Letter: Will the Real Gaper Please Stand Down

Traverse Rage: 'An especially mouthy young couple sporting the uniforms of the SLC local agro ripper tribe decided they had seen enough'

Like the African killer bee but possibly originating out of Europe, the ski area scourge known as "ridge rage" and/or "traverse rage" (sub-strain: "bootpack rage") has spread across the North American continent like an epidemic. And while the "Euro barge" remains for the time being contained to Europe and South America, well, if it wasn't for this guy in front of me hogging up the track I'd already be on the summit, yo! (Aspen Highlands ridge, Jan. 20.) Photo: Ted Mahon

Published: January 24, 2011

(Ed’s Note: Dave Moe, aka Captain Powder, the co-founder of PowderMagazine, has a philosophy he calls Global Chilling. It reminds us skiers to, among other points, keep things chill. We all need reminding, and some more than others—please consider the following letter to the editor.).

Snowbird Traverse Rage

Dear Editor:

The day was much like many other powder days at the ‘Bird: 14 inches of fresh, cobalt blue skies, hoots and smiles everywhere. Not epic by Wasatch standards, but paradise to my wife and I as we enjoyed a week away from the kids, getting back to our ski bum roots. We were doing laps in Mineral, working further out the Bookends traverse, laying down tracks in Powder Paradise, and anticipating the impending rope drop for the Bookends area as the patrol worked hard to clear their route. Finally, we caught a glimpse of two red coats heading out the traverse as we got off the chair and pointed ’em in that direction.

Our good fortune continued as we reached the gate with only four or five skiers ahead of us. Two of these skiers were a Snowbird Mountain Sports Guide and his client for the day, who had no doubt paid a hard-earned premium to learn some skills and perhaps get an edge on the crowd. Getting through the gate and up to the next traverse required a relatively benign sidestep ascent of about thirty feet over a small rock face. Routine to most, but potentially gripping to some. There was a firm crust underneath the fresh snow and the client ahead was having some trouble managing his nerves. The guide was patiently talking him through the last five steps.

Naturally a line of traffic was forming on the traverse behind us, leaving the poor guy exposed to the mounting jeers of an impatient crowd in addition to the rocks below. An especially mouthy young couple sporting the uniforms of the SLC local agro ripper tribe decided they had seen enough and launched a full vocal assault on the guy.

“Move your f’ing skis or go f’ing home you clown,” yelled the bro-bra dude. “Yeah Barney, some of us want to rip that pow not cry in it,” yelled his uber-chick sidekick.

Suddenly most of the crowd got into it, some scolding the couple for their impatient disrespect, others just making noise. After a few more minutes the guy made it over the little crux and moved on to what must have been one of the best powder runs of his life.

In the meantime the rockstar couple could not take any more, having been held up for at least five minutes, and pointed their big fat rocker skis downhill, more content to ride the chop than wait another couple minutes. My wife and I looked at each other and could only laugh in amazement at the lack of perspective these people clearly have. Next time get up earlier, or maybe throw on some skins and hike for it if you need your fix so bad you are willing to tarnish the experiences of everyone around you, not just the guy stuck up there helping to support the economy of this lifestyle you feel so entitled to. Our turns, by the way, were the best of the day: light, dry, untouched, and well worth the short wait. Arriving at the lift below we noticed Team Heavy Local already heading back up, at least five chairs ahead!

The best part of this story unfolded later that evening over drinks at the Aerie. We were settled nicely into a couch by the window, sipping on wine and recounting a great day when a cheerful and healthy looking guy asked to share the table with us while he waited for his wife to come up. We obliged and began swapping stories.

We learned that “John” was from Tasmania, here celebrating his 59th birthday. As a present, his wife had booked him a day of guided skiing. “Best day of my life on skis,” he said enthusiastically. He went on to describe the incident I wrote about above from his own perspective, that of the guy getting roasted: “I felt pretty bad about it, but I was frozen, never felt that way before. My guide got me through it though and it was incredible skiing. We went back twice more.”

We opted to let him finish the story before revealing that we had witnessed the whole thing. Lots of laughs and another bottle of wine later we had made new
friends. John and his wife were inspirational people; parents, grandparents, successful entrepreneurs, global adventurers. They were leaving Snowbird the next morning to spend a month in Hawaii riding waves on SUPs. We have an open invitation to stay at one of their lodges in Tasmania someday.

To the young couple out there most likely stuck in traffic and cursing the stupid drivers ahead for it… the world is a much bigger place than you know. Slow down, breathe deep, consider, learn, and work your asses off. You may someday come close to being the caliber of that “Barney” you berated on that beautiful powder day at The Bird.

Denver Miller
via email

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