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Skiing: Freedom’s Final Frontier


The air is getting crisper; the days are getting shorter; the beer is getting darker. For some, this means we’ve survived another wet, hot American summer without losing an arm to a boat crash, a spine to a diving board, or this life to a shark. But don’t get too comfortable. Winter is coming, and with it, ski season.

Skiing is a classic American pastime, enjoyed from Northeast to Northwest. Next time you spend your money on a lift pass and hit the slopes, consider the bureaucrat by whose kindness your weekend will be spent. There’s no way Enlightened Man can responsibly allow skiing.

Mountains Are Dangerous

Consider the mountain: Thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, untouched by human hands, unsullied by our masses. Now imagine scalping its majestic green crown and plopping down a mid-mountain lodge—one made out of once-living trees, no less, adding insult to injury.

From this central point, man’s tractors spread forth, leaving barren, rocky wasteland. Pipelines are laid, chemicals pumped through their ghastly metal halls. Artificial snow rains from gray skies.

Yes, for centuries man’s conquest of nature and her elements was lauded. Early Man considered draining swamps a critical step in agriculture, against disease, and for civilization. But those dark ages are long gone, my friend. Enlightened Man has reclassified those swamps as wetlands. Under the watchful eye of environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency, we are actively filling them back in. See how far we’ve come?

Can anyone say his selfish mountain adventure would meet approval from the Sierra Club? Could anyone even be so shameless as to ask?

Even if permission were granted, it would be an actual hike. Who could consider sullying the base of the mountain with tar? It’s been 45 years since Joni Mitchell bravely condemned her society for paving paradise to put up a parking lot. We’re enlightened now.

I wonder if she skis.

Chairlifts Are Just Asking for Accidents

Consider the chairlift: Monstrous, moving, creaking, slippery metal chairs careening through the freezing air 50 feet above a mountain. No seat belts, no head rests, no air bags. These chairs don’t even come to a complete stop before boarding, clipping the knees of the young and elderly alike, barreling over the weaker among us while stoned and bearded attendants rush to pump the brakes—an emergency procedure that sends thousands of passengers swinging back and forth, clinging to life on a long and strained cable.

That is OSHA’s dream. That is OSHA’s nightmare.

This “emergency” procedure isn’t even rare. Across every mountain’s every lift every day, it’s so common it registers not a blip of concern in the eyes of the pimpled teenagers paid to attend it. That is Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) dream. That is OSHA’s nightmare.

Did you know that, as recently as 2014, parents would let children as young as five board these death traps? How Early Man ever used something so obviously deadly ought to be a mystery to modern scholars. And what is it all for? What terror awaits at the top?

Skiing Itself Is Atrocious

Consider the sport: Once the child-endangering tree-destroyers reach their destination, they strap “a pair of long narrow pieces of hard flexible material” to boots so tight they hurt a child’s ankles. Then—then—they push off down a steep trail padded with icy snow, flanked by deadly trees. Not content with these danger levels, mountain owners instruct those very same stoned teenagers to construct traps: Moguls, jumps, half-pipes made of snow hard as rock.

Once the child-endangering tree-destroyers reach their destination, they strap ‘a pair of long narrow pieces of hard flexible material’ to boots so tight they hurt a child’s ankles.

Classes of children as young as three are lured with skis corporations have decorated in bright colors and their favorite cartoon characters. Then, they are organized into groups called “munchkins” and sent out with strange mountain people who teach them to survive their crucible with methods misleadingly disguised with names like “pizza wedge” and “French fry.” If Child Protective Services had turned a cheek to the chair lift, this should hold their attention.

Meanwhile, parents risk life and limb in their own harrowing journey, punctuating high-speed races over moguls and through trees with pints of beer consumed at altitude. But are there police stops on these slopes? No, not even an officer. The mountain is instead protected by a private army in the mountain’s employ, equipped with barely more than sleds to cart the dead and wounded from their property.

As if that’s not enough, just 20 years ago only 5 percent of these skiers even wore helmets, opting instead to don a woolly hat. To this very day, most mountains permit  older skiers to continue this primitive practice as they barrel down mountain trails.

And there’s more.

The Untamed Brave the Mountain Still

Consider the lodge: A sprawling, sweaty complex where parents continue to drink, pacifying their children with heaping plates of carbs topped with melted calories and ground cattle. It’s hot, it’s unhealthy, it’s inhumane. Often, it’s also loud, with live guitars and dirty jokes blaring.

Politicians make a living and activists a fortune telling us how to dispose of our bottles, which cookies we can eat, how large our sodas are, where we can smoke, which flags we fly.

Meanwhile, baggage as large as duffel bags is tucked in every nook, under every table, filled with skis and mittens maybe—or, maybe, bombs. Who would know? There’s nary a metal-detector in sight; nor a capable office of the Transportation Security Administration for miles and miles.

Finally, consider our country, where politicians make a living and activists a fortune telling us how to dispose of our bottles, which cookies we can eat, how large our sodas are, where we can smoke, which flags we fly, what books we read, how we raise our kids, and if we can even play a damn game of football. This way of thinking has become so deep-seated, it is pathological.

Still, some of us break free of the cities, packing our trunks and roofs like the covered wagons of days past, heading north to brave the land that claimed Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy. We few will not be tamed, nor broken.

We have seen the top of the mountain. And it is good.