It’s Time to Set Pro Skiers Free

Because all they really want to do is go shred with their friends

A very earnest A-list professional skier recently told me that he was trying to figure out how to stay in his profession without dying. Which is rational and healthy and also really sad when you realize he’s ultimately talking about making pretty pictures to sell skis and goggles. Professional skiing is not one of those businesses, like long-line fishing or firefighting, where high-risk scenarios are mandatory. Or at least it doesn’t need to be.

Like pro football players, pro skiers have become pro skiing’s biggest (unintentional) victims. So maybe we should set them free: free from dodging freight-train slough on lines nobody would ever hit for fun, free from POV cameras, free from Instagram, free from doing interviews where they explain what they really like best is shredding with their friends. So why not let them?

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When you buy a pair of skis or a jacket, how much did all that sick AK footage add to the price? It’s probably possible to calculate that percentage just from the MSRP on a pair of Volkls (figure wholesale price is half retail, cost is half wholesale, minus materials and shipping, square the hypotenuse times pi…), but my calculator (cocktail napkin) was on the fritz (too wet to scribble on). At any rate, according to an executive at one pro-centric ski company, the cost of their pro program added about $25-$30 to the consumer price on a pair of skis. Which is not to say that some pro skier gets $25 per pair, but that’s the cost of sponsoring the skier plus all the brand activation and implementation surrounding them, such as marketing staff, photographers, and travel budgets.

Like pro football players, pro skiers have become pro skiing’s biggest (unintentional) victims. So maybe we should set them free: free from dodging freight-train slough on lines nobody would ever hit for fun, free from POV cameras, free from Instagram, free from doing interviews where they explain what they really like best is shredding with their friends. So why not let them?

That’s $25 too many, I say. Because $25 adds up to more than a couple of aprés-ski drinks and those beverages could lead to anything—job opportunity, a new pal, a trip to Peru, my next ex-girlfriend…

Either way, giving the whole pro skier thing a break would be a win-win. We could afford a couple more drinks, the skiers could get a breather, the internet would have more room for kitten videos, and the better part of the ski media could actually learn how to ski instead of schmoozing in the VIP tent at the X Games while wearing next year’s outerwear like a bunch of useless twats.

I know what you’re saying: “But Jaded, what will happen to climate change activism without pro skiers flying to Svalbard to snowmobile for 300 miles and hashtag about it?” Good question, thanks. Climate change activism should be able to survive without the impassioned testimonials of pro skiers. The real concern is how pro skiers will be able to assuage the existential guilt that any rational and conscientious person would have about a job that’s based on burning massive amounts of fossil fuels to do something that nobody needs.

If only we could turn the amazing capabilities of pro skiers—the coordination and reflexes—toward some useful purpose. Like if pro skiers in wingsuits swept in and disabled North Korea’s nuclear program, or used advanced switch powder skiing skills to foil a Russian plot to elect a bloated orange fungus President of the United States.

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But because of the nature of skiing—its inherent uselessness and silliness—that’s impossible. In a paradox worthy of quantum physics, the more radical and intense the skiing, the more useless and silly it is in the context of the real world. In ancient times, the sorts of people who would be today’s pro skiers directed their pro skier-ness into daring deeds done for tribe or nation, like ice-age mammoth hunters or the World War II commandos on tele gear who halted Hitler’s atomic program in Norway. But progression in slough management or off-axis aerial rotations is never going to apply to anything as useful.

So what if we took a two-year hiatus from pro skiing? Shut down the photo shoots, set the social media accounts to private, idle the helicopters, stop building giant kickers, and see what happens. There’s certainly enough stock footage to tide the media over, and the pro skiers themselves are resourceful people who should have no problem in a recovering job market.

And maybe we’ll realize we didn’t need any of it anyway, and we can just get on with the considerably more fun business of living vicariously through our own ski lives and finding our next ex at aprés with the $25 no-pro dividend.

This story originally published in the January 2017 issue of POWDER (45.5). Subscribe to The Skier’s Magazine here. PHOTO: Blake Jorgenson