According to the piece of mail I just received from a gear company, alpine touring is one of the most growing parts of the outdoor industry. And I believe it. A search on Instagram for #skiuphill turns up over 18,000 posts whereas a search for #skidownhill returns just over 200. I’m a passionate backcountry skier. I love the sound of the snow under my skins, breathing deeply, and throwing snowballs at my friends when they’re trying to hike, route find, and break trail. It’s great that uphill skiing is trending in the industry. It’s one of the positive signs for all advocates of human-powered recreation.
However, nothing beats the feelings of flying, g-force, and weightlessness that can be achieved only through downhill skiing. Moving quickly through a well-trimmed glade, I feel connected to the earth and at peace with the world. My friends are smiling as we take turns skiing out in front and leading the way down the hill.
I am worried that as backcountry skiing becomes more popular and touring equipment becomes more affordable, skiers will forget how important it is to rip around a resort and easily attain 20,000 vertical feet of downhill in a day. The options at the ski area are endless. If we liked one trail, we could go back and do it 20 more times. If we didn’t like one or two runs, that’s ok—we have all day to ski others. We can train and get good at our craft while skiing inbounds. There’s significantly less avalanche danger and we have the opportunity for more high fives (from lifties, patrollers, and other users).
I think that the movement towards uphill travel is important, positive, and an overall good sign. Backcountry skiing is my favorite outdoor pursuit and nothing makes me more happy than seeing other people get excited about it. Nonetheless, it is my fear that we will all neglect the beautiful ease and pure joy that can come from skiing in the maintained, controlled environment of your favorite ski area. So get out there and post some #skidownhill photos. You won’t regret it.
Written by Nick McEachern