The unbearable triteness of skiing

 

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 businesses attract a lot of bozos.

It's okay to hate skiing and to own an automobile without a ski rack. You don't need to have your computer bookmarked to all the ski reports. You do not have to walk around with old ski-lift tags flapping from the zipper of your jacket.

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 figured out that I was never really going to learn to ski. I have very little to talk about in 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 as comfortable as any vegetarian in the slaughterhouse could be.

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 they could have easily have been redirected toward something more working class and aesthetically appealing, such as stockcar racing or bass fishing. Saying that ski resorts are a beautiful use of mountains makes about as much sense as saying those giant monograms on the sides of our mountains promote literacy.

Skiing is an addictive behavior, and like all such behaviors it should be ridiculed and regulated. It's not as though I don't have a few strange habits and nearly uncontrollable yearnings of my own. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't hear a pepperoni pizza and a pint of cold beer singing a siren's song in harmony, but I don't skip out on work to answer it. My sick days are more or less randomly distributed throughout all 12 months of the year. Check this statistic on a few of the ski addicts where you work.

I admire the creative excuses they concoct to coincide with fresh powder days, and likewise, I have become a proficient liar when explaining why I spent the weekend renting movies instead of plundering the slopes.

"Gee, I'd like to ski, but I have these bad knees from saving all those children from burning buildings." Or, "I've stopped skiing because of the voices in my head that keep saying, ‘cut the ski lift cables.’" And, "I'd like to ski, 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 a couch potato, but not skiing makes me a non-athlete in the West. I can shoot 40 percent from the three-point line and have more sports paraphernalia of questionable value than REI’s dumpster; I just prefer sports where you cannot be killed or injured by trees.

Is skiing really dangerous? I can’t say, but I am constantly berated for not wearing a helmet on any bicycle trip outside of my driveway. Yet skiers routinely wear nary a sock hat when traveling twice as fast as I can ride.

I have learned that I don’t have to ski to talk about skiing. I can even be polite. If trapped at a winter dinner party, I can throw in key words such as carve, black diamond ski runs and "those snow-boarding kids are ruining everything" to bluff my way through to dessert. The serious ski rhetoric doesn’t start till after dinner when people have had a few more drinks.

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 is 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 diamonds."

Dennis Hinkamp is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). He lives in Logan, Utah, and works in extension communications for Utah State University.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

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