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Skiing the Way You Live Your Life

“I have a theory about skiing,” said my friend Pat Peeples. “Do you want to hear it?”

Through the urgent sweep of the windshield wipers and the thick curtain of blowing snow, I could just make out the tail lights of the car in front of us. We creeping along Route 82—Killer 82—heading northwest out of Aspen in a full-on blizzard, late on a Friday night.

“Umm, sure,” I said as the brake lights flashed on the car ahead and I downshifted to first.

“I’ve come to the conclusion,” she said, “that people ski the way they live their lives.”

The car in front of us pulled off at a convenience store to wait out the storm. The only guide we had now was the center line of the two-lane road, and it was disintegrating rapidly into a yellow blur beneath the accumulating snow. We inched along, nearly blind.

“How so?” I asked, peering over the wheel.

“Look at the people around you. Take Amy, for example,” Pat said, mentioning a friend who’s a student and part-time ski model. “She skis beautifully: smooth, in control, with purpose. That’s exactly the way her life is. Her sister, Val, on the other hand, skis just a little out of control, just a little wild…the same way she lives her life.”

I brought the car to a stop in the middle of the road. The pavement, the double yellow line, the shoulder, the guardrail—all completely obscured by the blowing snow. A Toyota 4Runner crept past us from behind, and I fell into line thankfully, fingers crossed that he wouldn’t mistakenly drive off a cliff with us following dutifully into oblivion.

Pat’s theory seemed to make sense, at least when I applied it to well-known skiers. Look at Glen Plake, a wild man on skis and off…and Stein Eriksen, a styler and gentleman in everything. The theory seemed to work with my friends, too: Casey, will to go anywhere or try anything…Tim, always looking to the next turn, always seeking perfection. Finally, I thought about my own skiing, only I turned the theory around: Do I live my life the way I ski, seeking adventure, new perspectives, fresh tracks, the view from the other side of the rope?

And what about you? How’s your skiing…and your life? Are you content…and comfortable with your contentment? Or are you pushing yourself, taking risks? Maybe this should be the season where you start getting air or venturing into the trees…or launching a new career or getting a tattoo.

Just southeast of Glenwood Springs, the Toyota turned off, the snow let up, and I was able to relax at the wheel. Talk turned to other things, but by the time we pulled into Pat’s driveway in Vail, I brought up here theory once again.

“Hey Pat,” I said as I turned off the ignition and the world fell to silence, “your theory left out one thing. What about people who don’t ski?”

“People who don’t ski?” A mischievous smile spread under her freckles, and she said, without a trace of seriousness, “Why would you even want to know them?”

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.1, September 1990. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Ski Bum as Zen Master

This is the interactive part of the magazine, so you’ll need two common items easily found in the typical American home: a pair of scissors and your wallet.

Got ’em? OK, now I want you to take all the credit cards out of your wallet and cut them into tiny pieces. Don’t balk now, this is important.

Now I want you to call your boss and tell him you quit. Then call your landlord and give 30 days notice, or put your condo up for sale. Finally, trade in that nice new Saab for a beat-up 4WD pickup.

Things are starting to sound a little grim, huh? But what if giving up all this stuff meant you got to live in Jackson Hole? What if, instead of heading off to the office tomorrow, you put on a pair of ski boots and climbed into the Jackson tram—and did that for the next 150 days in a row?

Would it be worth it? Most people say no, and that’s why IBM and Merrill Lynch are still in business. But there are a few who by their actions say yes, living in the mountains is worth giving up the comforts of a traditional career, and these people—the ski bums—are the true heroes of skiing.

Waaait just a minute, you might say. What about Scot Schmidt and Jean-Marc Boivin?

OK, I’ll admit Schmidt’s a ski hero. So’s Boivin—and the Mahres, too, and Plake and maybe even Bill Johnson. But the difference between those guys and your average ski bum is that they made skiing a profession, whereas a ski bum has probably abandoned a profession—or at the very least avoided one. In the ’90s, that’s nothing to smirk at.

Leaving the “real world” to be a ski bum is no simple task. Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, it was much easier. Ralph Lauren was too busy selling neckties in Manhattan to think about buying ranches and boosting housing costs in Telluride. Resort cafeterias still gave away saltines. The world was much less manacled by the obsession for riches and “success”. But complaining about it is simply whining. The world just isn’t as romantic as it used to be, and you either learn to deal with it or you put on your beads and follow Jerry Garcia around for the rest of your life. Ski bums, as I see it, keep that romance alive in a sport (and country) that’s become horribly homogenized. It’s a monumental task—giving up the traditional paths to success and living in an expensive mountain town during the harshest, coldest months of the year without a “real” job.

I guess I see ski bums as nobler or more pure than the rest of us for their “sacrifice”—a funny thought since half my ski bum friends are dirtbags who are just as likely to be surf bums or climbing bums. This idea of purity through sacrifice springs from the timeless concept of pilgrimagem where you shed your material possessions and make a journey in hopes of attaining enlightenment. Enlightenment through ski bumming? Yeah, I know it’s corny—but what better way to justify eating Ramen noodles for dinner, having eight roommates in a two-bedroom apartment and busing tables for $2.50 an hour?

Even with a job that’s as fun as mine, the temptation to leave and spend a winter doing nothing but skiing is strong. I can spend hours thinking about joining my friends in Chamonix, Jackson, or Snowbird. Making first tracks all winter long…discovering for myself the secret hidden pleasures of the mountain…coming in tune with the subtle undercurrents of a season in the snow—someday these may be enough to pull me away. For now, though, I really like the traditional path…but that won’t stop me from sharpening my scissors one more time.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.2, October 1990. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

November 1990 Volume 19, Issue 3

There’s a helicopter run up in Canada—British Columbia, to be more accurate—called Freefall. At the top of Freefall is a small, open field. A glade of charred, limbless tree—all that’s left of a lightning fire—below the summit yields to a 45-degree plumb line that rockets through 3,000 vertical feet of thick timber to the valley below. Over a half-mile…no benches, no flats, no quarter given, none asked.

Freefall has seen countless tracks the last few seasons, but once, just a couple years ago, it was an unskied, unnamed jewel begging for first turns. Then, one day, heli-skiing czar Mike Wiegele, photographer Gary Brettnacher, and a crew of guests made the first landing. As they stared nearly straight down at the pickup spot with a sense of vertigo, Gary pulled Mike aside.

“Mike,” he said, “I think this is going to be an epic run, maybe legendary. Wouldn’t it be nice if we shot some photos of you making the first-ever tracks?”

Wiegele’s not without a sense of history, and maybe there was a little ego involved, so he said eagerly, “Yes, yes, I think you are right.”

“OK, Mike, I’ll just ski on ahead, 20 yards or so. Give me a minute to set up, and then just ski toward me.”

G.B. grabbed his poles and started skiing. Mike smiled, thinking of all the years they’d been skiing together, all the Kodachrome they’d burned. He watched Brettnacher’s compact form move as a cloud blowing through the burned-out section. “Jeez, that looks like good snow,” he thought.

At 20 yards, Brettnacher gave a little hitch, but he didn’t stop. That’s OK, Mike thought, maybe he’s going to use a long lens. But Brettnacher kept going.

“Hey, he’s gone too far,” he said aloud. Slowly, it came to Mike. “Wait a minute, he’s not going to stop…he’s not gonna stop until he gets to the helicopter!BrettNAAAAAACHERRRRRR, you baaastarrrrrd!!!! Come back herrrrre!”

It was a hell of a chase.

The Big Chill

Global warming ain’t

The Greenhouse effect is a hoax.

In fact, the opposite is happening: We’re on the cusp of a new Ice Age. Yes, pilgrim, the globe is inexorably locked into…the Refrigerator Effect!!

I know, I know. It’s a shocking revelation, a stunner that goes against everything you’ve been told by The New York Times, Dan Rather, and our own beloved government. They’ve warned you about the ozone hole, about rising oceans and temperatures that’ll make Minneapolis look like the Mojave. Well, it’s all hogwash, a smokescreen blown by high-placed conspirators who don’t want to see their massive investment in sunscreen companies go down the tubes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, despite the efforts of these swindlers, I’ve uncovered startling new evidence that global temperatures are falling. My findings are backed by highly regarded weatherologists who unfortunately must at this time remain nameless.

The actual evidence, however, isn’t so important as the implications of Global Chilling. See, if the world gets colder, we get more snow, and more snow means more face shots and more face shots means more skiers, which means we’ll sell more magazines which means I can retire to my chalet in the Dolomites before I’m 35.

But my retirement’s neither here nor there. What is here is the fact that it’s getting colder and it’s going to snow a lot more—a hell of a lot more. And it’s going to snow a lot lower—for every two degrees Centigrade the temperature drops, the snowline will fall 1,500 feet. Places that you’ve never even considered skiing will see first tracks…and second tracks…and third tracks.

Imagine! What would San Francisco be like in the grips of the Refrigerator Effect? You could telemark Telegraph Hill—piece of cake. Or Washington, D.C…slap on a pair of 215s, tuck Wisconsin Avenue and you’d be in Georgetown in minutes. Or L.A…lock into your snowboard at the Hollywood sign and 20 or so arcs later you’d be on Sunset.

What about the snow depth in places you already ski? Well, climatologists estimate a 15 percent increase in snow depth for every degree the global temperature drops. Two degrees means another 90 inches for Aspen, another 160 for Wolf Creek, 625 total. And British Columbia’s Mt. Mackenzie, which now gets 720 inches a year, will have 950!

Wait a sec. I have to stop here. I have to tell you the truth. Global Chilling isn’t occurring. It’s all a fantasy conceived on a sweltering summer day. I’m sorry. I lied.

But what if?

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.4, December 1990. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

January 1991

There I was on my first “backcountry” skiing experience, crunching along a dark trail at 4 a.m., when I stumbled over a mogul and slammed nose-first to the snow.

It was one of those crystalline Vermont nights in January, the type of night so clear and brittle the world might shatter at the touch, so cold that normal actions seemed stupid, foolish ones beyond comprehension. Imagine, then, how dumb I felt sitting there bruised in the dark, having a miserable backcountry experience—and it wasn’t even in the backcountry. I’d tripped on a mogul on a ski trail within the boundaries of Mad River Glen.

For years I’d wanted to go into the backcountry, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t have any of the specialized equipment, nor would I have known what to do with it if I did. No one I knew skied the backcountry, and, besides, the eastern suburban sprawl and huge blankets of private property made the backcountry seem intangible, unlike in the West, where it lived and breathed on every mountain switchback.

Still, I desperately wanted the other ski experience, where turns are paid for in sweat and people are few and far between, where the rarity of the experience makes it more valuable. Then this idea to hike Mad River came to me like a revelation. The realization that that kind of maniacal revelation comes solely to extremists and medieval saints occurred to me only when I tried to get my friends to come along.

Well, with the exception of one, they blew it, because the stars were never brighter and the air was never cleaner. When the sun found us eating breakfast on a high cat-track, the alpenglow was richer and more intense than any I’d seen from a ski lift. We skied down, the two of us, past trees painted pink and over snow that throbbed in the early light. As we skated toward the parking lot at the bottom and passed the patrollers on their way up for the milk run, we felt a few hours short of sleep but a lifetime richer.

Not long after that, I started poking around in the trees at Mad River. I followed tracks, got lost, tore my parka on the puckerbrush, and made new friends who eventually gave me the key that unlocked such hidden tree runs as Paradise, the 19th Hole, and Octupus’s Garden.

That spring I moved to the West, and within a month Casey Sheahan, my roommate and co-worker, threw a tent, a bag of Oreos, and a pair of climbing skins into my pack and shepherded me from sea level to 13,000 feet in the eastern Sierra Nevada. It was a trial by fire, a pilgrim’s progress: I stumbled from the lightheadedness, puked because of the altitude, was awed by the granite spires and intimidated by unfamiliar skis that didn’t give me much control on snow that refused to turn to corn. I got blisters and spent a sleepless night in my summer-weight bag when the temperature plummeted to minus-35. That whole weekend in Rock Creek Canyon I had three good turns on soft snow…and yet to this day I can’t think of any other turns that remain so vivid.

Skiing in Rock Creek was different from Mad River not just because of the vast contrast in scale, but also because of the way it was backcountry. At Rock Creek, we drove up a road to the snowline, parked, and started walking. Unlike in the East, where you have to hop a fence, duck a rope, or cross an invisible boundary, there was no division between the backcountry and the rest of the country. It was just country, and any boundaries were simply self-imposed limitations. At the time I learned that, those little lines on maps and in my mind melted away, and anything that had snow on it became fair game. Since the time Casey tried to kill me in the Sierra, I’ve done a lot more touring. I spent a week skinning through British Columbia powder at Rogers Pass, traversed Italy’s Dolomite Mountains with nothing but one really stinky set of Gore-Tex, and skied at 18,000 feet on a Mexican volcano. I’ve been lucky. But if I’d never skied any of those places, if I’d never left Burlington, there’s no question that I’d still be whacking at the Mad River Glen underbrush, fighting for a lousy couple hundred feet of vertical, just as happy and content as I’d be anywhere else.

That, I suppose, is the backcountry allure.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.5, January 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Straight Priorities

It was the trickle of cold rain that snuck in my collar and rolled like an ice cube between my shoulder blades that convinced me that trying to ski West Virginia at Christmastime was a stupid idea. This wasn’t the first notion I had that something might have been amiss. The puddle on the chair, the fog, the rocks, the muddy slopes, and the sepia snow—each had made me pause for a second in contemplation. But that rain down the back, that was the kicker that told me I wasn’t simply an optimist, I was just plain dumb.

I had good intentions. It was Christmas, a rare visit to the East Coast, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to ski with friends at the old stomping grounds of scenic Snowshoe, West Virginia. How could I—Snowshoe was where I jetted to when the demands of college were too great. It was the site of my first turns, of legendary crashes, mythic hangovers, epic losses and occasional Pyrrhic victories on the battlefield of love. Too, Snowshoe was where I spent the spring break that I punted on a book report on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which led to my failing sociology, which led to my changing majors from business to journalism, which led to that little job at the New York Times, the Pulitzer Prize, fame, fortune, and, of course, this job.

So you see, I had sentimental reasons for going back to Snowshoe.

I was practically the only one willing to go. Dave, who’d been making turns by my side for so many years, said he had to alphabetize his albums. And Chip: golly, but he had to detail the cat’s litter box. Only Scott would go, blessed Scott, who was a rabid intermediate, undaunted by wind or rain or threat of slush.

So we steadfastly headed off into the night in my parents’ Ford LTD station wagon. It rained the whole way out of Washington, across the Blue Ridge, the Alleghenys, and into the Appalachians. It rained on the access road. It rained halfway up the mountain. Would it be snowing at the summit complex? Of course not.

And the next day it drizzled, and there I was, sitting in a puddle on a triple chair, feeling sorry for myself and feeling pretty darn stupid, too, when I started eavesdropping on the two guys sitting next to me.

They must have been about 25 or 26, and they were dressed in jeans and windbreakers—soaked, of course—and, as I noticed getting on the lift, each had a tin of chewing tobacco wedged into a back pocket, the bleached denim moon evidence of many a dip of Red Man. They were good ol’ boys, and their drawl was from somewhere south, way south. The far Carolina, it turned out, and they’d driven 16 hours to ski at Snowshoe.

“Man, did you see the air I got off the bump?! I musta had 10 feet. Haw! Haw!”

“Yeah, but you landed on yer head!”

“I know! Haw! Hey, this is great skiing, huh?”

“Yeah, way too good to go home already. One day’s not enough.”

“No way.”

They were silent for a minute, ruminating. The first one spoke up.

“Let’s not go back. Let’s stay another day! If we skip dinner we’ll have enough for another lift ticket. Think we’d get fired if we missed a day of work?”

“Probably…”

“Let’s do it!”

“Yeah! Haw! Haw!”

The chair deposited us at the summit a few minutes later, and the boys madly pushed off into the mist. I stood there for a second watching them go, then glanced at the warm lodge, back at them, back at the lodge. I heard a whoop and holler as they disappeared, and that was all it took. I zipped my collar up tight and skated off after them.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.6, February 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Cold War

Sixteen months ago, the first smashing blow crunched through the concrete of the Berlin Wall, and the two Germanys were divided no more. Across Eastern Europe, other walls fell. It was a revolution, a revolution that galvanized a world weary of stagnation and repression.

I find it ironic, then, that at a time when walls of international and social consequence are tumbling another wall is being built on a foundation of silliness—a wall between skiers and snowboarders.

I’ve seen both sides—been called a wanker two-planker when I was on my skis and a knuckle-dragger when I was on my board—but nowhere have I seen the fray so fractious as in our letters to the editor. There’s one guy who’s written a couple times, letters filled with such vitriol and obscenity against snowboarders that I pray he doesn’t own a gun. His are like so many of the other anti-snowboarding letters out there: snowboarders are dumb, loud, out of control, unathletic, unworthy to be on the mountain, and most definitely unworthy to be in Powder. The letters from the snowboarders, on the other hand, are defensive, bewildered, and almost innocent: they can’t understand why anyone would have such strong negative feelings toward this simple, young sport.

Nor can I. I’m a bit confused by the whole turbid issue—and by the extremism it generates. How can someone who cares so much about skiing, which is nothing more than sliding on snow, be so antagonistic toward snowboarding, which also is nothing more than sliding on snow?

One problem I have in sorting this out is figuring out how much of the conflict is over snowboarding—and how much is over snowboarders. Snowboarders do come in all shapes, sizes, ages, sexes, and tax brackets, but the most visible ones (and the vast majority) are adolescent males. Dudes. My days of dudedom aren’t that far past—microns of testosterone lurk in the crannies still—and I remember how much pleasure I took from being loud, obnoxious, and rebellious. It’s no different for a 15-year-old dude today; and I think these guys intimidate a lot of skiers who might otherwise be attracted to snowboarding. (I also have a feeling there are an equal number of loud, obnoxious dudes skiing, but nobody notices because they’re “just skiers.”)

But attacking snowboarding because it attracts a bunch of loud teenagers is like attacking sailing because it’s done by uptight, rich white people. Maybe it is, but should you judge an entire sport on one flimsy stereotype? No. You should judge it on its merits.

Arguments I’ve heard against snowboarding are that it doesn’t require much skill (it does, but even if it didn’t, so what?), that it chews up the snow (no more than body-packing flailers on skis), that its participants are often out of control (well, it’s a young sport, so snowboarders on average are at a lower level than skiers, but it also has a lot more upper-body movement than skiing, which make it appear less controlled). Ultimately, though, only one thing is important in the argument for or against snowboarding: Is it fun? Anyone who’s approached snowboarding with the same open-mindedness with which they originally approached skiing will answer, unequivocally, yes. Snowboarding is as fun, as challenging, and as exciting as skiing. But it’s different.

What’s so bad about that?

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 19.7, March 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Up for Renewal

When I was a subscriber, years before I worked here, the first Powder of the season made me do really weird things. It would show up in my Washington, D.C., mailbox in mid-August, on a day when the heat and humidity were perniciously bad. I’d crank up the air conditioning, throw myself on the couch, and let my spirit be transported by winter. About halfway through the magazine, I’d dig my ski boots out of the closet—just as a reminder, you know?—and by the time I’d reach the Extra page, the boots would be on and my feet would be making air turns at the far end of the sofa.

Some years, when the distance between my last turn and my next turn seemed unbearable, I would get my skis out and, when no one was looking, step into the bindings. I’d practice my tuck, or roll the ski over on edge in the carpet, or even lean ever so coolly on my poles.

I’m not the only one who’s done things in August most people consider aberrant. Brent Diamond, the publisher of Powder, recently had an overwhelming bout of enthusiasm in which he “skied” around his living room—not just with boots and poles, but with all his ski clothes on, too. Dave Moe, a.k.a. Captain Powder, regularly can be heard bouncing down the office steps on telemark skis. And when I was in college, I had a friend who was practicing his gelände technique in his bedroom. Both heels released, and he broke his nose and blackened both eyes when his face slammed into the floor.

Stupid? By degrees. Silly? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. August is a critical time for skiers, and whatever means are required for renewal are justified.

I used to hate August, but over the years my feelings have mellowed. I realize now that August is as necessary to skiing as January. This is so because August is as far from January as you can get, in emotion and attitude, anyway, if not in calendar months. The days of August are long and sunny. The nights are hot and calm. There is none of the September chill that brings the hint of skiing, none of the autumn storms that bring the scent of snow. There is nothing but August.

With distance comes desire. The further you get from something, the more you want it and the more you dream about it. You look for signs that make your longing sweeter. That first issue of Powder, coming out of the blue, was always my catalyst. It was a landmark, the first signal that winter would come again. In the days that followed its arrival, I would find myself slipping into daydreams at the oddest times, dreams that had me billowing through powder in Taos or Telluride, or adventuring in Alaska or Antarctica. After a week or so I’d be compelled to visit Ski Chalet, the nearest “real” ski shop, where I’d spent an hour or two looking at the new gear and swapping lies with fellow skiers. I’d drive home flush with excitement, aching to ski.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about skiing. It’s my job. Because of this, summer doesn’t seem quite so grim anymore: Winter’s always here, in the form of ski photos or a new manuscript or a postcard from the Southern Hemisphere. The distance isn’t quite so acute.

But August is still August, and each year at this time I find myself shedding some of the attitudes and perspectives that I’ve gotten from being the editor of a ski magazine. I’m not sure whether it’s because August is so damn hot or because I’ve become conditioned to think this way in the weeks before Labor Day. Whatever the reason these days I look at the photos on the light table not as cover possibilities, but simply as really cool powder explosions. I read the stories not for grammar and structure, but for words that inspire me to ski. I become a fan of skiing—just a fan of skiing.

I don’t know what I’m going to do this August. I might burn some skis and make a sacrifice to the snow gods, or I might scrape all the travel wax off my skis and put on a new coat. Or maybe I’ll do the same as you: grab the first new copy of Powder I can get my hands on and curl up on the sofa and start flipping through the pages. And then, maybe, I’ll pull my ski boots out of the closet.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.1, September 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

20.2

Taos was the place to be last year. Storm after storm tracked through the south, leaving New Mexico gasping in powder while the northern half of the country skittered and scratched on hardpack that tasted of leftovers and freezer burn. Cinematographer Bruce Benedict went down to Taos to shoot skiing with Mike Hattrup and Glen Plake. Earlier today he stopped by the office with visual evidence of the orgy that went on down there, and the results are impressive. In the five hours since he left, I’ve watched this seven-minute teaser tape of face shots and powder bumps six times.

Six or seven years ago, Benedict was one of Powder’s best photographers. But, in a fit of logic that has yet to be explained, he abandoned still photography for the relative glory and riches of shooting movies, most visibly with Greg Stump. (Indeed, Benedict’s quirky and evocative vision was a huge factor in the success of the early Stump films.) He only shot three days for Stump’s last film, “Dr. Strange Glove,” and none for the current one, “Groove Requiem,” and I hadn’t really seen his recent work.

While he was here, I asked him why he went to Taos. After all, with no sponsors and n planned outlet for the footage, it didn’t seem like he had much chance to earn back whatever money he spent shooting.

“Halfway through last winter,” he said, “I realized I didn’t have any plans to ski and I figured, what the heck, I’ll call my buddies and we’ll go shoot. I missed them and the thrill of hanging over the side of steep places, and I couldn’t let the winter pass without playing in the snow.”

What? Just shoot skiing? People don’t do that anymore. Do they?

Benedict’s story brings to mind some of the issues swirling around skiing these days, particularly issues of environmentalism. As you’ll read in the article, “Does Colorado Need Another Ski Area?” by Glenn Randall, there are three proposed ski areas in Colorado that could become reality in the next few years. To build or not is a thorny question. Certainly, we’d love more places to ski, yet the impact on the environment would be severe.

Every quad chairlift, every snow-making gun, every grooming machine hurts the world in some way. Two of my favorite things—resort skiing and magazine publishing—take a large toll on the earth. The reality is that everything we do—from flushing a toilet to building a ski resort—has an impact. Everything has its cost. The challenge is to move forward with that understanding and make intelligent, well-planned decisions for the future.

What does Benedict have to do with questions about the environment? Well, I think it all comes down to being true to your values. Are you doing what you’re doing because you believe it’s a good thing or are you doing it because you’re going to make money? In Benedict’s case, it was clearly because he loves to make movies. But what about the developers of these proposed resorts? Are they motivated by their love of skiing or their love of profit?

I am not anti-development. I am not “anti” sponsored movies. Nor am I against profit. But what I absolutely hate is the loss of vision and erosion of spirit that sometimes comes with the quest for money. I believe that if you make something good and true that people want, you will profit. That, I think, is what Benedict is doing, and that, I hope, is what these developers are doing.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.2, October 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Why Heli?

OK, that’s it. The fun’s over. Turn off those helicopters and give me the keys. Helicopter skiing is too dangerous, too expensive, too remote, and too decadent. Burn those Miller Softs while you’re at it, too. Don’t worry—it’s for your own good. Sports Illustrated said so.

For a while last winter, it seemed as if the whole world was down on helicopter skiing. First, there was that heli-skiing story in SI in which the writer complained about, among other things, snow that was too deep, trees that were too thick, and blizzards that were too, well, blizzardy. Then, after an avalanche that killed nine people at Canadian Mountain Holidays’ Bugaboo Lodge, there were rumblings in B.C. to clamp restrictions on heli-operators. In a follow-up story on the tragedy, Sports Illustrated went to far as to urge that “Canadian authorities take a closer look at heli-skiing” and that standard liability waivers be disallowed, because heli-operators “would then have a strong incentive to emphasize safety.” Excuse me? You mean they don’t now?

What are we, Jell-o? Are we so helpless, hopeless, and spineless that we need to be looked after like newborns? Are we so unconcerned with our own safety that we need some surrogate mom to say, “Sorry, boys and girls, but that helicopter skiing’s just a tad dangerous for you. Why don’t you stay inside and play Battleship?

The fact is that helicopter skiing—indeed, skiing in general—takes place in the mountains. Mountains—they’re pretty wild places, remember? So wild that several hundred years ago travelers through the Alps would blindfold themselves to ward off the insanity that might come from gazing upon the gruesome magnitude around them. They are the home to uncountable dangers and endless ways to die, from crevasses to rockfalls to avalanches.

But, if you approach them carefully, they are also home to some of the most sublime moments in life. Only in the mountains will you experience the ethereal sensation of floating and flying at great speeds through the softest medium on earth. Only in the mountains will you feel the cold kiss of powder skiing. Only in the mountains will you see snow ghosts like the ones on this month’s cover, or sun dogs that burn in dancing ice crystals, or giant pyramid-shaped shadows cast by peaks against the clouds.

So, it’s an equation. On one side is risk, on the other, fun. The yin and yang of this should come as a surprise to no one, least of all to someone who loves powder skiing. The question is, is it worth it?

I think it is. I think the risks, while serious and potentially deadly, are no higher than those you face driving on a crowded freeway or walking the streets of Manhattan at night. Riding a bicycle around town without a helmet is, to my mind, infinitely more dangerous than helicopter skiing, yet how many people who never consider heli-skiing do that without a second thought?

Much of the fear of helicopter skiing comes from ignorance of the backcountry. Avalanches, tree wells, creekbeds, cornices, cliffs…all of these dangers can be minimized or eliminated by paying attention. The key is to listen to the guide, who knows more about mountain rhythms than you could ever hope to…and who has just as much incentive as you do to be alive at the bottom of the run. Be humble, and do what he or she says. Keep your eyes open. Listen to the mountains, too. Think about where you are and what can hurt you and what you can do to avoid being hurt.

If you do that, you will have some of the most beautiful experiences of your life. The peaks and ridges and valleys you visit and the turns you make will glow in your memory long after the fears are forgotten. Can you ask anything more of life?

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.3, November 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Anticipation

Jacksonville Street, Arlington, Virginia, December 1966—In a world of white viewed through the fogged thickness of storm windows in the dark of a child’s night, the only way to tell if it was snowing was to watch the pool of light beneath the street lamps. My sledding dreams lived and died by the intensity of the snowfall on the steep street down the hill behind my house; every time the storm gusted in frenzied swirls beneath the pale bulb, I stood higher on my tiptoes, and excitement surged through me, adding fuel to my determination to stay up all night watching the blizzard.

For once, there was justice in the world, and school was canceled the next day. The sledding on Jacksonville Street was epic. Cars, respecting our masterful displays of sled-handling or simply too chicken to try the hill, stayed away. For a day, we ruled.

And yet, 25 years later, few memories of that day remain. Surely, the knowledge of the day is acute, for it was the beginning of the three-day storm that paralyzed Northern Virginia as few storms have, but the actual sights, sounds, and sensations are as elusive as a dream you struggle to remember upon waking. They’re gone. What remains, as sharp and clear as a winter morning in the sun, is the anticipation and all that went with it: the feeling of a warm nose pressed to cold glass, the smell of the aluminum that held the windowpane, the snow streaking across a cone of light late at night.

Anticipation, expectations, dreams…they’re all tied together in a package that’s easy to touch but difficult to comprehend. They are the fuel for adventure, romance, and fear, and they shape our experiences in ways we can’t know. Sometimes they leave us pleasantly surprised, other times they set us up for disappointment.

Thinking about all this seems particularly relevant now, as we stand on the edge of winter. Summer in the West was wet, and most ranges from the Sierras to the Rockies were heavily dusted with snow in mid-September. That’s not unusual, but add the recent lean snow years, a nascent El Niño, and all the rumors about Mt. Pinatubo’s particulates acting as cloud-seeders, and you get a continent of skiers jumpy with expectation. We want snow, we want lots of it, and we want it now.

Sometimes I think we have it all backwards. The first ski magazines arrived in the heat of August, followed quickly by Labor Day sales. Then came autumn’s post-buying-binge blues, when you realized you couldn’t use any of that new equipment for months. Now we find ourselves in the season of anticipation, those accelerating days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, dying for powder but resigned to skiing hardpack made back in October. Then, come January and February, we’ll be drooling for the big dumps, all the while forgetting the best storms come knocking in March and April. Finally, by the time winter really gets here, we’ll be burned out on all that snow and ready for mountain biking, windsurfing, and Mexico. Most of the country’s major ski areas will close due to lack of demand, not lack of snow.

Such is the nature of anticipation, I suppose, and the human condition, too: always focused on the future, always looking to the “best” of whatever it is you’re anticipating.

The theme of this issue, “The Lost Resorts,” is the inextricably tied to this concept of anticipation and expectation. The ski areas you’re about to discover, from Fernie Snow Valley in British Columbia to Big Mountain in Montana to Ischgl in Austria, have been overlooked, underappreciated, bypassed, mistakenly judged, or just plain ignored. Why? I don’t know. It certainly can’t be from lack of snow or terrain, because each of these resorts has conditions that rival the best in the world. It may be because they’re smaller, or they’re out of the way, or they don’t have sophisticated marketing staffs. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been culturally conditioned to think that bigger is better, that mainstream is more satisfying, that world-famous Jackson Hole is more hardcore than Whitewater, B.C.

Which brings us back to expectations. When I went to Ischgl last winter, I knew almost nothing about it. The trip to Austra was based on an ambiguous tip from a friend who’d been there once, briefly. Ischgl was a place I’d never heard of and about which I could find no information. Who could have expectations? Who could help but be thrilled at the discovery of a vast “new” playground?

The point of all this, I suppose, is that anticipation and expectations can be wonderful tings, but they also can limit you in ways you could never guess. As you stare out the window for snow, be aware how your desires affect you when you finally get out on skis…because sometimes you go to sleep expecting awesome sledding in the morning, and sometimes you get it. Sometimes you go to sleep expecting awesome sledding, and you strike out. And sometimes you go to bed expecting nothing, and you wake up, and there it is: Jacksonville Street, gleaming under a foot of snow, and not a car in sight.—Steve Casimiro

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.4, December 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Powder’s 20th Anniversary

Holy cow. Twenty years. Twenty years of the Powder revolution. Powder to the people.

Powder Magazine was born of the turmoil and new ways of thinking that came out of the maelstrom of the ’60s and early ’70s. America was reshaping itself, and so was skiing. The telemark turn was making a resurgence in certain isolated pockets. Long skis were battling short skis. Untouched powder skiing, which was being abandoned by resorts in the rush for faster, smoother grooming, was embraced by a group of purists who saw themselves as the last bastion of believers.

Powder embodied the soul of skiing and the spirit of those fighting commercialism and searching for lost ideals. To understand its impact in 1972, you have to understand what came before: not much. Other ski magazines were boring and bland—Establishment publications that mirrored the mainstream and painted the world in black and white. Powder ripped the lid off. All of a sudden there was a world in Technicolor, a world of backcountry lunacy, of powder so deep you choked, of speeds so fast you could die. It was a world alive, a world that existed in the acts of madmen and idiots, a world that seethed and surged and finally found legitimacy in a weird little publication from Sun Valley.

Skiing has changed a lot in 20 years, as has the world, and, of course, Powder Magazine. It’s tempting to use this space to talk about those changes, but Powder’s always been the sort of magazine that provokes people to think for themselves. You’re smart: You can figure out for yourself what’s changed. What’s more important to talk about is what hasn’t changed.

Freedom. At the core of Powder is the idea of freedom through powder skiing. It is a concept so simple and pure, and so strong that each of us has centered our lives around capturing and recapturing the feeling of flying through deep powder snow.

Freedom is, inherently, about boundaries, and knocking down boundaries. Powder took the narrow, constraining limits of mainstream thinking and skiing and pushed them back beyond the horizon. It showed the world that skiing doesn’t end at the edge of the trail, or the edge of the resort, or at the edge of the mountain. Skiing only ends where the imagination ends, and after putting 20 years of Powder in this issue, one thing is shiningly clear: With all these incredible voices and visions of powder skiing, there is no end to the imagination.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.5, January 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Real-World Olympics

The concept of amateur athletics rose out of Victorian England, when constipated young aristocrats who looked like Jeremy Irons dressed in white and ran along beaches to the tune of “Chariots of Fire.” They undertook competition purely for the sake of competition, a kind of “noblesse athleticism” that only the rich could afford. It was truly a noble pursuit, this single-minded striving for some glorified ideal, but, sadly, it has become nothing more than an anachronism.

It is fitting that the organizers of the Olympics have finally dispensed with the charade of amateurism and opened the door to paid athletes such as Michael Jordan and Martina Navratilova. The IOC recognized what most of us have known for a long time: that becoming the best is a full-time job. Really, it’s more than a full-time job, and it’s not unrealistic to expect a person who makes that kind of commitment to get paid for their results. As idealistic as I’d like to be, as much as I’d like to believe in an amateur Olympics, those lofty Victorian ideals wither in today’s world, and there have been so many under-the-table payments in so many sports for so long that it’s long past time to stop hiding behind facades.

World Cup skiing has finally joined the ’90s. Instead of doling out little gold coffee beans to winners, as they did last year, World Cup organizers are paying cash. Alberto Tomba won $45,000 in two technical races in Park City last November, an amount that made downhillers so jealous they threatened to rebel if more green wasn’t coughed up for their next race, in Val d’Isere. In Germany, a court just ruled that World Cup ski racers have a right to receive a share of the money sponsors pay national teams to place logos on uniforms. We’ve finally admitted that sports are big business—and there’s no turning back to “Chariots of Fire.”

The best illustration of that, at least in this magazine, is contributing editor Michel Beaudry’s story on the controversial new Olympic downhill course at Val d’Isere. The story, which begins on p.34, raises interesting and difficult questions about the role of commercialism in sports. Who are these events for? What role should television play? How much say should the athletes have?

These questions are difficult in part because there are no clear answers. The solutions are ambiguous and even contradictory, which is even more difficult to accept in this case because sports aren’t supposed to be ambiguous. They’re supposed to be black and white. Sports appeal to us because they deliver an element of finality and a clearly delineated winner and loser. Sports should let you escape from the confusing ambiguities and gray areas of the real world, not add to them.

Of course, all this stuff being stirred up is just a backdrop to the Olympics, and I don’t think it should reduce or taint your enjoyment of watching the Games. As easy as it might be to be cynical about commercialism in the Olympics, the solutions may end up being beneficial to everyone. In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether racers get paid, which logos appear on their uniforms, or what their motivation is for racing. What these men and women do on snow is radical. It’s skillful and heroic and exciting, and there’s nothing ambiguous about that.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.6, February 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Tele Gospel

Each month, as I sit down to write Intro, I ponder the meaning of skiing and life and all things great and small, and I try to develop a message that’s inspiring, life-affirming, insightful, and occasionally, relevant to what’s in the magazine. If I strike out on all those counts, I at least aim for a little eloquency.

As I sit here this month, waiting impatiently for some chord of brilliance to strike, I realize there is nothing I could write that would be as inspiring, life-affirming, and insightful as this photo of Sam Hughes dropping off a cornice in Whitewater, B.C. Check it out: He’s as calm as could be, hands low, body compact. Look where he started, too—this guy streaked to the edge, and he’s not going to land until well below the bottom of the page.

OK, that’s big, you have to admit. But that’s not all. Check out his gear. He’s on pins. Yes, pins. Telemark gear. Free-heeled. Skinny skis and leather boots.

Sick. The man is sick.

I know Sam is sick because I just started learning to telemark, and, having worked my way through free-heeled flails, bails, and full-gravity body slams, it’s clear that only someone with a terminal illness would have the kind of disregard for life that would cause them to launch their body into that kind of air on that kind of gear.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Sam just has huge courage.

Although we didn’t plan it this way, there’s a lot of telemarking in this issue. We chose each story because…well, just because we liked it. There’s a piece on touring in the Wasatch, a story on a race seminar at Mammoth, a harrowing tale of danger and adventure in South America, an epic on Sweden, and more. Every one of these pieces has some connection to telemarking, but we chose to put them in Powder not because we’re closet pinheads but because of the universal things they said about skiing. The fact that a lot of the adventures took place on free-heeled skis is incidental.

I suppose I’m telling you this because I’m a little worried that all the die-hard alpine skiers out there will go, “Ugh, it’s a granola issue. Pass the cheeseburgers and get me a subscription to Snow Country.” I’m worried because there was a time when all I did was alpine ski, and I would have said, “Telemarking? That says nothing to me about my life.” I understand how easy it is to see the world as a series of labels: He’s a telemarker, she’s a snowboarder, he’s a monoskier.

Having snowboarded a lot the last few years and begun telemarking and continued alpine skiing, I also understand that the rush of speed, fear, and adrenaline is the same no matter how you acquire it. Given that that rush directly contributed to me becoming addicted to skiing, and given that that rush is generally more intense in the learning stages, I’m always willing to go our and try something new on snow.

If you’re thinking about trying telemarking or snowboarding, or even if you’re a telemarker thinking about trying alpine skiing, do it now. Don’t wait until next season. Spring is the best time of year for learning. The days are long, warm, and sunny, and the snow corns up for perfect ego turns. Your legs are strong from a long winter of skiing…or maybe you’re even starting to get burned out on the same old turns.

If you have no desire to try anything else on snow, that’s OK, I suppose. There’s nothing wrong with staying focused. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it might lead to if you ventured onto pins or a snowboard. I mean, you might end up in Sam’s shoes, which, sick as it might be, is about as eloquent as it gets.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.7, January 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Wool

This story begins with a sheep. A ewe, to be more precise. It begins with this sheep, this sheep named, uh, Fluffina, on the pampas of Argentina, or Peru, or Chile. It begins as a blustery day, there on the pampas, when a gaucho named Santiago rounds up Fluffina and her fellow sheep and herds them from the pampas to the stockade of el rancho. Fluffina was sorely afraid. “I’m mutton now,” she thought. But, no: It was the shears for Fluffina, not the guillotine.

Within a very short time, Fluffina was separated from her wool and, denuded, sent back to the pampas, where she lived a long and uneventful life that had nothing to do with skiing. Her wool, on the other hand, was sent by truck to the nearest town, where it was spun into yarn, simple, scratchy yarn. This yarn was then dyed in all the colors of the rainbow—beige, brown, tan, earth—and sent by another truck to another town, where a tiny, wizened old Argentinean or Peruvian or Chilean woman named Dolores-Tatiana knitted with wrinkled hands and ancient needles by candlelight to create a hat: a simple, scratchy hat of the pampas.

The hat, clean of line and humble of origin, made its way north, all the way to Whitewater, British Columbia, where it fell into the hands of a skier/model/photographer named Dave Heath. It was everything Dave ever wanted in a hat: It was warm and it was…well, it was warm.

One day, Dave was skiing powder with his friend and fellow photographer, Mark Gallup. It was a sunny day, the kind of day that photographers spin into dollars shooting photos of bright and squeaky models. But Dave is not bright and squeaky, and he showed up that morning in mismatching clothes, with duct tape on his finger, and, of course, the dingy brown hat on his head.

The hat…in the end, it was the hat that put that photo of Dave on this month’s cover. As we debated over possible cover shots, the hat came to represent everything that was right and true in skiing. Function over fashion. Not a whiff of commercialism. Real skiing.

It wasn’t just the hat, of course, but what the hat, combined with the mismatching clothes, the duct tape, and the top-of-the-line equipment, said about Dave’s priorities. It was the emphasis on good equipment, not good looks. On performance, not poof.

Your priorities are probably just as in order as Dave’s, and if they include new ski equipment, you’ll find it here. Turn the pages and you’ll also find a philosophical exploration of why we ski, a fun feature on Kirkwood, 10 pages of killer tree photos, a new monthly opinion column, and a new product review column. In here, too, are wool hats, some figurative, some literal, and some with their very own Fluffina, standing proud, there on the pampas. Enjoy.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.1, September 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Elusive Nature of Soul

The more you talk about soul, the further you get from it. The more you write about it, the more elusive it becomes. The more you think about it, the more ineffable it is.

Peter Shelton, when I told him a year ago that I was writing a story on the conflict over the soul of Telluride, said, “You’ll fail.” At first disheartened, then challenged, I came to understand he was right. As a student of the deeper rhythms of skiing and a longtime Telluride local, Peter knew that soul was a slippery thing to capture and that everyone who’d ever been to or lived in Telluride measured soul differently. It was almost by definition indefinable.

So why bother? Why spend countless hours in Telluride and on the phone conducting interviews? Why send five writers to the far corners of North America? Why devote an entire issue to the pursuit of soul?

Because there is nothing more important. Because when you strip away ego and artifice, soul is what’s left. Because soul is the foundation, the passion, and the commitment of body, mind, and spirit in the pursuit of pure experience. Because soul is life, skiing is life, and life is the sweetest thing we have.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 20.2, October 1991. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

The Crack of Skiing

“Why are you so obsessed with helicopter skiing?” asked David Goodman, one of our contributing editors, from his house in Waterbury, Vermont. “I find spending $4,000 on a week of skiing offensive.”

There was stammering from my end of the phone on the other side of the country, then a long silence. Every response I tried sounded irrational, compulsive, emotional—not the logical, coherent justification for spending $4,000 on a week of skiing that David was looking for. All I could do was sputter and point to the thousands of turns I’d had in the steepest and deepest and lightest snow, as if the experience could somehow defend itself.

But David wasn’t buying that kind of reasoning, primarily because he’d never actually skied snow that deep. Sure, he’d skied powder—spent a lifetime searching for it—but he’d never stumbled into one of these transcendent days where every run is a bottomless elevator shaft full of the softest, most gentle feathers of snow. He’d never really gasped for air as wave after wave of white washed over him or known the fearless rush of launching into a staircase of powder pillows.

In that regard, David is probably like most skiers. Powder is difficult to find anyway, but the kind of bottomless powder I’m talking about may only happen once a year at a given resort, if then. More likely is a foot here, two feet there, three feet if your karma’s good. On those big days, you’ll score—if you know the mountain and if you don’t have to work and if you’re up early. But, for the truly deep stuff, you have to go into the backcountry, and to do that safely ad quickly, the best tool is a helicopter.

David’s main argument against helicopters is the cost, which, I’ll admit seems high compared to a week of resort skiing. Hell, it doesn’t seem high, it is high. Helicopters are expensive machines, requiring expensive pilots with expensive training. Backcountry lodges aren’t cheap to build, either, and the cost of liability insurance is through the roof.

My argument, though, is that helicopter skiing is the ultimate experience you can have on skis (or one of them, anyway) and thus you have to compare it to ultimate experiences in other sports. What would it cost for a week of scuba diving in the Seychelles? Surfing in Fiji? Mountaineering in Nepal? Probably all in the $3,000 to $4,000 range, if not more.

Is it worth it? Only you can decide. As for me, I like to think about a guy I heli-skied with a few years ago in British Columbia, an accountant from Arizona who’d put a little aside out of every paycheck for five years so he could pay for a week of heli-skiing. During the week we’d had some good runs, some bad runs, and a handful of epic runs. On the last day, I asked him if he’d do it again. He just threw back his head and laughed. It seemed like the best answer in the world.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.3, November 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Map Quest

God love the U.S. Geological Survey. Send it 12 bucks and six weeks later a cardboard tube arrives in the mail containing the quadrangles of winter—Arc Dome, South Toiyabe Peak, Bakeoven Creek, Sacramento Pass…maps, guides to a remote and rarely skied corner of the West, renewed inspiration for a little backcountry trip I have planned for next March.

The tube arrived about an hour ago. If I manage this right, I’ll be able to spend the rest of the afternoon crawling around on my office floor, plotting the route, measuring contour lines, guessing at what’s skiable and what isn’t—and not do a lick of work for the rest of the day.

Mags have an amazing power to stop me in my tracks, topographical maps in particular, topo maps of mountains even more so. The pull is magnetic and inevitable.

I’ve thought a lot about why maps have so much power over me, and I think, more than anything else, it’s because they symbolize potential, and in potential, motion. In their squiggly little lines they hold all the world’s mountains, all the world’s skiing. In maps, I can see myself skiing the rugged backcountry of Wyoming, the sacred peaks of the Himalayas, the endless glaciers of Greenland. In maps, everything is possible.

And in maps…you can dream.

Dreaming is a lot of what this issue’s about. These adventures to the faraway places of the world—like Greenland, Spitsbergen Island, and the Japanese Alps—don’t just happen. They usually start with a spin of the globe, a glance at an atlas, and a “what if…” Then, when the idea has a little substance to it, a dream unfolds. Sometimes—more often than not—that’s as far as it gets. Sometimes, that’s all you want. But sometimes, when you’re lucky and you work real hard, you’ll find yourself standing on a spot you thought you’d only imagine. That’s a lot of what this issue’s about, too.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to avoid.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.4, December 1992. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Get Off Your Ass

Oh, man, I can’t wait to ski. A storm just raked across northern California, then moved into Utah and Colorado. Aspen is getting pounded, Vail is getting pounded. Boulder is getting pounded.

I could be skiing right now, but I’m not. Instead, I’m sitting inside, thinking about it.

Today what I’m thinking about is this photo, and I’m wondering just what that first turn’s gonna feel like. Is the snow Styrofoam? Dust over crust? How about the second turn? Is there enough room to bring ’em around in a hop turn or is it so tight that it’s turn, turn, turn, ollie over the rock, and pray there’s space on the far side of the bend for a check turn? And those rocks at the bottom—uuugly. Don’t even think about them, don’t even fill your head with negative thoughts. Think happy things, like daisies and kittens and slow-motion lovers running through sun-drenched fields.

There are a lot of stories in this issue, some of them filled with happy things and some of them filled with sad. One of the ones that shines brightest was written not by a contributor, but by a reader: Tom Bezzi, who has AIDS. Bezzi writes in the Opinion column that AIDS has given him the gift of clarity, that he can finally see what it means to live for today instead of tomorrow. AIDS has made his life better, if shorter.

I won’t tell you any more about Bezzi’s piece—you should read it for yourself on page 27—except to say that a critical theme is the notion that pure action can be both sustaining and healing. You can think until you’re blue in the face, but sometimes, Bezzi seems to be saying, the cure for what ails you is simply to stop plotting, planning, worrying, and ruminating…and just act.

Which seems more appropriate now than ever. The time for thinking has come and gone. Summer was for wondering, fall was for contemplating. January is for skiing. So, go. Put down this magazine and go. It’ll be waiting for you when you return, and you’ll be a lot happier.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.5, January 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Hank de Vre, My Hero

Once a week throughout the summer, without fail, photographer Hank de Vre picks up the phone in his truck and dials this office. “Hey, man,” he says when I answer, “it’s a hundred degrees up here and I’m paving driveways and I’m dyin’. How’d I do this month? Didja use any photos? Where’re you gonna send me this winter, huh? I can’t stop thinking about skiing!”

Then he’ll hang up. A week, five days later, sometimes two, he’s calling again. “Heyyy, man. I’m dyin’ up here. Send me somewhere cold.”

All summer long, Hang paves driveways in the Tahoe area. It’s grunt work, and he’d rather be taking pictures, but he does too well financially to stop. He’s building a comfortable house, and his wife and kids never seem too hungry, and—more important—he can afford to spend the winter shooting skiing.

In a world of excellent ski photographers, Hank stands out. He gets more excited about taking a great picture, and taking a great picture of great skiing, than anyone we work with. His enthusiasm—for skiing, for photography, for Powder—is unsurpassed. Hank even calls up raving about other photographers’ work, which is unheard of.

In the past season or so, Hank’s creativity has blossomed. He’s gone from shooting nice ski photos to shooting awesome ski photos. The pictures he always sent us before were nice, but his latest work has something extra about it, some magical element, that makes it shine above the rest. I’ve been struggling all year to figure out what it is, this new element, and I think I’ve finally figured it out: It’s subtlety. Hank has learned how to capture the subtle beauty of expert skiing in a way that few people ever have.

You hold in your hands a collection of the finest ski photography in the world. This is not a boast; it’s simply a fact. I’ve seen every major ski magazine in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, and not one of them comes close to the quality and sprit captured here. But we can’t, and won’t, take any credit for it. It’s only because of people like Hank, who work their butts off for not a lot of money and very little glory, that this issue is what it is. Thanks, Hank, and everyone else who sends us photos. This issue’s for you.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.6, February 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Last Runs

It is a cornerstone of this magazine’s philosophy that skiing can teach you something about the deeper rhythms of life. It is also a cornerstone of this magazine’s philosophy that you can waste a lot of time looking for meaning in a little round track on the snow. Therefore, much of our season is spent seesawing between these conflicting pulls: brain on, brain off…brain on, brain off…

It’s generally true that the harder you look for something, the less likely you are to find it. Thus, knowing that answers often come later and soul is often revealed in hindsight, most of us don’t go looking for meaning or whatnot when we’re actually skiing. We just enjoy the skiing for its own sake, and hope that some pithy understanding comes to us before the story deadline passes months later.

The exception for me comes at the end of the year, when the last run rolls around. Then, as if making up for lost time, I endow each turn with significance, each carve with permanence, each edge release with posterity, as if the motions and sensations of this singular run will be the only things sustaining me until I ski again, some three or four or five months hence. The Zen of skiing—skiing for its own sake—gets tossed right out the window in the face of Turns That Have to Matter.

I know it’s silly, that no turn is more or less weighty than another, but it’s impossible to avoid. I want these turns to be juicy, to be so pure and core and on it that they embed themselves in my memory with a power that lingers across the dry season.

So, come April or May, on the last run of the last day of the last trip I have planned, I’ll crank up an internal soundtrack with something grand and sweeping and powerful, like the crescendo of Beethoven’s Seventh or the 1812 Overture. And then I’ll ski, and sometimes the turns will be strong and lucid enough to bring a smile to my face months later, and sometimes the turns will be disappointing and what lingers is the understanding that it’s dangerous to invest too much expectation in a single run.

This year, however, will be different for me. It will be different because it’s been such a heavy snow year that western resorts will be open at least until June. It will be different because the backcountry will be skiable long into summer. And, finally, it will be different because if you never stop skiing you never have the opportunity for a last run.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 21.7, March 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Grand Slam Winter

Sometimes I think about what’s really going on when we ski and I get pretty blown away.

First, I start at the subatomic level. I remember enough from high school physics to know that the universe is made up of muons and gluons and quarks and other weird little particles and that these particles make up the atom and that in the atom there’s actually way more space than particles, so what appears solid is somewhat of an illusion. That’s pretty trippy to begin with, but then I start thinking about how many of those little particles it takes to make one atom, and how many atoms is takes to make one snowflake, and how many snowflakes fall in one storm, and how many storms develop in one winter. That’s when I really say, “Whoa.”

Then I start thinking about how much time and effort is spent around the world by people thinking and doing something that has to do with skiing. All those people working in equipment factories and at resorts—building, repairing, replacing. All those people like you—dreaming, tuning, getting in shape. All those people in advertising agencies, writing beer commercials set in the mountains.

Finally, being an American and a capitalist, I think about all the monbey that exchanges hands every day between resorts and skiers, shops and manufacturers, magazines and bill collectors. More money than I’ll ever see.

All this energy, all this movement, all this stuff, just so we can have fun with gravity. It’s really quite amazing.

And then you get to the actual motion of skiing, which is in itself a miracle. Think about how fast we go, how far we fly, how we gracefully move through stunningly steep and hard terrain. How on the edge we are, literally and figuratively.

With all this effort, then, it’s only fair and just that we got what we wanted: the biggest winter to hit the United States in a decade. A full-on grand slam winter from north to south to east to west. More powder days than a month of heli-skiing. More snowflakes than dollars in the national debt. More face shows than a Three Stooges skit.

Wow, what a winter. Finally, after years of drought and disappointment, we got the kind of winter that dreams are made of. The kinds of winter that fills pages of this magazine with legends, lies, and outrageous photos. The kind of winter that makes me really excited to see what comes next.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.1, September 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Keeping the Culture Alive

It was a Saturday, and brutally cold: minus 15 before the wind chill and gusts over 30 mph. The sky was overcast and it was forbidding in the way only Vermont in February can be. The bumps at Mad River Glen were rock hard. Despite the kind of chill that gets into your bones and stays with you long after you’ve quit for the day, we kept skiing. I remember that this was right before the K2 KVC came on the market, because one of the guys I was skiing with had a test pair and we marveled at how the pink bases glowed on the snow in that eerie light. No one had ever made pink bases before (this was the first wave of neon) and it as really quite amazing, seeing that glow for the first time.

I remember many things about that day seven or eight years ago, but one of the most vivid is that it was the last day I skied at Mad River that it gave out blankets for the ride on the single chairlift. The blankets were made of heavy scratchy wool—Army style—and you’d wrap them around you as best you could. I don’t think they made much difference against the cold, but the gesture on Mad River’s part warmed you from the inside.

The ski area stopped putting out blankets on cold days not long after that. I figured it was because it lost so many when the wind blew them halfway to Sugarbush North, but it turns out that it was for insurance reasons: Mad River’s carrier was worried that skier and blanket would blow into the cable, or some other such knotty disaster.

When we were putting together this month’s lead story,
“Things that Matter,” I called photographer Gary Brettnacher for his thoughts. As an observer of ski culture, Brettnacher seemed perfect: He’s lived in Sun Valley for more than 20 years and remains passionate about skiing. His response, however, was depressing: All the cultural icons he could think of were already gone. Even after 20 minutes of picking his brain, we came up with nothing. The things that had the most resonance to him had disappeared, which says a lot about the changes in skiing over the last two decades.

The culture of skiing is rich and varied and heavy with tradition, but it is rapidly being eroded. No, not eroded: lost. With every year that passes, another tradition dies, another classic chairlift is dismantled for replacement by a quad, another trail is widened, another boundary closed. As we rush and stumble for faster lifts, perfect grooming, and more amenities, some of our most precious culture is slipping away like blankets in the winter wind.

An important distinction: Skiing will always have culture. The culture is simply the fabric of the sport at any given time. What is changing in our culture is the concept that the skiing itself comes first—not the clothes or the lodging or the lifts. I believe the most important thing is that the skiing should come first and I think most of you believe the skiing should come first, but, sadly, that’s exactly what we’re losing.

It is easy to criticize. It is easy to point to condos and say skiing has lost its romance, to well-groomed slopes and say skiing has lost its edge. The fact is, however, that in many, many places the skiing is just as wild and ragged and pure as it ever was. The fact is, there is much in our ski culture to celebrate, as you’ll see in “Things that Matter.” It’s simply that so much of it is in the minority and often hard to find and most people don’t even try. What’s so scary is that, being hidden to begin with, these things slip away so easily.

My hope is that you can help. How? First let us know what elements you think are important. Our list is by no means complete. Second, support ski culture in whatever way seems appropriate. This may mean only patronizing areas you respect (voting with your wallet) or writing in support of a given policy, like open boundaries. Or it could be mobilizing your fellow skiers against changing something, like the reduction of glades or the widening of trails.

Whatever you do, do it quick. It’s so easy to let something slip away, and nearly impossible to bring it back once it’s gone.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.2, October 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The willingness to look like a geek is a noble trait indeed. Silly people should be rewarded.

Skiing, for all its funky winter carnivals and springtime goofiness, is a darn serious sport. Lots of Type As, striving for achievement on the boards. Lots of macho men, looking down in the liftline to see if your skis are shorter than 205 or your DIN is less than 10. But hey, to each his own. I’m not slamming anyone—my only point is that there aren’t enough goofs.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to hit you with some Barry Manilow love ballad about acting like a dork to create a one-love kind of world. Nor am I suggesting we fill the slopes with Jerry Lewis clones. But I do think skiing would be a lot happier place if we stopped taking it—and ourselves—so seriously.

That’s it, that’s all I have to say. Enjoy the mag, and have a nice day.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.3, November 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Road Trip

There are many perfect moments in skiing, but this is one of my favorites.

We’re deep in the middle of a road trip, far enough from the beginning that home is forgotten and distant enough from the end that stopping isn’t even a concept. There are three people in the car, which is the perfect number for a road trip. With three, you can easily swap roles and each one feels comfortable—the privacy of the backseat, the navigational and musical responsibilities of shotgun, and the focus of driving.

It could be night, or maybe not. I’m driving, which I like a lot because of how you have to pay attention to the road but can still let your thoughts wander where they want. In any other seat it’s too easy to get slack-jawed and drift off to sleep, but when driving your thoughts cruise along with the road.

Wherever we are, it’s very remote—Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada…someplace with big stretches of space, a straight black ribbon of road, and no other cars. The stereo’s off because we’re bored with our tapes and there’s nothing on the radio but static and evangelists. It’s been 20 minutes since anyone spoke, maybe more, and the silence becomes itself, becomes more than the space between words.

It’s the silence that makes the whole thing, that timeless and everlasting silence that says everything about the promise and expectation of skiing, road trips, friends traveling together, and the American highway. I wouldn’t trade that comfortable silence and the piece of mind that comes with it for anything in the world.

This issue, somewhat by design and somewhat by accident, is about travel. Rob traveled to Spain, Les went to Italy, and Gordon went to Montana and ended up living there. Travel seems to be as important to skiing as the silence is to the words, and this is the time of year when the urge to move, to go somewhere, anywhere, is the most intense. The snow is on the ground, the lifts are running, and the gas tank is full. Now I just need to find two friends.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.4, December 1993. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Ski Partners

I don’t like skiing alone. I’d just as soon fire up a big, steaming cup of coffee and crack open a book than pound the bumps by myself on a flat light day.

Before you call me a milquetoast, hear me out. I love to ski and I will ski alone, but, unless the conditions are really good, odds are I’ll get bored. Then I’ll look at my watch and think about other things I could be doing, like going for a run in the snow or looking at new gear in a mountaineering store. Before long I’ll head for the bottom of the hill, my thoughts laced with guilt for quitting while the lifts are still running, as if you can’t love skiing and set it aside for a while.

Add another skier to the picture and things change dramatically. Give me someone to ski with, and I’m there, first chair to last.

See, I think of skiing alone as one-dimensional. It’s fun, but it’s like hearing your favorite song on AM radio. Skiing with someone else is like hearing that same song in surround-sound stereo cranked to 120 db through monster studio monitors. The skiing becomes three-dimensional, and, depending on how deep your relationship is, maybe even four-, and six-dimensional.

There are a zillion reasons why this is true. There’s someone to talk with, and someone you can be quiet with. There’s someone to push you when you need a push, and someone you can hammer on when they’re dragging. There’s someone to lead and someone to follow, someone to break trail and someone to pick up your skis when you beater.

One of the joys of skiing is how quickly these relationships can develop and how surprisingly deep and long lasting they can be. In particular, I’m thinking of that truly rare friendship—when two people become ski partners.

Like the best things in life, a ski partnership is unplanned. It just happens. You ski along with someone for a number of years, in good snow and bad, in gnarly terrain and groomed, and things feel comfortable. Easy. Half the time you know what they’re going to do before they do it.

Classic example: tree skiing. Skiing in the trees is the single best way to take the measure of a skier. You don’t go into the woods to burn someone or compete with them, of course, but the trees are a right fine place to see if your styles and attitudes are compatible. Maybe you find yourselves taking similar lines without stepping all over each other or intuitively stopping in the same places. After a while you always seem to know where they’ll be, and one day you realize there’s an invisible rope of trust connecting you, that you’d go anywhere with your partner, that you’d put your life in their hands with good faith. You probably don’t even call them your partner—it’s kind of a hokey, formal word—but that’s what they are.

The idea of partnerships may seem a little awkward in skiing. As an activity, it’s not as conducive as, say, climbing, where you’re sharing a rope with another person and your life is literally in their hands. Perhaps the further out you go with skiing and the more dangerous it becomes—the closer it gets to climbing, in other words—the more you need a partner and the more likely you are to develop one.

I don’t have a ski partner—I’ve never skied in any place long enough to develop one—but there are a handful of people who I trust and who trust me (I think) and there have been times when our turns were in synch and our brains aligned and we knew what we were doing without looking and the whole damn thing—skiing, life, friendship—was magical. And that’s a million times better than skiing alone.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.5, January 1994. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Powder Goes to New York

Dave and Steve’s big adventure in New York City was a complete and total success. Not only did our photo editor find a nice new suit (you should have been there for the truly touching moment—a ski bum’s first suit), but we stumbled upon a rocking hillbilly/blues band late one night in the East Village, found a vintage fitted Orioles cap for me, ate the best bagels I’ve had in years, drank way too much coffee, saw John Cusack and Uma Thurman sucking face in the bar of our hotel, and, most important, hung 40 of the coolest ski photos on the walls of Nikon’s gallery at Rockefeller Center.

The only think New York has in common with skiing is vertical, lots of vertical, so it didn’t seem to make much sense when a friend at Nikon suggested last spring that we take over the gallery for the month of December. First, although we have readers in New York, we don’t have anywhere near as many as in, say, Denver. Second, short of the ego gratification of having our photography hanging in a gallery, we wouldn’t see a huge return on whatever money we’d spend on prints, travel, etc.

But then we got to thinking, and the things we thought were these:

1. Most people have no idea how wonderful skiing is or more people should ski.

2. Most people have no idea how beautiful and artistic ski photography is or we’d sell more copies of Powder.

Thinking these things, we came to the conclusion that having this exhibit at Nikon House would be a good thing. Maybe we’d be doing the sport a service and maybe, with 1,500 people streaming through the gallery’s doors every day in December, we’d even sell a few more magazines.

So we did it. We picked 40 great images, printed them, sent them to a framer in New York, and then, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, installed them. On Tuesday morning we ran around Soho trying to find Dave’s new suit, which turned up in the afternoon on the second floor of Macy’s in midtown, and then in the evening we had an opening night reception at the gallery for the press and other Manhattan muckety-mucks.

All through the process of preparing for the exhibit, I had been concerned that jaded New Yorkers might be unimpressed with the photography, that our little photos of snow and sky would leave them unmoved. Thankfully, their reaction at the opening was quite the opposite: They were blown away by both the beauty and sophistication of the pictures. Not only that, but they were blown away by the sheer bravado of what the skiers were doing—jumping off cliffs, arcing down steep slopes, wallowing in overhead pow—and the magnificence of the landscapes. All the things that David and I see every day, either in photos or actually in front of our faces, were extraordinary to the people who lived in the city. The world of those photographs was wild and almost beyond imagination to these mostly non-skiers.

The response of the people at the reception made me look at the photos and the sport with new eyes. I’m not saying that I take skiing and Powder’s photography for granted or that I don’t appreciate how special they are, just that stepping outside our little world gave me a striking—and refreshing—new perspective. I’ve always thought we were onto something pretty special with this skiing thing; going to New York and seeing the looks of wonder on the faces at the opening reminded me of that many times over.

You have in your hands the best photos in our files. Although I try to thank the photographers often, I want to once again offer a very special thanks to those who entrust us with their slides. These men and women are damn good at what they do, and I hope this issue does justice to their work.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 22.6, February 1994. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Intro March 1994

One of the biggest cliches around is that skiing is a drug, but let’s face it, the sport gives you a buzz like no other. It’s a surge of adrenaline and freedom and happy cells all coursing through your blood, each pump of the heart sending a zimmer of electricity to the furthest outposts of your body, bringing you a clarity of mind and vision that feels like a whiff of dry ice and a blast of pure oxygen. Let’s see a drug do that.
Everybody gets their own individual buzz from skiing, and in a big year a whole town can get one. Last year was like that. Everywhere I went, it seemed, was on fire from the epic snowfall. I felt it standing in line at a bakery in Jackson, eating a cheeseburger at Grumpy’s in Mammoth, on the tram dock at Snowbird. It was a crackling energy, like the hum you feel standing under high-voltage towers, that sustained and carried skiers to a higher level of happiness and expectation.
This year started off slow, but then something happened in January that sent waves of industrial strength excitement throughout the ski world: 55 inches of snow fell on Alta, Utah, in 24 hours—a smashing new record. By the time the short-lived storm was over, 72 inches had fallen.
OK, a number’s just a number; you’re bombarded with snowfall and snowpack figures all winter long and eventually they blur into numerical soup. But stop and think about this one for a minute. Fifty-five inches in a day. More than two inches an hour for more hours than you have fingers and toes. Seventy-two inches in less than two days. Six feet of snow covering an entire mountain. Do you know what you can do with six flipping feet of snow?
I was in the office when Alta got pounded, which was pretty hard to take, but a couple days later I was in Vail, which wasn’t Alta but was better than not skiing, and in the lift line, at the cafeteria, and on practically every chair someone was talking about the dump. The conversation was usually brief. “Hey, did you hear about Alta?” “Yeah.” “Wow.” “Yeah.” Then everybody would fall silent, thinking about the ramifications. On one chair I closed my eyes and I felt the brisk air on my face, the rippling sunlight splashing on my eyelids as we flew past the tree tops. My arms and legs tingled, but mostly I felt it in my stomach and chest: a happy, fuzzy energy like what a tiger must feel when it’s been purring for a long time and suddenly stops.
That’s the best, don’t you think? I mean, we spend a lot of time, energy, and money making this magazine, talking about skiing, thinking about skiing, writing about skiing, all in the pursuit of keeping that buzz going, as much for ourselves as for you, and I think we do a pretty good job, overall, but when it comes down to it it’s not about writing or thinking or talking but skiing and that funny little buzz that keeps you going through the days, nights, and summers when you can’t ski. I can’t think of a happier time in my life than when I’m riding up a chair, thinking about what it can be, what it will be, what it is, and I can’t think of anything better than a 72-inch dump and the buzz that it brings.—Steve Casimiro

Coping Mechanisms

Why does winter go so fast and summer so slow?

I ask this rhetorically, of course, because the answer is obvious. Winter accelerates because you love it so much. Summer is a snail because it separates you from winter.

Sometimes I wonder why it can’t be the other way around. Why can’t time stretch when you’re in the middle of skiing and accelerate when you’re doing other stuff? Or better yet, what if you could control time—bend it to your whims, so that winter was exactly as long as you needed and summer was as short as you wanted? It would completely wreck the laws of the universe, send planets spiraling out of their orbits, and turn the sun into a cold and lifeless chunk of carbon, but if it was in the name of skiing, I guess it would be OK.

Dang it, though, the only person who has that kind of power is Calvin, who owns a transmogrifier/time machine. So we’re stuck with the cards dealt us: six months or so of skiing, six months or so of not skiing. And we accept it the best we can.

Every skier has their own ways of dealing with it. Over the last couple summers, though, I’ve noticed three main coping mechanisms common to all skiers:

DENIAL—These skiers subscribe to the theory that winter doesn’t end, it just goes through a warm spell, and you’ll find them at Mt. Hood, Blackcomb Glacier, high in the backcountry, or even heli-skiing in New Zealand and teaching skiing in Chile.

TRANSFERENCE—You’re willing to admit skiing is over for a while, but you switch that desperate need for thrills and body buzz to mountain biking, wind surfing, kayaking, or something equally distracting. Nintendo doesn’t count. Not even 16-bit.

THE JEWISH MOTHER SYNDROME—The operative word here is suffering, suffering because you don’t let go of skiing, but you don’t go summer skiing, either.

Photo editor David Reddick, although neither Jewish nor a mother, rolls in the JMS like a dog in doo-doo. The other morning he moped around the light table for the better part of an hour, sighing deeply and uttering soft, almost inaudible moans. He wasn’t getting squat for work done, so I asked him what was up. “I watched Groove Requiem and Blizzard of Aahhh’s last night. I’ve got a bad jones for skiing.” Poor David. He stares at photos, watches videos, and talks to himself about all the great times he had last winter. Little does he realize how much pain he’s in.

I worry about David. I worry about him, and I pray for him. I pray, too, that winter will get here quick. Not for me, of course. For David.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 23.1, September 1994. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.

Little Areas that Rock

Every Friday afternoon in college, I would throw my skis in the back of my cancerous old jeep and sputter two hours north to Ski Liberty, jut over the Maryland border in Pennsylvania. Lift tickets were around 16 bones, I think, and for that you’d get five hours of night skiing on snow that had been scratched, scraped, and abused since 9 that morning. Lift lines averaged about 20 minutes, and the longest run would take 90 seconds max. Total vertical: 600 feet.

I never, ever, would have thought that the memories of 600-vetical-foot Ski Liberty would rival the ones I have of 4,139-vertical-foot Jackson Hole or 3,100-vertical-foot Snowbird, but they do. It’s odd—that a ragged collection of creaky old lifts could give major resorts a run for their money. But that’s the fact: Thinking back to those nights on that little hill gives me the warm and fuzzies in ways that days at Jackson and Snowbird don’t.

How do you explain it? Dropped on my head as a baby? Too much beer in college? One too many days working at the insecticide plant? You certainly can’t say it was the skiing—the runs at Liberty were lame by comparison. It wasn’t the amenities, either—the most extravagant “extra” at Liberty was a novelty vending machine in the men’s john.

The reason I get so nostalgic over Liberty, I think, is that little resorts touch us in ways that big resorts can’t. We feel more connected to skiing—the whole experience of skiing—at little areas, while at big areas we feel more connected to…I don’t know what. The mountains, maybe. The business of skiing, perhaps. Something that makes you feel smaller.

At little areas, you almost always feel like you belong, even if you’re there for the first time. Call it the “Cheers” Syndrome—not everyone knows your name, but they know a lot about you just by your being there. And because there are fewer skiers and a smaller hill, you all feel like you’re in it together. Like it’s a block party where you know everyone, as opposed to the college kegger where you know only the friends you brought along.

Too, you quickly find the best skiing on a small mountain, and before long you know intimately your favorite runs, your favorite places to turn on those runs, your favorite air hits, and your favorite tree lines. The mountain is small enough to be manageable on a human scale—unlike a lot of big ski areas—and it doesn’t take long before you’ve personalized it and made it yours by where and how you make laps.

Much as I’d like to blame all these thoughts on hyper-excessive introspection, I’m apparently not the only one who really digs little areas. You do, too: Of the thousand or so reader response cards we got back from the March issue, nearly 700 of them recommended stories on little areas/local hills/home mountains. I wish I had a buck for every time someone wrote “XYZ resort kicks ass!” It was overwhelming how many of you wanted coverage of small resorts—we now have enough story ideas to last well into the next century.

So, although we’re usually about as receptive to outside direction as your average elected representative to Congress, this time we listened, and the result is this issue, “Little Areas that Rock.” The stories may make you feel nostalgic, and they may make you feel warm and fuzzy. If you’re like us, though, mostly what they’ll make you feel is the urge to ski.

First published in Powder Magazine, issue 23.2, October 1994. Copyright Steve Casimiro 2001. All rights reserved.