Shredding the G.N.A.R.
If you've fed your inner steez monster lately, you've likely been out in the totally rad conditions shredding the gnar at Big Sky - there's no question that with all this La Nina snow, Big Sky has some sicky gnar pow right now. But after watching a recent documentary on Shane McConkey, Scott Gaffney, and the infamous Squallywood scene at Squaw Valley, I had to wonder not how gnarly Big Sky is, but how G.N.A.R.ly it is.
Gaffney's Numerical Assessment of Radness, that is. It's a point system attached to sweet moves on the slopes - each line, drop, and stunt has its own numerical value assigned to it. G.N.A.R. gained momentum at Squaw Valley in the 90's when Rob Gaffney published the official rules in his book, Squallywood, and skiers started competing for the gnarliest lines. The look-at-me ski-bum culture was highlighted and celebrated, tongue-in-cheek, as skiers earned extra credit points for skiing naked, passing gas and claiming it in a crowded tram, having the best goggle tan, proclaiming that they were the best skier on the mountain, and calling out pro skiers (Hey, McConkey! I can't believe you are a pro. I am so much better than you!).
With McConkey's death in March of 2009 while doing a ski stunt in Italy, and the premier of G.N.A.R. the movie in December 2009, there's been somewhat of a G.N.A.R. revival as the documentary about an official G.N.A.R. competition (skiers competed for a $25,000 jackpot!) began sweeping the nation. In Snowmass a few weeks ago, my friends mock-pole-whacked and invisible cornice (extra G.N.A.R. points for three or more ridiculously unnecessary whacks) and proudly announced before dropping a line: "Hey, look at me! I'm going to RIP this s#*t up!" As Squaw native Greg Lindsey says, "you can't just get rad by yourself, you know, you gotta tell people about it."
This attitude is common among ski-area locals, and Big Sky has its fair share of serious G.N.A.R.- types. But has the official G.N.A.R. attitude made it to Montana?
I decided to find out.
On a scenic with some green-skier friends up the tram, I didn't even bother bringing my skis up to lone Peak. But the rest of the skiers in my car were planning their runs - what they would dare drop, what they wouldn't. "Well whatever you guys are skiing," I pronounced, skis nowhere in sight, "I hope you know I'm the best skier on the mountain."
"That makes two of us," a skier holding Volkl's new Mantras replied.
In the Mountain Village that day, 20 pro skiers and riders were signing autographs as a part of their work with Big Sky Resort and Big Sky Youth Empowerment, a non-profit that mentors at-risk youth and introduces them to skiing.
"Hey dude," I said to a pro as he signed a poster for me. "I can't believe you're a pro. I am so much better than you are."
"Gnarly!" he replied. Or, then again, was it "G.N.A.R.ly?"
On Facebook a Big Sky local recently posted a helmet cam video of himself pole-whacking a cornice before dropping in. "Hey guys, what's goin' on," he yells to some nearby skiers. "You might wanna watch this, I'm the sickest skier on the mountain."
So it seems as though the G.N.A.R. is spreading, or at least the G.N.A.R. knowledge. Either way, it's good to keep in mind that the G.N.A.R. mentality inherently pokes fun at itself, and true bro or no, ski culture is all about enjoying yourself. So don't be taken aback the next time you're on the tram and someone breaks out and Ego Claim and tells you he's the best skier on the mountain. Just calmly rip one, claim it as your own, then tell him that while that's all well and good, you've got to go call your mom while you take some turns on the Big Couloir. You'll be way ahead on G.N.A.R. points already.