By The Jaded Local
Frankly, professional skiing is getting a little boring. I know, I know—The Level is off the charts. People (or at least one of them) are doing double flips off rails. Daron Rahlves is attacking Alaska like someone who’s won the Hahnenkamm or something. Davenport has just about skied every 14er in North America. Andreas Fransson repeats horror-show Cham lines before lunch, and drops the South Face of Denali solo. The Park has been thoroughly Taken To The Backcountry. But there’s a certain lack of resistance out there, a lack of friction. It’s all a little too easy, like a video game or something.
Skiers have travel and heli budgets and skis specifically designed to facilitate dropping pillow lines switch on Thursdays. Giant laser-guided robot machines tune their boards to perfection. AT gear is so good that there’s no excuse for not summitting, and cameras are so dialed that there’s no excuse for not Getting The Shot. Thanks to medical science, what used to be career-ending knee injuries now just means six months off from serious hucking before you’re back at it. Fifteen years ago they had to do it on race skis, inbounds at a ski resort, and pay for it by banging nails all summer. Now, if you want to ski an entire AK face backwards at night, the Supershredder Ski Co. will build you a specialized ski, Red Bull will charter a heli to film it and hire guides to dig you out, and you’ll actually get paid afterward.
Of course, everyone’s battling for Facebook friends with their video edits and assorted Media Assets—and no doubt the competition is heated—but maybe it’s time to take it to the next level: mano a mano. Professional skiers need to recognize one of the basic lessons of capitalism—you don’t have to progress if you can prevent the competition from progressing.
But no, it’s all high-fives and “Sick run, bro.” That’s fine for the rest of us. We’re recreational skiers. But they should have to fight for it. Pros already keep the killer spots secret and demolish the kicker after the filming sesh, but it would be a lot more entertaining if they took a pro-active approach. Pro skiing is pretty damn Darwinian anyway, why not throw some gas on that fire and see what happens?
Look at hockey—those guys are amazing athletes, but all anyone cares about is the fighting. When I check in with the Ski Media, I’d like to see crews of jibbers brawling over the best rails, big mountain skiers dropping in on each other, ski-mountaineers hurling boulders down couloirs, open combat on the slopes, equipment sabotage, the whole nine. At the very least, slopestyle and halfpipe competitions should adopt the skiercross approach—four-at-a-time style—and in the off-season pro skiers should be training in MMA techniques in smelly Orange County gyms with violent douchebags instead of going on Baja surf trips with their girlfriends.
Sure, watching someone rip it is entertaining, but not half as entertaining as watching people fight in ski boots. How much better would it be if there were pitched battles in the park before any skiing happened at all? Film crews would have to hire enforcers, urban shoots might require gang affiliation, and we’d weed through the weak and lazy in a single season, thin out the herd, and generate some great Content too.
I can already visualize the dramatic opener of the Salomon Freeski TV episode:
Fade in on Mike Douglas, shot in moody black and white. He is wearing an eye patch.
“…it really began when the big companies started tightening their belts. There were just too many good skiers, and not enough money to go around. So we turned on each other. At first it was just the little things, like backing someone’s bindings off, or snaking their line, but then it… progressed.”
(Cue sounds of gunfire. Jump cut to aerial shot of two skiers furiously brawling atop Meteorite and then a huge kicker exploding in slow motion.)