly aware that we won’t be able to do it forever.

Somehow we image always being able to run, swim, hike, and bike. No one thinks they’ll be able to ski forever. It’s a pleasure that has to be grabbed while it’s available, and that makes it all the more fun.

Now having said that, we have a lot of friends who are in their early 70’s who still ski. Maybe not all day, and maybe not on the double-blacks. But they’re out there. It makes us feel young and hopeful to imagine that we’ll be like them: cheerfully up early, suiting up and booting up for another adventure on the slopes.

10. Because it’s staggeringly beautiful.

The landscapes are achingly lovely, and the blissful quiet of being in the woods, with the only sound the swish of your skis and those of your companions, is one of the most wonderful experiences imaginable.

In the dead of summer when we’re making our way through Manhattan and feeling like we’ve entered one of the hottest rings of hell, we sometimes take a mental journey back to the pristine cold of the mountain. And just for a moment, we actually feel refreshed.

11. Because we love apres-ski.

Sitting near the fireplace, and telling stories of the day’s adventures (some of which are even true), laughing, swimming under the stars, soaking in a hot tub, having a glass of red wine, or a nap, or a bubble bath, or dinner with friends — what’s not to love?

if you haven’t tried it, you should

It’s never too early to learn how to ski (or ride), and it’s also never too late.  Maybe this year is your year to start. If you decide to take the plunge, check out our list of the most luxurious winter snow vacation destinations.  And the best luxury resorts where kids can learn to ski.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you on the lift.

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