Does Skiing Really Matter?


does skiing really matter?

words: heather hansman | photos: ryan creary


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The clearest way I know how to explain it is to talk about gravity. When I try to talk about that pull I keep coming back to gravity and weightlessness. It’s the rush where you’re just barely in control of the forces of the universe, sensation surging. Where else can you feel that freefall? I know there’s nothing useful or necessary about it, but it’s the closest thing I know to flying. “It sounds hokey, but when I’m skiing everything feels like it’s in balance and synched up,” a friend once told me when I asked him why he’s pegged his life to skiing. “Everything else melts off, everything makes sense, and everything is smooth.”

So does it matter? Is there any value in trying to skip out on one of the major planetary forces, even just for a little? No, of course not. But also of course.

The clearest way to appreciate something is to take it for granted and then have it taken away. And some winters feel like that now. I took skiing, and the grace that comes from it for granted for so long. I thought the rush and connection that comes from throwing myself downhill were a given, and always would be, if my body and my nerve could hold up. But that’s starting to feel naïve now. Which makes skiing feel like it matters more.

This year, storms kept coming in hot and rainy, if they came at all. The pineapple express rolled in from the Pacific while high pressure hung over the Arctic, fizzling precipitation. No one I talked to was having a good winter. Not in Montana, not in Maine.

												 Ryan creaary ski light pow


I’ve been thinking about what I could lose if I didn’t have skiing, or winter or snow. I’d miss the relationships and chances that have come out of slipping around in the mountains, and the lucky selfish ability to throw myself downhill at the mercy of gravity, but mostly I’d miss the way skiing locates me in place and holds me into a landscape, feeling everything.

Does it matter? Of course it doesn’t matter. But that’s the whole point. To find skiing purposeful, you have to think that it’s the same genre of necessity as art or song. It matters because it doesn’t matter, because it’s just for itself. It feels like nothing and it feels like nothing else. It matters because it might make you care about the rapidly warming planet, or your local mountains, or the people who inhabit it.

Skiing matters because of the dopamine and the belonging and the feel of it: the romance of the early morning sparkle-studded glint on the angles of the hoar frost, or the way you forget to breathe, sucked into the rhythm of bump turns, in that lucid moment where your body takes over for your brain. It matters because we need joy. It matters because it connects the dots between our weird little bodies and a bigger sense of place, and I don’t know anything more important than that.

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