The Politics of Skiing

How Trump, Whistler and dogs will all work their way into the coming season.

Each ski season, one of my best buddies and I have a contest to see who can get away with the most outrageous season pass. Hulk Hogan, Super Mario, Guido Guy, Derek Zoolander and Sheriff Shred have all made an appearance in the previous years.

Last year my buddy was Hunter S. Thompson. He had the amber sunglasses and pith helmet and cigarette holder. It was pretty good. I was Donald Trump (see page 6). With the big wig, the puffed up cheeks, a cardboard sign that said, “Trump 4 Shred King,” and that self-important glare. I thought it was the kind of joke that might last until Christmas. Like snowfall, there are some things you can’t predict, though.

When I wore the same costume out for Halloween, I was very popular at one downtown eatery, then very unpopular at the brew pub, where all the hipsters who couldn’t be bothered to put on a costume kept giving me the stare. On our way to the third bar, a woman screamed, “I’m not voting for your sorry ass Trump!” as she drove by in a car.

Once the lifts were actually spinning, the pass earned an equal mix of yays and bleahs. Boarding the summit chair on a powder day after “The Donald” had whipped up on his primary sparring partners the evening before, a liftie looked at my pass and said, “Thanks for your business Mr. President.”

It shook me up a little. I told him, “Not yet, man.” And when I told my ski buddy I had a plan for this year’s pass, and it included another wig, he asked, “Hillary Clinton?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m not mixing politics and skiing anymore.”

Ski Whistler

When I was growing up, my dad was a volunteer ski patroller on the weekends at Vail. I know I’ve said this a million times, but never once on a winter weekend did he ask what I wanted to do. Every Saturday morning your butt was in the backseat of the Volkswagen hatchback heading west on I-70. For years, I thought Vail was simply the greatest place to ski in the world.

I had bought the t-shirt. The bumper sticker. And I had primed all my ‘back-in-the-day’ stories by the time I graduated high school. Then I started to ski places like Jackson, Whistler, Mammoth and Squaw. I skied Europe in Switzerland, Italy and, especially, Austria, where I quickly realized that Colorado has got it great, but there are dozens of huge, super steep areas that offer skiing on a far different scale.

I do still love Forever, especially on a powder day. And Prima with the massive moguls. Look Ma whenever the sun is shining. Windows through the trees and Giant Steps at the end of the day. But there are a lot of other places I choose to ski these days.

Like Whistler Blackcomb, for instance, and there’s the tale. Because as anyone who even remotely follows skiing noticed this past August, Vail recently purchased what many believe is the biggest, best ski area in North America. Like a breathtaking buffet of all the best areas in the U.S., Whistler offers endless bowls, black-diamond couloirs, stick-the-first-five-turns ridgelines, and perhaps out of all of North America’s great resorts, the most international feel.

According to reports, it’s also the next place you can use your Epic Pass in 2017-18. Who knew that skiing Whistler on the cheap would make me consider buying a pass at Vail?

The Dogs of Winter

On a final ski note, one of my favorite things ever is to be with dogs in the snow. But it’s been awhile since I skied with a dog, because one by one the whole crew just got worn out. The lone survivor, Bettie the Wonder Dog, a yellow lab with the sweetest smile, is almost 15. It’s been seven years since she saw the slopes. But she’ll still stand on the patio snuffling at the scent of a winter storm on the air.

Like many old ski dogs, she has an ankle scar from coming into contact with the edge of a ski on a powder day. She has a beautiful thick coat that goes from red to white each October. And she still comes out to help me shovel the drive when I get up early for the hill.

Being together out in the dark of a cold morning feels better than just about anything. The solidarity in the harsh solitude. The way you appreciate someone else’s company even more when you don’t say a word. Lovers,  brothers,  best friends,  ski friends—they all have that same

quality. After this election season is over, I’m looking forward to a lot more of that kind of companionship.

—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? You can buy it here:

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