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Soul of Skiing

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
This might provoke some dialog...

I hear a number of marketing types for ski areas promote their mountain's deep-seated and fiercely protected possession of the "soul of skiing" and rugged "wilderness.

I don't know about the rest of you, but the minute I put my butt on a lift to get a run in, the "soul" of skiing is long gone. For the soul of skiing, you break out the nordic gear and push your butt around the forest. When you come to a hill you slide down if you're on the top, and climb up if you're at the bottom.

There is no rope tow, no chairlift, no indoor plumbing in the rugged wilderness. I have to hand it to these guys... they do a heck of a spin job, but I'm not buying.

From the day the first rope tow was put in to ferry a larger number of people up the hill, downhill skiing became a social activity to enjoy with friends and strangers. Fun yes. Soul... my butt.
post #2 of 30
the current SKI mag features some takes on the Soul of Skiing.

And just to get it out of the way, may I be the first to ask: "What does SKI magazine know about the Soul of Skiing?"

With that done, I know that I've been to a few places, some of which definitely had what I'd call a more soulful feel. Beyond that, what's the deal? For some I guess it may be a marketing term, for others it corresponds to a palpable something that I happen to like.

When I ski here at Baldy I definitely notice the difference from, say, the vibe of Deer Valley (easy target, and I truly enjoy skiing DV). People at Baldy are less likely to be upset about having to deal with slatless lift chairs and a generally rudimentary, devoid-of-frills experience. (This attitude, btw, tends to translate to better etiquette (at least among the skiers.)

Conversely, I'm sure Baldy has had plenty of first-time customers who vowed to never have a second day there.

As far as arguing it - and I see you're soliciting comments in the name of conversation, rather than simply instigating - I don't see the point of going there. If the Beaver Creek setting floats your boat, hop on board.

This "soul" stuff is a little hard to pin down for me, but I know the difference when I feel it.

I was forwarded a note about a hill back east - Bobcat, I think - that featured a sign indicating to the effect, "here's the hill, here's the rope tow, the snow is thin, DEAL with it." Gotta say, I kinda like that.
post #3 of 30
for the soul of RECREATIONAL skiing i'd nominate wildcat or aspen highlands or loveland from the four or five dozen places i've visited.

couldn't overlook MRG for this category either.
post #4 of 30
Man, I hope the snow starts falling in the east and PNW soon because the threads in this place keep getting whinier and whinier.
post #5 of 30
I'll agree with you that marketing types can spin anything, and they all try to. That's the job they do to entice customers.

That said, you do a good job of describing what "the soul of skiing" means to you. I think it's a stretch to assume that it has the same meaning for all of us. For me, a hint of a place I'll enjoy skiing is when I hear the marketing types selling the mountain, it's conditions, and terrain, rather than the shops, condos, and nightlife.
post #6 of 30
In a purity kinda way, I agree with you. Pure soul of skiing would indeed by XC, or tele with hiking up, or randonee with skins, etc. ; just you, the woods, the snows, the skis.

In a slightly less pure sense, lifts are an expedient. Most of us don't have time to hike backcountry; we have jobs; limited hours and days to ski. We need lifts to gain access to terrain we would never have time to hike to. Yeah, we could get in a run or two a day on a weekend now and then but that ain't much.

For me anyway, the sould of skiing is getting on a trail, even if it's lift serviced, where once you are on it, you can forget you are at a ski area. You may only run across a few other skiers (and they are probably way good skiers), you can't see the top or base, you may not even be able see a lift tower. Trails like this that come to mind are Bubblecuffer and Winter's Way at 'loaf, many runs at MRG, Chin Clip at Stowe, Simon Cooper at Mt Tremblant. When I'm 1/2way down one of those, I've pretty much completely forgotten that I'm at a huge resort. Maybe it's only for 5-10 minutes but for that 5-10 minutes, it's me, my skis, the woods, and the snow. A passing glimse of soul but soul none-the-less.

To each his/her own and may we all find our own soul of skiing.

post #7 of 30
"To each his/her own and may we all find our own soul of skiing."

post #8 of 30
You are a purist.

I would agree with you that the soul of skiing, like the soul of most anything, can only be experienced if you earn it by effort and dedication. Just like the soul of Surfing can only be experienced in the Ocean and not in a wave pool, or behind a boat.

Not that it makes it wrong to enjoy these things, but it becomes something other than the pure sport.

Having said that, what about other technical advances. Should skiers be required to start with leather straps on old plank boards, just to appreciate how far the sport has come?
post #9 of 30
Originally Posted by okolepuka
Having said that, what about other technical advances. Should skiers be required to start with leather straps on old plank boards, just to appreciate how far the sport has come?
I may just be a whipper snapper (at age 25) but I have to totally disagree with this statement and any statement that defines the "soul of skiing" in this thread.

Just as most of you complain that SKI Magazine has no right to define the "soul of skiing" for you, you have no right to define the same for everyone else. Can't the fact that I enjoy sliding down a mountian and the fact that you enjoy sliding down the mountian be enough to bring us together? Rather, some here would say that I would be wrong to be perfectly ecstatic to do laps with a chairlift? My enjoyment is somehow not worthy of "the epitome of skiing enjoyment" that you want to define for me?

Just to clarify, I do not snowboard. I do not (yet) venture in to the backcountry pow. I do not (yet) play in the park/pipe. I don't discount nor promote any single aspect of enjoyment on the mountain. What is so hard about that?

To me, its all about loving what you are doing while you are doing it. No one can ruin how fun it is for you even if they think they are having "more fun" or ski with "more soul."
post #10 of 30
Interesting, I just got back from JH last week where I spent a good amount of time both inbounds (with no new snow) and back country. In both of those environments I strongly experienced what I would consider the soul of skiing. Riding up the tram and scoping S&S and Corbets gets the juices flowing everytime. Riding down the hobacks or other lower faces (for a couple thousand vertical feet), good or bad snow, gives me a strong sense of a soulful mountain experience. Even a groomer with views of Jackson Hole (valley) and the Tetons aspects of these same feelings. Of course, climbing up snow covered, sketchy, exposed rocks on the way to Granite Canyon does the same (or more!).

There's just too many opportunities to reach the soul in such a place to let the invasion of civilization, technology, and development completely wipe them out.
post #11 of 30
Confucius Say:

He who not understand Soul of Skiing

Only sliding down mountain

post #12 of 30
I have to tell everyone this but there is no soul of skiing. Skiing is a sport, a recreation, a way to pass the time and escape from our mundane realities. To think that one person is experiencing more fulfillment than the other because of how he gets to the top of the mountain or if he heels are free or if he's on Pocket Rockets or not is asinine. My advice is to find out why people doing different things are enjoying the sport and not only learn to accept it but learn to appreciate it. You might find yourself enjoying the sport more. Crap, you might actually start enjoying your life for once.
post #13 of 30
From AHD 4 Ed. ---

soul (sl)

1. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity.
2. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.
3. The disembodied spirit of a dead human.
4. A human: “the homes of some nine hundred souls” (Garrison Keillor).
5. The central or integral part; the vital core: “It saddens me that this network... may lose its soul, which is after all the quest for news” (Marvin Kalb).
6. A person considered as the perfect embodiment of an intangible quality; a personification: I am the very soul of discretion.
7. A person's emotional or moral nature: “An actor is... often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not” (Alec Guinness).
8. A sense of ethnic pride among Black people and especially African Americans, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music.
9. A strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, a performer, or an artist.
10. Soul music.

Based on def 5, there can be such a thing as "The Soul of Skiing".

Doesn't mean it can't and shouldn't be different for every skier.
post #14 of 30
"...a way to pass the time and escape from our mundane realities."

much like silly-to-some, substantive-to-others internet ski banter.
it's just noise. resonates here, dissonance over there.

i still think the gear section is the most amusing.
post #15 of 30

Soul, Spirit, Ka, Essence, Zen of Skiing

It appears that some folks have difficulty with the use of the term: "soul" in reference to skiing. If I could put on my professorial hat and provide some interpretations maybe we can get back on track.

The dictionary definition provided for "soul" seems to be based primarily on the Christian theological/historical conception of the term, and if we follow that then quite rightly we would say that skiing has no soul. I suspect that medmarkco may have been using "soul" in a broader sense than that and following are three possible interpretations for discussion.

By "soul of skiing" we may actually be talking about the essence or zen of skiing: that feeling of being "in the zone" when nothing else impinges on your consciousness except the act of skiing (being in the now as some folks put it). Reaching this level is probably easier out on a cross country trail or in the backcountry where chances are remote that your spiritual experience will be terminated by a narrow miss from an errant snowboarder, but is still available to resort skiers if they can find a long difficult bump run, or that two mile groomer with no one else in sight.

A second possibility is that we are talking about the "soul" of a ski resort. This might be the spirit of place (genius loci in my rusty Latin) which can be either an unseen presence or a physical manifestation. Is there a place that you stop at, just to absorb the sense of peace or wonder that seems to exist there and only there? If so you are tying in to the spirit of place. (My favourite spot is the top of the divide lift at Sunshine looking out over the meadows to the sea of peaks to the south). On the other hand some folks believe that human constructs can also be inspirited or ensouled. If you have named your automobile or computer and are sure that they have a distinct (and sometimes cantankerous) personality then you are potentially in this group. (That root that reached out and snagged your ski...it was just the resort getting back at you for dissing the speed of the lift.)

A third possibility is that what we are talking about is simply the potential for this activity to serve to put us in touch with spiritual experiences in the same way that other physical meditative regimes do. When I have a good day skiing I notice the similarity in feeling to what happens during a good Tai Chi session (essentially dropping into a light meditative state). When I do Tai Chi and skiing on a regular basis, my doctor notices that my blood pressure drops 25 points top and bottom. Again backcountry and crosscountry skiers may find this a little bit easier than resort skiers, but it is not impossible to experience this state at a resort.

And just in case anyone asks: I have been known to hang out at the Sedona vortices and yes, I do usually carry crystals in my pocket.
post #16 of 30
Thread Starter 
Very interesting reponses! Thanks.

As Coach13 suggested, I don't want to define the "soul" for anyone else. If soul is "the central or integral part" as learn2turn suggests, or the origin- purity, then claiming to own the soul of sking in the rugged wilderness while featuring mechanical lifts, carefully cut trails, and selling "rugged" cabins (Mt. Bohemia) is about the height of hypocricy to me.

I did suggest that the soul of skiing is nordic, which I believe because it is the origin. However, I'll be honest with you- if nordic is the soul, I don't enjoy the soul as much as the other part. As threads continually drift into the evils of "soul-less" skiing, I think what the soul really is, then from there everything else is either a little pregnant or in the 3rd trimester- but pregnant none the less.

The history of downhill skiing in America most likely grows from the eastcoast tradition of a group of guys getting together to form a "club", then clearing trees to make a run and challenging each other to races to see who was the fastest.

Later came the European coaches to teach the 10th mountain division soldiers how to navigate rugged mountainous terrain- usually in western states which more closely resembled what the soldiers would see in combat. Many coaches stayed after the war and were instrumental in establishing the early "resorts", which were based in part on the mountain villages they left behind in Europe.

Glad to hear everyone experiences a little soul whenever they're sliding on the snow- regardless of how or where.
post #17 of 30
According to David Hume (18th century brittish philosopher)-

We cant even know what the word "soul" really means because there is no physical impression that the soul leaves. The mind is only a theatre of perceptions.

So... If your perceptions are good- then all is well.
Forget about "souls"
post #18 of 30
soul of skiing....

I find it
1)talking to the 3-4 year old I have agree to lift chauffer for their instructor...
2)practising endlessly to perfect some move
3)skiing thoughtlessly because 2) has worked
4)struggling to ski the stuff I still haven't found the technique for & realising that this is hard but last time it was harder....
5)Fighting the blizzard for my skin when sago is falling
6)Watching the wombats eat
7)Watching the mist in the valley
8)looking at the distant peaks & wondering if I will ever ski them (as most require much hiking I guess the real answer is no - but I can dream)
9)Skiing out of resort with no-one around -especially in creamy corn or fresh snow
10)Drinking the cold beer out of the car after some fool took us down the creek valley too far in 9) & we had to bush bash our way out of it - so a 20min trip took about 2 hours....
11)Watching the black cockatoos flying above the snowgums
12)Seeing the flame robins & knowing spring is here & the snow will melt soon
13)Watching a new skier get hooked on the feeling
14)Seeing my instructors face light up when I "get it" - or listening to the whooops...
post #19 of 30
My soulful day...

My wife, two friends, and I booted up Glory Peak to arrive at 10,000+ elevation with the sun up, a cloudless cobalt sky, and snow-covered peaks all the way to the horizon.

We hung out for a few minutes in a little pine-bough-and-snow-block igloo some of the brethren had built for shelter from the winds.

Once our breathing had returned to something like normal, we clicked into AT and tele bindings and headed northwest.

In the space of five hundred yards, we encountered wind-scoured sheets of ice, curvaceous roller-coaster drifts around hunched-over scrubby trees, frozen chicken heads, knee-deep powder, and chalky firm pack.

A lazy, shallow ridgetop led us to a steep, north-facing glade of spruce trees. The trees provide the shelter that protects the powder, and we had a few dozen turns of soft, smooth, untracked feathers.

A traverse across a sun-crusted sidehill led us to more trees, but these trees were lower in elevation and had dropped little melted-snow bombs onto the snow surface. We would ski along in nice powder and suddenly whack into a barely-buried frozen pile of ice. Not exactly the most relaxing skiing, especially in fairly tight, pretty steep trees.

That led to another open sun face on which the crust was supportable and we looped round, skidded turns on the frozen surface.

That led to the luge-run trail out of the canyon and back to the car.

Good skiing, bad skiing, easy skiing, hard skiing all in one outing.

Now I'm back at work, sitting in an office at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The enormous modern building where I work could hardly be described as having much soul, and right outside our door is the loading area for a high-speed quad and a fancy 8-passenger gondola. Not much soul there either according to your definition, medmarko.

Nevertheless, I was just watching a young mother and two little girls maybe three and five. They were all laughing, giggling, and playing tag on skis. All three of them jumped off a tiny bump and the littlest one fell over. Her sister fell on top of her and they all ended up in a heap, laughing their heads off.

If *that* isn't the soul of skiing, I have no idea what is.

post #20 of 30
We got snow in the East and 30+ inches is enough soul for me
post #21 of 30
I nearly experienced my most soulful moment on skis a few years back at Jay Peak...hit an unseen 2" high, 1" around little stump near the top of Hells Woods (of all names...why not Valhalla)...got spun around and accelerated backwards to about 25mph (in the days before twin tips...or helmets)...how I found the only path straight down the fall line with no trees I'll never know....
post #22 of 30
Soul of skiing? Scurrilous marketing nonsense. Alpine skiing as we know it today began as an elitist, heavily Brit-influenced variation on mountaineering, which was merely an extension of romanticism, and especially German romanticism - the individual alone in a robust, angular natural world. Alone -- and above -- others, spiritually, philosophically, artistically. That's the mythology. Do I accept it anyway? Of course I do...
post #23 of 30
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Bob Peters
My soulful day...

I was just watching a young mother and two little girls maybe three and five. They were all laughing, giggling, and playing tag on skis. All three of them jumped off a tiny bump and the littlest one fell over. Her sister fell on top of her and they all ended up in a heap, laughing their heads off.

I guess that part pretty much sums it up for me. It isn't exclusive to skiing, but if skiing in any form produces that end result then it's close enough for me. The rest isn't far off either. Everyone else can decide for themselves.
post #24 of 30
Here's my soul of skiing that happened today. Sugarloaf 24+ inches, high winds so no upper lifts running. Was able to get to double runner west then to the # 3 T bar with my 7 year old son, he so desparately wanted to use that T bar because his 9 year old sister had used it last year with me and I do remember it was difficult because of the wide desparity of heights . Well we get in line for the T about 20 people deep at 9:00 am and I'm dreading this because if we blow it we will have to try and get down just by the T bar line, huge mounds of snow line the whole track. It was a fight holding it straight up the track with me at 205lbs and him at 50lbs but we did it. Then at the top there still is a hike (in blowing howling winds) of about 150' to the top to get to all the good stuff. He mentions something about skiing down from this point down Sluice or Spillway I say no way not after that T bar run, other riders who are unloading at this point ,all adults look at him and say you don't stop now, he got the hint. Hiked up , he wanted to ski Gondi line but it had been groomed somewhat at night plus the winds blew the snow off the top. He looks at me and says he does not want to ski hard pack and groomed ,my eyes lit up "YES" ,on we slid down to Bubblecuffer, had a few tracks but it was the most wonderful run I have had in a long time and seeing that big grin on his face and the whoops of delight from him have touched the soul of my skiing. Mother nature was very very good to us yesterday and today. Get up to Sugarloaf there is a ton of snow up there!
post #25 of 30

...it was the most wonderful run I have had in a long time and seeing that big grin on his face and the whoops of delight from him have touched the soul of my skiing...


That's just outstanding!

Kids and skiing are so cool.

post #26 of 30
Awesome! You have him hiking for powder at seven! Your kid rocks and so does his dad! Memories of sharing t-bars with my dad at age seven are part of what the soul of skiing is to me.
post #27 of 30
madbee has it right folks. You're all making it way more complicated than it really is.

The soul of skiing is snow.
post #28 of 30
the soul of skiing is the group of "investors" and "shareholders" who invest in mega-resorts to make coddling and comforting part of the "experience"
post #29 of 30
Ever Sunday I go to "The Church of the Slopes". A fall is a lesson,the turn is a thrill. I smile every moment I'm on the hill. There's nothing quite like Skiing that will ever fullfill. It's just those damn summers that really make me ill.
post #30 of 30
Soul of Skiing - XC? I think not, and i just took a pretty nice spin on an unexpected 2" of fresh here in the Poconos, (snowing light fluff right now). And i xc ski almost every day here in season.

Skiing is different for everyone for sure. But for me, nothing like a Powder Day when you can fly right down the hill, not worrying about a death slide or getting eaten up the hard moguls, the kind of day when they "are no friends" who can't keep up! The kind of day when you meet a stranger and share something very special for a period of time. I'll never forget when my good skiing buddy and I were riding up Little Cloud with just 90 min to go before we had to rush to catch our plane and they just at that moment opened Road to Provo, at leaast 2 ft of fresh, untracked. And the people were flying down that hill, falling all over the place, laughing, whooping it up, with PURE JOY. Soon it was our turn and many of the lines were already beat up by the time we got over there, but we had our few turns before we had to call it quits. That is the soul of skiing that keeps me at it.
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