Is Skiing the Most Overrated Activity in the World?

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photo of two women skiing
Photo by Tiffany Bui on

Here’s one that is sure to piss people off: is skiing the most overrated activity in the world? It’s high time we talk about it.


I’ve been skiing since I was a little kid. My dad would take me and my brother a few times a year. I am no stranger to skiing. Most recently, my company did a ski trip (which we do every year) and I went skiing in Jackson Hole on back-to-back weekends. I had a good time. But as an adult, you start to notice a lot of things you don’t really think about when you are a kid.


First and foremost, skiing is absurdly expensive. Every single facet of it. Unless you live right next to a mountain, presumably you need to pay for some sort of transportation to get to some obscure place. Because the place is usually obscure, you need lodging. You need to rent skis. Lift tickets are a million dollars. They treat food like the airport does: we have a monopoly on it, so pay us. The only thing surprising about skiing is that Bernie Sanders hasn’t tried to make it free yet.


Here is how the usual ski trip goes.


You spend a great deal of time and money getting to the place you need to get to. The next day, you wake up much earlier than you would like to. Why? Because you need to beat the rush to the mountain, and you must first spend an hour putting on all of your thermal clothing. You need to do this because you have actively chosen an activity for the day that requires you to be in the Arctic Tundra where your risk of death is actually higher from the chosen activity itself and not from frostbite.


Once you have shepherded yourself and your group which inevitably has at least one person who drags their feet, you arrive at the mountain and hand over your first-born child for a parking spot. At this juncture, you need to lug all of your things to the ski resort, where you try on a bunch of ski gear. The great thing about the ski gear is that you get to wear ski boots which are nearly impossible and very uncomfortable to walk in. Now that you are locked into those bad boys for the rest of the day, you get to limp all of your other stuff to a locker, which of course you must also buy, and say goodbye to your comfortable boots.


Now that this has been accomplished, you go to buy lift tickets. Keep in mind that it is now impossible to walk and you also have really heavy and inconveniently shaped skis and poles that you have to take with you. It’s also cold. Any time you have to walk up or down stairs you sigh heavily, thinking of the way in which you can carry all of these things while accomplishing the task in your Impossible Boots. You feel exhausted already but you have not even acquired the tickets that Sanders must make free one day.


“Fucking capitalism,” you whisper to yourself as you angrily grab the lift tickets.


At this point, you feel that all of the hard stuff is out of the way and you breathe a sigh of relief. Sadly, you are mistaken. Despite your best efforts to reach the mountain as early as possible, it dawns on you that the cult of ski people had the same idea. You get in line for the chairlift, which seems to be a mile away because you are behind so many people. Freezing your ass off, you wait in line for what is probably an hour, realizing that you need to pee. But there’s no going back now. You’re in line and getting somewhere to take off these skis and walking in your Impossible Boots to a bathroom where you then need to unbutton three layers of clothing to urinate is a task too tall at the moment.


While you wait in line for your moment to get on the chairlift, you realize that most of the people around you are part of a cult to which you do not belong. They are ski people. They listen to Dave Matthews Band, had a year or two in their life in which they stopped everything they were doing to become ski bums somewhere, and spend most of their week supporting antifa on internet message boards. Tangential to them in the same cult are Donald Trump supporting rich families who go skiing every weekend. This is the one thing that brings them together. Oh, well except for irrational hatred of other people who do not have the same opinions as them. As they talk to each other about the double black runs they intend to do that day, you realize you are not one of them.


Finally, your moment arrives and you get to go on the chairlift. Halfway up the chairlift, you think to yourself how it is possible that you do not hear about that many deaths by chairlift every year. It reminds you of the wonders of aviation and flying on a plane. Your mind starts to wander about all of the ways that the cords might snap, making you plummet to the mountain below. Fortunately for you, the wind chill up here is so brisk that it wakes you up to the reality that your hand warmers are not doing the trick.


With great anticipation, you arrive at the top of the mountain. Ah, time for the fun part to begin. You get to ski down the mountain now.


Two minutes later, you are back at the chairlift, where you get back in line. It will be another fifteen minutes or so before you arrive at the top, and two minutes later you will be here again. And this cycle will continue for the rest of the day, until you eventually wander off later to mix it up, stumble into a double black run by mistake as you pass through some trees, and almost kill yourself a couple of times.


In between, there will be moments where you stop for lunch or to use the restroom. While you welcome the break to the skiing – which is taxing on your legs – you realize there is no real respite, as your Impossible Boots make it difficult for you to get around. In some ways, you still prefer to be wearing skis. All the while, you are dreading the end of the day when you must lug around in these things to return your gear, find your locker, and change once more.


But there is one thing you get as an adult that you do not get as a kid. Après-ski. This is where the day is done, you have comfortable clothes on and nothing else to worry about, and you get to drink as much or as little as you want. Everyone is in a good mood here, presumably because they no longer have to wear their Impossible Boots.


For such a long day, you figure you actually spent something like an hour doing the skiing, and maybe seven hours doing just about everything else. It’s no matter. The hour was a great hour, and it was worth the effort.


While all of the above is mostly satirical, I do still enjoy skiing. I wouldn’t keep going if I didn’t. But you realize as an adult how hard it is for a family to be able to go skiing. I was very fortunate as a kid because I was relatively privileged. My family had the time and money to take me fairly often. I had no concept for money back then and a lot of the logistics were handled for me. Maybe that is why I never thought twice about doing it.


I remember when I used to go skiing with my father, after every run, he would calculate our cost per run. The idea was that we would try to be as efficient as possible with our time and get as many runs in as we possibly could. At that time, I thought it was kind of stupid and funny. Today, I find myself doing the same exact thing.


All this to say, my trips to go skiing as an adult made me very thankful for my parents. Not that I was not already thankful. But skiing is such a pain in the ass. I cannot imagine how much more of a pain in the ass it is when you have to lug around kids with you and handle their lift tickets, rentals, wipe the snot off their nose, and deal with their annoying behavior on top of what is already a very tiring, taxing, and challenging day.


A few years ago, I had this realization and I reached out to my dad. I told him, I don’t think I ever realized it back then, but I really appreciate the times you took me to go skiing.

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