Skiing is Not Important

But it might be the best way to live hard, connect with nature, and be kind

Photo by Cody Downward

Skiing is not important. What is important is living hard, connecting with nature, avoiding routine, and being kind. Skiing happens to be a great way, maybe the best way, to do that.

When I was a kid, I thought skiing was the only important thing. My friend gave me my first subscription to POWDER when I was 14. I bought Skiing magazine, too, and performed the ridiculous fitness tips in the back pages in my bedroom at night: Make a grid out of masking tape and hop from square to square; do wall sits in the hallway with schoolbooks in your lap. I watched Greg Stump’s movies like some people watch reenactments of the Bible. I knew every second, every transition, every storyline and lyric by heart. When I was a senior in high school, I made a Stump-inspired ski movie with a camcorder. It featured my friend on a snowboard and me on skis. It was the 1980s. It was called “Board vs. Boards.”

I never fell for the elitist elements of the skiing life when I was growing up. My gear was crap. I used retention straps 10 years after ski brakes came out. My family brown-bagged lunch every day, skied in the rain wearing garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. My parents had me pose as a 7-year-old to get a discounted ticket until I was 12.

We never quit before the bell. I wanted to plenty of times, but hard-earned money bought our tickets to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, and we were obligated to get every turn we could. I took three or four lessons over the years and started skiing moguls. My parents rented a shack near the mountain for $500 a year, and I picked up a job and skied every weekend. Then my friends and I packed our skis and headed to Tuckerman’s Ravine to try the steeps. In a few years we were skiing out West and five years after that we were living there.

I never fell for the elitist elements of the skiing life when I was growing up. My gear was crap. I used retention straps 10 years after ski brakes came out.

There were a few lessons along the way. Live cheap and you’ll live better. Focus a hundred feet beyond where you’re going and you won’t hit anything. Never half-commit. Never launch a blind rollover. Eat well. Party hard but not often. Don’t worry about how you look. Never trust anyone whose clothing costs more than your car.

We don’t ski because it is important. We ski because it is fun, and pleasure might be the only thing we take with us to the next world. We’re not saving the world on our skis. It’s just a good time. And it’s weird. And it’s somewhat divine to float down the side of the mountain at 40 mph.

We would survive without skiing. The world wouldn’t end, and we wouldn’t die. But we wouldn’t be who we are, and that, more than anything, is the hallmark of a real skier.

Porter Fox is the features editor at Powder, where he has worked since 1999. In honor of the magazine’s 45th anniversary, we’re asking past editors to answer two questions: Why is skiing important? Why do we ski? This story originally published in the December 2016 issue of POWDER (45.4). Subscribe to the magazine here.