Photo by Ashley Barker
"If everyone skied, there would be no more wars." That's a famous quote from Hannes Schneider that gets thrown around by skiers every so often. I used it myself in one of my first Intros for Powder. It's also a go-to whenever someone asks why skiing is important. It's quaint and convenient. It's also hyperbole at best, self-righteous and aggrandizing at worst, and patently untrue. Humans are stupid. We fight wars. We always have. If everyone skied, the Alps would be like the Middle East.
So why is skiing important? For me, it comes down to a lesser-known quote from a no less wise man. Five years ago, in our 40th anniversary issue, editor-at-large Matt Hansen wrote, "Because it is one of the few things you can do from the time you can barely walk, till the time you can barely walk. Skiing is the thread that runs through the generations."
From the time you can barely walk, till the time you can barely walk…. What else fits that bill? Breathing, circulating blood, shoveling food into your mouth—all pretty important things. Realistically, though, not much else.
There are a lot of sports we can do well when we're young but that our bodies just can't keep up with as we age. Subsequently, there are things we improve at as we age—writing, patience, perspective—that we have no master of when we're young. But skiing transcends, and as a result it's the one thing I can relate to with my 72-year-old father as equally well as I do with my 2-year-old son.
Whether we care to admit it or not, self-identification is important. That can mean race, religion, politics, or sports-team affiliation, but usually the identity we find most important is defined by what we do. At various times in my life, I've been a soccer player, a rugger, a poet, a journalist, a father, and a husband, among other things. With the exception of the last two, the importance of each of those has ebbed and flowed as I've matured. Yet, through it all, I've always also been a skier. When there came a time when calling myself that felt like a stretch, I packed up and moved to Colorado.
Turns out I'm a better husband and better father when I'm able to also be a skier.
Skiing is important because it's important to me. That has no bearing on ISIS or carbon emissions or the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There is no residual significance outside my own limited sphere of existence. Skiing is important because it makes me happy, it keeps me healthy, it gives me self-worth, and helps me bond with my family. That's a completely self-centered take, and I'm OK with that.
If skiing is important to you—whatever the reason—that alone is enough. You don't need to define or justify it like you owe the world a goddamn apology for being obsessed with something as goofy as standing on a pair of boards and sliding around. You certainly don't need me to explain why, on some existential level, that obsession is OK. Just feel it, and love that you do.
So why do I ski? I ski because I can—because it's something I have done since I was young, and something I will hopefully do until I'm very old. I ski because I don't know what I would do if I couldn't.
Derek Taylor worked at Powder from 2002 to 2012. He was the editor for six years. 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 November 2016 issue of POWDER (45.3). Subscribe to the magazine here.