The good, the bad, the ugly of skiing and snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding may be the most fun you can have with or without your clothes on, however there are some days where it feels anything but. 

Unless you live in a pimped up ski in ski out mansion on the slopes of Deer Valley or Courchevel then you’re going to have to travel to reach your favourite powder piste and if you’re not living it up lying flat in first class with chauffered transfers then chances are something’s going to go wrong.

Like that one time I flew into Jackson but my luggage didn’t and I had to spend $250 of United’s money kitting myself out in ski gear in order to get amongst the powder storm and we all know how far $250 doesn’t go when you need ski boots, skis, jacket, pants, goggles, helmet, gloves. So I bought a shearling jacket and went for coffee instead.

But at least my bags arrived a day later. A friend of mine while on a ski camp in Portillo never received her luggage the entire 10 days she was there. No fresh underwear, no thermals, no soap, no toothbrush, no skis. Turns out her bags went from Chicago to Santiago to Europe to New York and back again while she skied in borrowed gear (and underwear, ewww) in the Andes.

Then there’s roads closed due to a blizzard when you are trying to get to that excess snow so you can get first tracks in that powder you flew all the way to get to. I had one friend spend a powder weekend in Colorado in a roadside motel on the I-70 while I got the first tracks she wanted in Vail. Poor her, lucky me.

If you don’t like the elements then this skiing game isn’t for you, either. Who honestly thinks that minus twenty six degrees at Phoenix Park in PyeongChang is going to be anything but unpleasant? Oh, the IOC, that’s who.

Hands up who’s braved the rain on a day in Australia just to get your lift pass dollar worth? Or driven the access road to a kiwi ski field only to discover a whiteout made of fog? Or doubled over in pain in ill fitting ski boots that eventually claimed your big toe nails that fell off in a hot tub two months later? Let’s not even mention the wretched wind that can close down any ski resort on any given day, even while you’re still on the chairlift ugly crying in a gale waiting for help. 

Of course these things are all mainly out of your control which is why handing over a fifty dollar note and getting coins as change for a processed white bread bun with a half heated hot dog and a sachet of just in date tomato sauce is more painful than a torn ACL on the first day of the season. You chose to hand over the money knowing what you’d get but expecting that this time, somehow it would be different. It wasn’t. 

What about the guy sitting next to you that lights up a cigarette on the slowest chairlift in Telluride? The wrestle to get the last car park in the lot and then skating in your ski boots while carrying your skis as you negotiate the ten blocks to the base lodge? The lift line on a powder day? The other lift line on a powder day? That powder day, with a lift line?

Yet all of this fades into comparison when you get that first powder turn, floating in a cloud of white as you come up for air before hitting that white room again or when your skis carve like butter through a perfectly groomed piece of corduroy snow. For that is the nature of skiing and snowboarding, you struggle, you win, you struggle, you lose, you struggle you win again and you pay for the privilege to have a damn fine time along the way.

The upbeat amongst us will say ‘every day on a mountain is a good day’ and they are right, it sure beats a fluorescent lit office with plywood partitions and a grinch who puts their name on their stapler, their sandwiches, their newspaper and asks you for money for a leaving present for someone you never knew worked there in the first place. 

Skiing and snowboarding takes you places whether inside your head while on the slopes or actual places far from home. There’s nothing like a day on a squat toilet in the Himalaya with half your curry insides falling out to make you feel alive because you’re one of the few who has the adventurous snow spirit to ski the world’s tallest mountains. Then there’s the first time you get locked out of your pension after dark in Japan because you didn’t realize there was a curfew or the first time you negotiate the ski runs at Aspen Highlands after a champagne session at Cloud 9.

You never forget your ski moments, good and bad because every day on a mountain IS a good day even when it’s not because if you didn’t love the mountains you wouldn’t be living the adventurous life. A life that guarantees pleasure as much as it guarantees pain and comes with a side order of hilarity, comradery and a thousand stories to entertain with every ski trip you embark upon. 

That’s worth a little wind, rain and a $25 hot dog any day.

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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