Chair at whitefish mountain

The Soul of Skiing (Pt. 3)

Skiing’s Soul Survives on Smiles

Todd Heath

This Story was Published in Issue #24, Purchase one today: HERE.

Chair at Whitefish Mountain, Photo: Craig Moore

I was a rope-tow-operator at the tender age of 15. A “ropey,” getting paid to watch my friends lap the halfpipe all night. It felt surreal.

A couple years later, I moved up to lifty-status and obtained a discounted ski-locker plus a free ski pass. I’d entered a club where the soul of skiing resides, a place where the obsession I have lived with since my early days of lapping bump runs and charging gates first formed. I missed going to see the Rolling Stones with my older brother because it landed on the opening day of skiing at Mt. Brighton. Yes, the same Mt. Brighton from Aspen Extreme (the best ski film of the early 90’s) and the same 230 vertical feet that kept me satisfied throughout my formative years. It wasn’t until I became a bit older and grew tired of the same bump run–around the time said movie came out–we decided to illegally hop the fence one dark night to attempt skiing the “backside.” The rush of my first illegal OB mission and the late nights skiing under fluorescent lights had me captivated.

My dad recently came across a letter I wrote to my grandparents and it states: “Hi Grandma and Grandpa. Everything is going great, school is good, my grades are good, but I wish there was more snow.” I was 10.

Whether the soul of skiing is a sense you are born with, or something that creeps up on you will never be known, but it had me on my first night sitting in a five-by-five wooden shed.

The Soul of skiing lives in those lift shacks. It lives on those sneaker pow days, when 3 inches feels more like 10. It’s there when the rest of the world is commuting to work and you are hiking a ridge; and in the absolute freedom of forgetting life’s responsibilities, one turn at a time. The soul of skiing is found in those long hikes where your own breath is the only thing keeping you warm from a howling wind, when your goggles are so fogged and frozen, yet you laugh because the amount of snow on your brain-frozen skull keeps you from caring. The moment when only the present matters.

Mt brighton michigan

All 230 vertical feet. Mt. Brighton, Michigan.

The soul of skiing might live in a chairlift conversation or a thumbed ride to the hill. It’s a feeling of fulfillment, a simple yet amazing joyfulness that doesn’t need explaining to those who know it. It’s an addiction we share. The soul of skiing lives in all skiers and snowboarders who understand the uniqueness of a perfect flake falling on their jacket or the sacredness of an untouched line. The old Poma lifts and double chairs reverberate its soul. The one-piece suits weathered in fringed duct-tape, or the smell of hot wax on an old iron remind me of its presence. The soul of skiing lives in a snow-filled parking lot you slept in prior to the plows waking you up for a morning pee. It lives in line before the lifties reach for their shovels.

The white knuckled all-night drive is the antithesis of the soul we all know, but you still go.

It’s a feeling of fulfillment, a simple yet amazing joyfulness that doesn’t need explaining to those who know it.

Todd Heath
Lift shack tow rope

Rope Tow lift shack in Vermont.

The soul of skiing is actually so
magnificent, it deserves a poem:

The skin track, the boot pack,
the smoke and patrol shack.

The T-bars and rope tows,
the lifties dancing to Dead shows.

The late-night drives through
nuking snow; it’s all part of the soul.

The camaraderie of a late-day Après,
especially on a pow-day.

Or an afternoon skin when lifts stop their spin.

Above an inversion when the rest of town sits in clouds, the soul of skiing smiles down– a large grin.

Because simply enough, it’s a feeling we all keep.

No matter how icy or steep, the soul of skiing runs deep.

Sure the ‘Stones concert may have been something I’d never forget, but for me, to be a part of skiing’s soul, is something I’ll never regret.


Todd Heath is the founder and Chief Motivator of Bomb Snow and firmly believes that the “Soul of Skiing” matters.
Through habit, when he mentions going “skiing”, he’s most likely riding a snowboard. Find me on Linkedin HERE



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