We’ve had this on the wall since I went to the Jackson Hole “Steep and Deep Camp” back in February of 2012:
We skied four ski areas on four days this last weekend – Big Sky on Friday, then Grand Targhee, then Jackson, and finished up with Bridger Bowl on Monday. It was a great trip; I didn’t get to do Corbet’s at JH as I intended, but I got to look down into the maw of that thing again, and I realized I’ll probably never be good enough to ski it.
Ethel had never skied at Jackson before – now she gets the poster.
There was somebody standing behind her on the tram, and he was talking about skiing 120, 130 days per year, at all of these different areas. He said something along the lines of “No matter where I ski, I’m always one of the top 1% of skiers on the mountain – until I come to Jackson. Here, I’m a novice.”
There are people at Jackson who are like the guy in the poster. You don’t have to see them ski to know this – they walk through the crowd, but they are not like us. They are like Elves walking through crowds of Hobbits. They aren’t disdainful of the folks around them – we simply do not matter to them. They are going to ride the Tram and do things that you and I simply cannot imagine doing. They are going to do them seemingly effortlessly, or at least it looks that way to you and me. They aren’t concerned with what “percentile” they might occupy in the skiing hierarchy; they are concerned with that thing that they haven’t done yet – or perhaps, that thing that they haven’t done perfectly.
I met some of these folks while I was there for the Steep and Deep camp. They are coaches or mentors in these camps; perhaps they do this as a form of service. I think that it’s more likely that they do this so they can eat and get a ski pass, which seem to be the only things that are important to them; and possibly they gain some small measure of improvement in their own skiing by teaching others.
I will never – and probably could never – be one of them.
I made the “mistakes” that the poster is talking about. Now, in my case, perhaps they weren’t mistakes – hey, I didn’t know anything about skiing when starting my adult life. I’m a po’ boy from Flat Red Clay, Alabama.
(Besides, I like to think that God has been guiding my life since ’85).
And, had I even known about such a lifestyle, had I decided to be a “ski bum”, I still wouldn’t have had the innate talent that these folks were born with – or the attitude of pursuing perfection while maintaining peace of mind that they seem to have cultivated.
I looked down into Corbet’s Couloir on Sunday, and realized that I would never be able to do that correctly, unless conditions were perfect (and when conditions are perfect, there will be untold numbers of other “bucket listers” who will get there first, and then conditions won’t be perfect any more). I simply do not have the talent or ability to do it right, and I don’t want to do it wrong. Never mind the possibility of injury that that might entail – it’s simply that I want to be able to say “I skied Corbet’s” rather than “I side-slipped into Corbet’s and then shouldered my way down it”.
I’ve had some depression since then – realizing, like the guy on the tram, that I’m not anywhere near as good at this skiing thing as I thought I was. I even considered giving it up, but decided against it – I tried that once, and moved to the desert, and I was miserable until we got a place in the mountains and I started skiing again.
And even though I’m not a good skier, I had a great time the next day at Bridger Bowl. So there’s something. Even we folks in the middle of the bell curve can have fun.
Here’s another poster that I’ve had for many years now, which is kind of the opposite of the one above: