Why do you ski?

Why do you ski?  Is it for days like these?
Skiing is weird…  Why do we voluntarily put on restrictive boots, fasten them to planks (originally planks of wood, though now they are quite a lot more sophisticated), go up a mountain only to slide down again, sometimes in pretty hostile weather conditions?  Why has something that started as a means of transport become a popular sport and recreation?
My answer to the question “Why do you ski?” is succinct, and, quite frankly, a bit lame as a basis for an interesting and entertaining Blog post.  So, I posed the question to the good people of Snowheads to see if I could find out why other people do it.

One reason that I like to teach skiing is the diversity of people that I meet and this diversity was once again reflected in the responses.  Ranging from “It’s all about the beer (and the Austrian Apres Ski!)” to wonderful descriptions of feelings of exhilaration, freedom and inspiration.

So, here is a list of the top 10 reasons why people go skiing (or snowboarding!)

10.  Bearing in mind that Snowheads is an internet forum and ski club, so the kind of people spending time on there and going to the effort of posting on a thread are likely to be a little fanatical, it’s hardly surprising that in tenth place is obsession and addiction.  This category not only covers the obsession of never having enough of the feeling you get when you ski, but also, all the obsessions surrounding skiing.  Deciding where to go, and when, and how often, weighing up the cost of lift tickets, wondering if you will be able to get the time off work for another trip.  Then there are the equipment enthusiasts; searching out reviews to find out more about skis, bindings, poles, boots, gloves, helmets, hard shell jackets, soft shell jackets, mid-layers, base layers, those weird T-bag things that you put in your gloves to keep your hands warm…  An endless list providing endless hours of entertainment.

9.  In ninth place is happiness.  This is a little difficult to clarify as it is somewhat intangible.  Happiness means different things to different people.  Whatever happiness means – skiing makes people happy.

8.  Eighth place goes to exertion and health.  People enjoy the weariness that follows a full day of moving around in the fresh air.  Other people say they ski because it’s good for their health.
A study carried out in Salzburg proved that skiing is good for the elderly, so there’s no good reason to take it easy as you get older.

7.  Enough people said they ski for their family to put this reason into seventh place on the list.  I was astonished a few years ago when I saw an advert for a newly opened shopping centre near where I lived at the time – the tagline was “A fun day out for all the family!”  This family orientated destination included shops, restaurants and a small climbing frame.  I understand that some people like shopping, but, fun for the whole family?!  I’m not so sure.  On the other hand, people saying that skiing makes for a perfect family holiday – well that makes a bit more sense.

6.  As a ski instructor I approve wholeheartedly of the sixth reason on the list – people ski for the challenge and the sense of achievement.  Challenge is good and the feeling of success is great.  To challenge ourselves, to develop and learn new things is the best way of ensuring that we don’t end up a couch potato.

5. In fifth place is friends and fun.  I guess this is actually similar to happiness and in some situations family, but it’s worth separating them out.  Fun is another word that is elusive to define.  For some, physics is fun, for others, baking cakes and others, skiing.
Skiing to have fun with friends is interesting.  While you’re actually skiing you’re alone but it’s all about the shared experience that you can talk and laugh about once it’s over.  Priceless!

4.  A few years ago I was teaching an MD of a company who had a highly stressful job.   He told me that the reason he went skiing was that he could totally switch off from his day to day life.  While he was skiing there was no space in his head to think about anything else.  To him, conventional “relaxing” holidays were useless because they gave him too much time to think and worry.  Which brings us to reason number four – living in the moment.  Lots of people said that skiing forces them to focus on what’s happening now and allows them to leave their everyday worries somewhere else.

3.  In third place the feeling of freedom and flying are pretty self-explanatory.  When everything is going right this feeling is amazing.  It’s not surprising that we keep coming back for more.

2.  The best word to describe reason number 2 is, probably, gastronomy.  People mentioned the mountain huts, hot chocolate and rum, Tartiflette, schnapps, being able to eat whatever you want without worrying too much about the waistline.  Being in Austria, I’ll add Apfel Strudel, Tirolergröstl, Jägermeister and the amazing spectacle that is Austrian Aprés Ski!

1. By far the most popular reason for skiing is the mountains.  People ski because they love to be in the mountains.  Mountains are: impressive, beautiful, marvellous, stunning, amazing, inspiring, awesome, fantastic…  No matter what the weather, no matter what the snow conditions, people would rather be there than in the office!

The view from my office!
Thank you to the Snowheads who helped to articulate the reasons behind my uncommunicative answer to the question; “Why do you ski?”
And, my answer?  It makes me smile!