Meesh Berthoud instructs with the legendary YES Improvement at Whistler, and along with his colleagues’ insider tips on where to find the best skiing/riding at Whistler Meesh delivered this great essay on the “Why we ski/board” question for our current Travel Bible IV issue – at your newsagents, ski/board store or grab the ipad/digital version here.
The cold wind blows in my face as I stand atop the cornice, skis hanging out over the edge. My heart begins to race as I adjust my goggles, plant my poles and push off. Gravity takes over as I free-fall into the steep, powdery chute. A slight hip-check on landing as I sink into the blanket of fresh snow from last night’s storm. I begin to accelerate as I turn down between the rocks, fresh powder billowing over my shoulders. The chute begins to widen as I enter into the vastness of the alpine bowl. With nothing but a fresh white canvas ahead of me, I begin to paint my masterpiece. I hold my breath as I dive into the powder, the snow exploding all around me. I feel weightless as I rise up and float from one silky smooth turn to the next. The adrenaline is rising and I take a hard right as the tree-line approaches. The branches whip by as I snake my way through the maze of trees, my eyes focused on the spaces that open up ahead. I veer left into a small clearing when suddenly the ground drops away as I find myself a nice pillow line. I launch off one rock then another and before I know it the trees close in on me again and I’m back in the forest. I see a creek bed and dive down the bank using the gulley as a natural half-pipe. The trees begin to thin and I exit into a mogul field. The soft, fluffy bumps explode underneath me as I charge my way down. The cat track approaches and I crank one last big turn before rocketing down the road. As I race back to the lift I’m breathing hard, my legs starting to burn, but yet I feel alive. With a huge smile I arrive back at the chair, already planning my next assault on the mountain. Why don’t you join me and invigorate you soul as we explore the playground that is Whistler Mountain?
As ski instructors, we all have them. We don’t like to admit it, but we do. I’m talking about non-skiing friends. This is the time of year when those relationships become tested. As images of snowy slopes, bottomless powder and fresh tracks start to swirl in our heads like snowflakes caught in the wind, our true non-skiing friends admit defeat. They will smile and wave good-bye as we disappear into a blizzard of white, knowing full well that we will return with the daffodils in the spring. But there are always some that don’t quite get it, and one will inevitably ask the question, “Why do you ski?”
Usually I roll my eyes, take a deep breath and answer with a quick quip like, “Well you can’t après-ski unless you ski first.”
This almost always results in a blank stare, so I fire off a rapid succession of words. “It’s the speed, the adrenaline, the exhilaration. It’s the cold wind in your face, the racing of your heart. It’s the power of a carved turn, the weightlessness of skiing powder. It’s flying through the air, challenging the mountains and defying gravity. It’s charging through the bumps and blasting through the trees. It’s the thrill of the steeps, the serenity of the backcountry. It’s about heading outdoors and conquering the elements, escaping the stresses of life and feeling alive. There is nothing better to clear the mind and invigorate the soul.”
Then I realize that my cheeks are getting red and I’m getting far too emotional, far too flustered, so I pause and turn it back on them. “Why do fish swim? Why do birds fly? Why does a dog stick its head out the window of a moving car?”
Still blank looks all around. Well, dogs hang out the window to feel the wind in their face, flowing through their fur. They do it to look at the world passing by, to catch the different scents floating by on the breeze. They do it because they can, they must. It’s programmed into their bones, into the very fiber of their beings. They do it because it feels good – no, it feels great. They do it because in that moment they have no master. They are free.
That, my friends, is why we ski. It’s a state of being. It’s freedom.