Skiing icon Glen Plake recently gave Powder magazine an interview, which is no big surprise. One thing he said, however, really caught my eye. The always-happy-to-talk-skiing celebrity said, “In the past ten years or so, there’s been some ‘stars’ and I’m not sure they were the best stewards of the sport.” I’m not one to weigh in on just what Plake meant by that, but it definitely got me thinking about the ‘stars’ of the slopes in relation to the everyday folks whose contributions are just as, if not more, important, but usually get over looked.
So lately I’ve made it a point to pay a little closer attention to the riders making their way down the runs at Big Sky, and anywhere else I’ve been skiing so far this fall. You watch the multitudes of apparent beginners and the more aggressive experts, while pondering Plake’s words and it doesn’t take long to start thinking that this sport definitely isn’t lacking for stewards of a different ilk than Plake was talking about. They may not be household names, but they’ve definitely got “skiing’s back” so to speak.
The fact that they just want to get to the ski hill, buy a pass, get on the lift, fine tune their skills and generally get after it goes a long way towards keeping the industry solid. Throw in their down to earth art of making light of themselves and each other, and generally having a good time, and you have the makings of something that perpetually fuels skiing. No special favors needed, no deleting those awkward falls, and no mercy.
Riders like these may be inspired by those with their names on the marquee, but with or without that they’ll be on the slopes as long as someone is willing to fire up the lifts.
That’s where a guy named Chris comes to mind. He and four of his 40-something pals were taking a break in the Mountain Mall and yukking it up with typical skier bravado, so I barged in and asked him to tell me their story.
“We’ve gotten together a couple years in a row and we’ll try something next year,” Chris, who was the only member of the group that have ever been to Big Sky, explained. “I drive up to Boise and we head out somewhere. The reason we came here? We were going to go to (Grand) Targhee, but there’s no snow. Our trip had to be something within driving distance of Boise”
As Chris, who’s only other trip to Big Sky came 20 years ago, spoke his friends slid in their own commentary about themselves with some well-crafted one-liners. I walked away feeling they had validated my thoughts on how the ‘non-stars’ of skiing play a major factor in not only keeping the sport afloat, but also being its stewards. If the stars aren’t performing this duty other, less known riders, will take care of it in a relatively more subtle fashion.
That’s just the nature of the sport and skiers. Chris and his pals, and millions others like them, are going to – whether they realize it or not – pamper and coddle the sport just by being themselves. If they hit a big bump in the road, they take a turn for the just-as-good, if not better. They have just as much fun ribbing each other and joking around in the bar at the end of the day as they do bombing down the mountain. When these skiers saw that the hill they were going to wasn’t ready for them, like almost any ski junkie they didn’t think twice about finding one that was ready to roll.
Chris said his group was well-seasoned on the slopes, but that they weren’t going to let that cause them to forgo everything available. Time was on their side as this day was the first of a three-day weekend visit.
“We’ve done most of (the cruise runs), but as the days go on we’ll graduate on to a higher and higher level,” he said. “Those chutes off the tram are unbelievable. (Big Sky) offers that varied terrain, which is nice.”
And skiing offers those varied fanatics, which is even nicer than we realize.
Tom Stuber was a sports writer for the Helena Independent Record for 18 years and now attempts to dedicate his writing to the ski scene. He can be reached at email@example.com.