As the summer season comes to an end, every year, without fail, I begin having incredibly vivid dreams — except it’s the same premise: I am on a mountain, skiing or snowboarding down the slopes. I feel the light bouncing across the groomed snow, the windburn across my face and my ankles shifting to grind against the mountain. The winter sports season may be almost year-round out west, but here in the midwest, I have to savor every bit of it.
Skiing and snowboarding has been a part of my life since I could walk. My parents would drop me off at “ski-school,” leaving me to my fate of the “magic carpet,” a ramp for moving toddlers up the small bunny hill, before pursuing the Black Diamonds. I remember when I was tall enough to finally get ski poles — here I am years later, and I still don’t know exactly what I am supposed to do with them!
So while some people become giddy over the idea of entering the holiday season, I eagerly await the first good snowfall.
Skiing or snowboarding are experiences everyone deserves to have at least once in their lives. If nothing else, it’s phenomenal exercise. For hours, one consistently works multiple muscle groups (which groups depend) before retiring for a warm meal. The experienced skier can burn thousands of calories in a day and show muscle gain relatively quickly!
But most don’t ski to lose weight, they do it to connect with the outdoors and have a fun time. It’s not just about picking up speed — slopes differ widely in terrain and weather conditions. If you’re in a big enough resort, it’ll feel like exploring a natural maze. Because you are dressed just heavily enough to resist the cold and always occupied with the experience, you likely won’t realize how much you have sweated until you finally shed all those layers!
In my experience, winter sports are like learning an instrument or picking up a hobby — you enjoy it more as you become more skilled at it! Snowboarding becomes less plausible with age, but skiing is a lifetime sport. Every time I go, there are fit skiers well into their eighties! So if you haven’t tried your hand at it yet, there is still plenty of time!
To me, skiing or snowboarding have never been about the enjoyment of the activity and the health benefits, it’s about the experience as a whole. It’s about sitting and chatting on a chairlift with friends (or maybe a stranger, soon to be a friend!). It’s about warming up near the fireplace, walking around in those clunky ski boots and being too sore to care that everyone sees your helmet hair.
With the sport comes a fantastic community of people maintaining a vast sport culture. Out west in the mountains, the buildings have the rustic architecture of the European Alps, lively towns with great nightlife and stores with funny helmet stickers that only skiers will appreciate, such as “Trump skis in jeans.”
Skiing is more common in Europe than in the U.S., mainly because the mountains are more accessible, but no matter where you go, it’s an expensive hobby. Although these sports have amazing value, the price tag will just about always be as steep as the mountain.
The good news is there are ways to circumvent this drawback. If you commit early and do your research, you can find great deals to amazing resorts. Students, enjoy those discounts while you still can! If you have your own gear, then it becomes even cheaper. If you live nearby, a season pass can be cheaper and better than a gym membership with enough use. Cheaper will never be cheap, but these tips will certainly make the price tag more bearable.
Few activities can be so enjoyable and good for the body. The world of winter sports will always feel like a part of my identity, and I yearn to return whenever it’s feasible. There is nothing more thrilling to me than racing through a tree run in fresh powder. The gates open, I hope you decide to come on in.
You may fall on your butt for a little while, but once you’re up, it’s all downhill from there.
Andrew is a junior in LAS and the Opinions Desk Editor for the Daily Illini.