Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Skiers need guidance. This is not uniformly our fault.
Part of the problem stems from years of listening to false prophets and heeding the advice of unscrupulous opinion leaders whose counsel-“That neon one-piece looks marvelous on you!”-has sown confusion and despair among our ranks.
Shrouded in my annual depression prior to winter’s first snowfall, I came to the realization that I have been silent too long. As someone who has made what could be considered a living (at least by kind family members, if not also by the IRS) in the ski industry for 30 years, I’ve decided that the time is ripe to remind the skiing public of the fundamental certitudes of our sport: the Five Commandments of Skiing. As the self-proclaimed Pontiff of Powder, I know that heretics will howl, but the Truth, when revealed, will shine like a beacon in the heart of every skier.
Before I begin today’s important sermon, I want to point out that there were originally Ten Commandments of Skiing, of course, but due to the overwhelming lack of patience exhibited by the average skier (ever watch a liftline on a powder morning?), the number has been cut to five, beginning with…
1. All Falls Begin with a Turn.
It’s no accident that this is the First Commandment. Turning is dangerous, never more so than today, when carve-crazed kooks cut clear across six lanes of traffic, oblivious to the carnage in their wake. When do skiers fall the most? When turning, obviously. Yet what is it that ski schools teach day-in and day-out; what, pray tell, is the Rock upon which their church is built? Turning! It’s scandalous. If it weren’t for going straight, turning wouldn’t even exist. Turning is the unholy stepchild of the straight run. It is an abomination. Release thy skis! Let them run! This sport is about freedom; unlock the steely shackles of the turn and discover why it’s called downhill skiing. If you’re not focused on the fall line, you might be suffering from a common perversion we call cross-country skiing. You should probably get that checked out.
2.You Can’t Get Hurt in the Air. A close examination of accident statistics reveals a shocking truth: All injuries are caused by contact with the ground or some other ground-affiliated object. The implications are clear: The longer that you, and your loved ones, can stay in the air, the safer all of us are going to be. No excuse for flight is too fanciful, no invitation to air too inconvenient to accept. Hop a bump, hit a lip, huck a cliff, slam a gap-jump, hurl a heli out of the pipe, but for heaven’s sake, take air! Do you want to help end skiing injuries in our lifetime? Get thee to a kicker and get airborne! Even those lost souls who are blindly led into turning’s temptation will find there are opportunities for rotating every which way in the atmosphere. Just watch anyone younger than 15 on the slopes. Take any opportunity presented to slip the surly bonds of earth.
3.Training Is More Dangerous than Skiing. I was at a book signing in Lourdes, France, or maybe it was a mall opening in Trenton, N.J., I don’t recall exactly, when a stream of battered and bandaged athletes surrounded me, begging to be healed. (This happens more than I care to say.) It being August, and seeing as they had been injured mountain biking, inline skating and trail running, I healed them not. Instead, I read them the Holy Riot Act. “How dare you injure yourself in the off-season!” I thundered. “The Lord hath given you skiing…and you turn thy back against it! Who told you to train? Satan, that’s who.” You should know that if thou should injure thyself while skiing, the Pontiff would spare nothing in an unflagging effort to heal thee. But to injure thyself in the summer! What were thou thinking? Want to get in shape for skiing? Go skiing. Hallelujah!
4.Your Brain is Your Enemy. I cannot be clearer on this point: Thinking and skiing don’t mix. How do you expect to control thousannds of nerve endings and coordinate millions of muscle fibers while you’re rocketing along at 60 mph? There is literally no time to think. The solution? Do your thinking beforehand. Get it out of the way. Have a nice thought, maybe invite a few in for drinks, then lock them all in a soundproof attic and swallow the key. Push off, go fast, have fun. Ski instinctively. There will be plenty of time to think later. Because thoughts are accustomed to being in charge, they’re often rude when ignored and may intrude suddenly at any time. To hold them at bay, occupy your mind by singing a song (to yourself, please). I’m partial to the Rolling Stones’ Mixed Emotions. By the way, the Fourth Commandment is one that snowboarders grasp intuitively.
5.Vision Is a Crutch. This may seem like a harsh edict, but our religion requires a little spine from its followers. The Pontiff doesn’t like whiners. “I can’t see where I’m going!” Well, get over it. It’s an inescapable fact that the best skiing takes place in the winter. And it’s going to be cold and wet and perhaps foggy or at least snowy. And maybe you won’t be able to see where the heck you’re going. Allow me to repeat: It’s winter! You should get down on your knees thank the Grand Divinity for blessing you with freshies. The presence of snow and the portent of skiing in a giant milk bottle are no reasons to get your long undies twisted in a knot. At Creation, the All-Knowing anticipated this circumstance and stacked the deck in skiers’ favor: He made snow white, and rocks and trees dark. So to ski safely when vision is impaired, just do as the Pontiff does: Aim for the white parts and steer clear of the dark bits.
The Pontiff’s messianic complex aside, some of you might suggest that these Commandments are frivolous. Look closer, ye of little faith. Skiers who spend every moment enslaved to the turn will never discover the near-flight experience of soaring downhill. Those who remain earthbound limit their options, particularly in moguls. People who injure themselves in the off-season should be abashed by their carelessness. One can’t ski-or perform any other athletic endeavor of consequence-while thinking about the mechanics. And skiing entails hardships we all must endure if we are to reach deep into the sport-and ourselves.
Now go forth and ski in the path of righteousness. May fresh powder accompany all of thy days. Amen.