Q: Why did Utah choose the slogan "The Greatest Snow on Earth" when it so closely resembled the Ringling Brothers' slogan "The Greatest Show on Earth?"
A: Both enterprises attract a lot of bozos.
It’s OK to own an automobile without a ski rack.
You don’t need to keep your Web browser bookmarked to all the
snow reports. You do not have to walk around with old lift tickets
flapping from the zipper of your jacket.
It is OK, in
fact, to hate skiing.
I’m as bitter as day-old
convenience store coffee when it comes to skiing. My ex dropped me
like a campaign promise in December when she realized that I was
never really going to learn to ski. I have very little to talk
about during the winter.
This is my 25th year in Utah and
I have never downhill skied and won’t — ever.
Don’t worry about me, though. I’m perfectly at home in
this ski-obsessed state — about as comfortable as a
vegetarian in a slaughterhouse.
I just don’t get
it. "The greatest snow on earth?" I don’t see Oregon putting
the "greatest rain on earth" on its license plates, or Kansas
boasting that it’s the Tornado State. Snow is just bad
weather that Utah built a tourist industry around. Not to say
I’m not glad for the tourist dollars, but couldn’t they
just as easily have been redirected toward something more
working-class and aesthetically appealing — stockcar racing,
perhaps, or even bass fishing? Saying that ski resorts are a
beautiful use of mountains makes about as much sense as contending
that those giant monograms on hillsides above Western towns promote
Skiing is an addictive behavior, and like all
such behaviors it should be regulated and frequently ridiculed.
It’s not as though I don’t have a few strange habits
and nearly uncontrollable yearnings of my own. Hardly a day goes by
that I don’t hear a pepperoni pizza and a pint of cold beer
singing a siren’s song in harmony. I don’t skip out on
work to answer it, though. My sick days are more or less randomly
distributed throughout all 12 months of the year. Try checking that
statistic with the ski addicts where you work.
admit, I admire the creative excuses coworkers concoct to coincide
with fresh powder days. I’ve learned a lot from them;
it’s helped me become a proficient liar when I have to
explain why I spent the weekend renting movies instead of
plundering the slopes.
"Gee," I say, "I’d like to
ski, but I have bad knees from saving all those children from
burning buildings." Or, "I’ve stopped skiing because the
voices in my head keep saying, ‘cut the ski lift
cables.’ " Or, "I love skiing, but I don’t have many
clothes that go with magenta, and I look really bad with that
raccoon goggle tan-line thing."
I’m far from being
a couch potato, but in the West, if you don’t ski,
you’re not an athlete. I can shoot 40 percent from the
three-point line and I have more sports paraphernalia of
questionable value than REI’s dumpster. I just prefer sports
where you cannot be killed or injured by trees.
really dangerous? I can’t say, but I think it’s
interesting that I am constantly berated for not wearing a helmet
on any bicycle trip outside of my driveway. Yet skiers routinely
wear naught but a sock hat when traveling twice as fast as I can
pedal. Don’t they know there are trees out there that might
be out to get them?
I have learned that I don’t
have to ski to talk about it. I can even be polite. If trapped at a
winter dinner party, I can throw in enough key phrases —
things like "carve" and "mogul" and "black diamond runs" — to
bluff my way through to dessert. If all else fails, I can always
say something about how "those snow-boarding kids are ruining
But the serious ski rhetoric doesn’t
start till after dinner, when people have had a few more drinks.
That’s when ski junkies show their true colors. For instance,
what if the first thing I said about my girlfriend or spouse was,
"She has a great 20-foot jump shot"? You’d consider me a
little shallow. I have, however, met more than a few women who have
introduced a significant other as "This is my husband. He’s a
really great skier."
I nod approvingly, but wonder, "Does
he love you? Has he ever been convicted of a felony?" Then I
remember my lines and say, "I bet he’s awesome on the black