After recently getting flamed by a couple of trolls on a popular internet skiing forum, I started thinking about various encounters I’ve had out in the back country over the last few years. I started wondering,…”where’s the love?”
First of all, I’ll admit I have no experience with forums beyond reading one from time to time on doping in professional cycling. I noticed some vitriol but not too much in the way of personal attacks. But being a target on one is a whole different deal. From my recent encounter on TGR’s site, I’d say nothing is off limits when it comes to insults and defamation. I suppose this is due to the anonymous nature of the postings and the mind set of the individuals involved. As far as what it brings to our sport, I see nothing positive here.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am the perfect victim for chuckleheads like the one’s who gang raped me on TGR. I didn’t really stand a chance. For better or worse, I care what people think and I tend to take stuff personally. So, when someone brought the post you see below to my attention, it touched a nerve, clearly. Here’s a little background.
As you know, I made it to Jackson for the holidays, super psyched to get out of the miserable winter we’ve had thus far in Alaska. I found perfect conditions in the Tetons, for the most part. On my final day, I was tasked with introducing a new partner to the joys of ski touring in GTNP. I picked the classic East and West Hourglass Couloirs on Nez Pierce.
Matt’s a fit guy and I like to move fast. We cruised up the Garnet Canyon skin track in short order and over took everyone in front of us. Low on the apron below both couloirs we came up on the two guys headed up. Our pace slowed considerably as the trail breaking was variable. I asked if they wanted me to take a pull and they said, “sure” and stepped aside. I said nothing else and simply assumed we’d be sharing the run with fellow skiers. They said nothing either.
After several minutes I was finally under the start of the West. When I looked back, the two others left the boot pack and headed for the beginning of the East. My only thought was that we would now have a booter up the East to follow after dispatching with the West. It would be a great introduction to skiing in the Park.
We made short work of the run skiing marginal wind hammered boiler plate most of the way. At the junction, the booter up the East was in but the guys had not descended. Another party at the base who were not going up mentioned that they were trying to get over the chock stone. I decided to take advantage of the moment and quickly head up.
At about two thirds height, we were out of the way as the two started their descent. No words were exchanged as we watched them ski by. We finished and descended, enjoying better snow in the East. At the final skin rip, we skied by the party on the way out. Again, no words were exchanged.
A couple of weeks later back in AK I was talking to a former Jacksonite who, after hearing about my trip home, referenced the above post and assumed it was me. The rest is history.
So, this raises lots of potential topics of discussion. I’ve queried many people about the etiquette questions. Sub topics include fashion choices in the BC, Dana Carvey’s treatment of George Michael’s butt obsession (see below) which, of course, is directly related to the shape of my ass. Of course, I'm not sure why these youngsters made the butt reference but my response went completely over their heads. Just to be clear...
In terms of etiquette, most experienced mountaineers and skiers agree that it’s the fastest that get’s the line. There’s no ownership and any suggestion to that effect is met with a smirk and quick dismissal. In a later post on the forum, one these idiots called me “butt hurt” (lot’s of butt references on TGR. Not sure what that's about) but it seems it was they who were so.
And that brings me to the issue of speed in the mountains. Because of my fitness orientation I’ve been fascinated with going fast for as long as I’ve been climbing, and that’s been better than three decades. I’ve had the pleasure of growing up watching contemporaries like Ritchey, Bouchard, Twight, House, Pretzl, Anderson, Garibotti and Koch, just to name a few, push the light and fast game to where it is today. I haven't the talent nor the inclination to take it to the extremes they have but I still emulate the philosophy.
In climbing, I’ve experienced nothing but respect from those I’ve encountered along routes who were doing them in a different style, usually slower. Mostly enthusiasm and stoke was exchanged. But in skiing, I’ve sensed a different attitude on skin tracks in various mountain ranges in the west. I wonder why the difference.
The concept is the same. Go fast, push yourself, ski more, see more. But I’d say half the time I get a snotty attitude from people I pass. It’s not like I’m walking on their tails or even being an asshole. I say hi when I go by but I’m usually breathing hard and don’t engage in any conversation beyond the passing pleasantry. And yet, there is occasionally the wonderful passive-aggressive maneuver of these skiers not stepping aside for several minutes. “What’s the hurry?” is common. And, as indicated in the post, I’m apparently not having as rich of a mountain experience as these slower travelers are. That implication pisses me off.
Although it's not rife yet, there seems to be an element coming into skiing that's reminiscent of the localism and "my beach, my waves" attitude that's endemic in surfing. This isn't a good thing. In another post by one of these characters, he threatened to let the air out my tires if I came back in the summer and "high-holed" him at his favorite fishing spot. I mean, really. What do you say to something like that? These guys need to go back to L.A. or wherever they came from.
Going fast and covering more ground in a day in the mountains is simply another way of doing it. It’s not for everyone but why do some hate on those of us who choose that path? I think for men, it’s simply that alpha male, competitive ego thing. Just doesn’t sit well with everyone.
And finally this...
I’m the first to admit that I’m competitive. No shit, right? I have inner demons to slay and passing others on skin tracks is like a soothing salve to whatever these wounds are. Fear of aging? Feeling inadequate? Shit, who knows? I’m not pushing people over or being a dick so why should they care? But they do and that speaks to their own issues, not mine.
And what’s with the hating on the Spandex? We get shit from everyone. When you spend a good chunk of your ski day near threshold and never sit down or stop for longer than a skin change, wearing fast clothes simply makes sense. But boy do people get heartburn about it. In Europe, of course, no one would give it a second thought. But in the fat and baggy world of American ski style, the Lycra clad crew are frequent punching bags. All I can say is that attitude only increases our satisfaction when we snag “their” line for the day. We’ll always have the best laugh.