Sunday, May 6, 2018

Where did the ski season go?

The sunscreen in the beard adds a nice "aged" effect for this
introspective shot of an aging skier in an existential crisis.
Did we really every have one?

Over the past few years, I've maintained that this infrequently updated blog-- located on a domain I pay to reserve-- is my creative outlet. The title, "Skierssummit", infers it's devoted to SKIING, the activity that in many ways has steered my life, but I always intended for my blog to be more than just the typical self promotional "stoke-tool". This blog was my opportunity to exercise my literary muscles on topics I choose and I enjoy. Now that I'm in the technical writing field, writing for myself seems even more important to my life. But here it is, May 5th and the season passed with nothing written on this last ski season. In this post, I have a few brief theories I'll share as to why I never really got this blog "up and running" for the 2017-18 season.

The "Share" Culture is Much Different Now

Even though MySpace is still out there, good luck finding my original blog on that platform. Over 10 years ago, MySpace was where I did my most routine, public writing. MySpace was this new, personal web page designed for sharing and it made AOL look like, well, MySpace does now. Flash forward a few years, and with the advent of WordPress and Blogger, personalizing your blog became so much easier. MySpace was on it's way out, but blogs still survived. But somewhere in the last five years, we went from blogs, which were primarily "written", to Tweets and Instagrams, which are more impulsive reflexes.

If blogging was designed for "navel gazers" like myself to publish erudite prose on our passions, then Twitter and Instagram were designed for the primal screams we make when we watch professional wrestling or Chipendales dancers -- intellect is not necessary -- just be brief and let us know what you're feeling.

Look, I have accounts on both Twitter and Instagram. And I value brevity in any form of communication (Hemingway would have killed at Tweeting), but when so many out there are using these channels at a break-neck pace -- posting once or twice a day -- it makes the act of blogging seem like studying Latin.

That's one reason blogging has become more difficult for me -- the idea of blogging seems antiquated. The next reason is more personal.

No One is Asking for Another Angle On Bitterness

There was another reason for my lack of interest in blogging during the 2017-18 ski season. Even though I tend to relish suffering from "Early Onset Grumpiness", (I would like to try and make this next point without sounding like a Trump voter -- but it will probably be easier to just take a deep breath and go all MAGA): skiing in the Wasatch is changing in a way that I really don't like.

I spent 2 hours to drive up here... I'm
enjoying my cofeee.
Alta isn't the resort I remember. I distinctly remember, less than 20 years ago, reading something on their site (I feel like it was part of a customer survey they sent me) about how they felt fixed chairs were an important part of keeping runs from getting crowded.  Quite a middle finger to those looking for a Vail experience. Now in 2018, they've essentially sold the locals like me down the river in exchange for the vacation skier who wants to tell all their friends back in Jersey how they skied Main Chute. [Note to self, next blog is about me skiing Main Chute.]

On top of that, the backcountry is getting more and more crowded. If you aren't at Spruces by 9 on a weekend, you may not find a parking spot.

But the most soul-crushing part of almost every journey I made up the Cottonwoods this winter was the depressing prospect of battling traffic and tourists, even on subpar days. Thanks Ski Utah, you have turned my favorite recreation into a trip to Ikea on a Saturday afternoon.

Look, Alta can run their business how they want. And guess what, I'll probably ski there again next season.

And for all the traffic at the trailhead, Wasatch backcountry is still pretty sublime. Plus, I keep hoping the growing legion of "turn-earners" will serve as a bullwark against resort expansion.

And as for the East Coasters that now encroach on my turf... well, at one time, I was a tourist visiting the Wasatch. 

But despite all those rational responses to my grumpy reactions, every time I sat down to write this season, I felt like I was always typing with anger instead of passion. Coming at the page with a negative point-of-view seemed like a stylistic choice 10 years ago, now, it's just cliche. Adding a little curmudgeon to the recipe may add some humor to my words, but in a world where everyone tends to use social media to promote their idea of how the world should operate, adding my brand of bitterness to the mix seemed pretty banal.

I'm not a positive person by nature, so for me to come to this realization was no light matter. Nearly every blog draft I wrote this season seemed like I was wearing a red "Make the Wasatch Great Again" hat, and I just couldn't feel good about that. It would be different if I had some positive posts to go along with it, but I struggled to find inspiration for a positive post.

So What Will I Write About?

I turned 42 nearly a month ago. I'm firmly "in my 40s" and it's hard not to wonder where my life went. A week before my birthday, on one of the first weekends all ski season where I wasn't driving up the canyon or traveling somewhere, Lex and I went out for brunch downtown and visited Ken Sander's Books. I knew this treasure chest of a bookstore had some hard to find and signed editions by Gary Snyder, whose poetry and essays are always in my mind when I'm in the wild. Sure enough, they had signed copies of "The Real Work", (a collection of interviews and essays), and "Rivers and Mountains Without End", (a collection of poetry published in the 90s that was the result of 40 years of his work). 

I bought them both as birthday presents to myself. Admittedly, I already have too many books, but there is something to savor about owning "analog" literature. It's grounded in ink, the words are printed, they are permanent.

Where am I going with this? Back to my ideas for this blog.

Gary Snyder. To call him a member of the "beats"
is to vastly underestimate his contribution to
naturalist literature.
Adding to my Gary Snyder library led me to checking out his timeline and, at age 44, his Pulitzer Prize winning "Turtle Island" was published -- I'm just 42! I'm not saying, "I can win a Pulitzer" (I don't have the time or enthusiasm to chase that goal), but I am saying, "There is no age limit on sharing your message with people."

So that's what will motivate me on this blog. I'll write, with the help of Gary Snyder's and other authors work, a celebration of nature, the outdoors, the wild. Yes, I still may have an axe to grind on occasion, but when I read Snyder's essays, he somehow figured out a way to be an activist, a critic, an optimist and a poet all in one. If I can strike that balance, then I may be able to find more enthusiasm to write. 

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