Time Away from Skiing Reminds Us Why We Ski

Even when we can’t go, being a skier helps us face the unknown

Snow trickles softly down, adding to the quiet hum of the earth.

The ski town where I reside is usually pulsing with high energy this time of year.

It’s normally bustling and vibrant with afternoon slush turns, après ski parties en fuego, and the dynamic liveliness that only comes from a booming tourist town in the throes of peak Spring Break.

Right now though, everything is soft, everything is dampened, and the new vibration my home emits is one of uncertainty.

It’s several weeks into the COVID-19 shutdown. The ski areas are closed. The on-mountain restaurants are shuttered, and the chairlifts sway listlessly in the wind.

Instead of Pit Viper-clad, boozy springtime skiing with friends, we are left with a rare capaciousness for looking inward. For hitting the skin track. For hours spent among hushed forests, grappling with the unknown.

This is also a time for directly facing our reality and asking questions that probably do not have an answer. And I think, sometimes, those are the best questions.

Why do we ski?

At first, the answer might seem quite simple—because it is fun. But look deeper, dig deeper. Why do you ski? Why do you wake up, put on ski boots that give you bone spurs, bundle up against frigid temperatures, spend all of your money on a sport that sometimes makes no sense, and ski day-in-and-day-out?

Is it because you love the feeling of laying over an arc on fresh corduroy?
Is it because you want to hang out with your friends?
Is it because you want to look like you are doing something cool on Instagram?
Is it because you want to make it to après?
Is it because you find solace amongst nature?

My answer to this question is constantly evolving and changing and it will continue to shift throughout my entire life. And that’s the point. I have learned there is no one answer. Just like there is no one answer to many of life’s questions, the question of why we ski is there to instill a sense of wonder and push us towards the beauty of the unknown.

I skied when I was 4 because that’s what my parents did.
I skied when I was 9 because I wanted to become an Olympian.
I skied when I was 15 because I liked going fast.
I skied when I was 18 because it was a an achievement of a goal.
I skied when I was 23 because it was one big party.
I skied when I was 26 because powder is pure bliss.
I skied when I was 29 because it looked good for the camera.
I skied when I was 32 because I found peacefulness and harmony in nature.

I continue to ski today for hundreds of reasons, some which are unexplainable. But what I have found is I enjoy skiing the most when I do it for simply being in the moment, enjoying the undiluted spirit of nature and the utterly amazing feeling of swooshing my body across snow. Because this form is not influenced or tainted by forces outside of myself.

It is not my ego getting in the way or my social media driving the show. It is simply just me, skiing down a mountain, one unto myself. It’s just skiing. It’s not even an answer to a question. It’s just skiing.

Ultimately the beauty of this question—Why do I ski?—is that it is unanswerable and unknowable. And right now, as we grapple with this uncertainty within our lives, all we can do, is open ourselves up to life’s unanswerable questions and go bravely into the unknown.

Tucker Vest Burton is the senior public relations manager at Aspen Skiing Company.

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