May the Slush Be With You

A love letter to the springiest spring-skiing conditions.
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Ode to Slush Bumps

Get out there and do some wiggles.

The most beautiful things in this world are always the most ephemeral. Which explains why museums are filled with portraits of pears. Artists found them exquisite because their perfection is so fleeting— just one day transforms them into a squishy, brown mess. And, when explored as an allegory for our own, um, ripening, these paintings might just be the origin of the skier’s code of conduct: “Go get it.”

Well, I’m no Caravaggio, but if I were, I’d paint a portrait of a spring slush bump. Because this gorgeous springtime phenomenon—our reward for spending a frigid winter on snow that rattles our fillings and makes our knees swell from the ground up—can, within 10 minutes of either shadow or more sun, harden to ocean reef or melt into the watery instant mashed potatoes my grandpa made me eat when I was five.

Wait, what’s that you say? Bumps went out of style with Jennifer Aniston’s hair? Wake up and smell the P-tex, people: Bumps will always be beautiful, in part because they are untamable, unpredictable, and, for the less fortunate, just plain unskiable. Moguls are awesome in the same way the Guns N’ Roses anthems of my youth are awesome: Loose, violent, loud, and messy.

Granted, powder is awesome. No denying that. And during the four times a year we actually get lift-served freshies, I applaud those onesie- wearing snobs fist-bumping over their powder 11s in hopes that someday the act of standing up in ski boots will be recognized as an actual sport. As for me, I’m going to ski—and by that I mean turn—often. And because slopes that require turns inevitably cultivate small mounds of snow unfairly discriminated against as moguls, that means I will ski bumps.

I admit I am old-school. When I was a kid, it was widely accepted that bumps were the penultimate proving ground for ripping, specifically the perfect zipper lines of Colorado’s bump mecca, Mary Jane. Now, everyone’s known since they spent seven minutes in a closet in middle school that not all bumps are created equal. It takes good bump skiers to make good bumps (yet another chicken/egg conundrum for your to-ponder list). At places like Jackson, where the bros are way too cool to plant a pole, not to mention turn, moguls are like pinball bumpers on the periphery of slide-for-lifes. And when it comes to spring bumps, those delicious mounds of snow cone–worthy slush, there is no better place than the sun-soaked Back Bowls of Vail.

That ripe corn in Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls—best paired with Vuarnets, an original one-piece (the belted kind with shoulder pads) and a headband that allows for glorious hair tossing—slows everything down a little. It gives you some kind of semblance of control over terrain that, all season long, has cut your ego like that hard-boiled egg slicer-thing everyone has in their kitchen drawer and doesn’t know the name of.

See, slush bumps forgive almost all your errors—the missing sections of edge on your skis, bases you haven’t waxed all season, even that backseat twist you do with your left arm. But that’s not all—they celebrate your flaws, shooting out a heavy rooster tail at all the onlookers on either side of your line as if to say, “Look at me go, in spite of my suckiness!” For old people like me, slush bumps let us relive our heyday and simultaneously invent an alternate reality, one in which we are the stars of some kind of film that doesn’t involve the cat drinking out of the toilet or kids making homemade slime with the last of our dish soap. 

Youth may still be wasted on the young, it’s true, but I won’t waste a single precious slush bump until I too turn squishy and brown. Now’s the time, people. Go. Get. It.

Kimberly Beekman, former longtime editor at SKI and Skiing, dedicates this essay to Marcus Caston and Jonny Moseley for their seminal work on “Return of the Turn.” She’ll ski bumps with them anytime.

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