The Chronicles of Mt. Mary Jane
…or the purists guide to antiquitous esthetic…
In Defense Of Noodling.
I noticed something the other day. Something strange, something that now keeps me up at night, wondering if I am now in a generation lost to youthful fancy and the ageless stoke known to the snow folk.
My skis look thin.
The jokes are running rampant… “does my ass make my skis look fat?” “Do those skis come with a walker?” My legend 8000s are not more than 6 years old. When I bought the orange monsters, I remember thinking that the 8800s and even bolder Legend Pros and Pro Nobis seemed like snowshoes. I wanted something with girth, not snowboards for my feet. And 79 underfoot was a far cry from my old GS Elans. I needed a foot mounted directly to each orange genie, and dropping below 180 cm seemed like blasphemy. After all, my mountain is full of bumps. Terrain. Trees. Wonder. And a dedicated crew of like-minded people who revel in the pure lines found at our skiing home.
I ski at Mary Jane.
Although the prototypical grooming equipment was developed on the other side of the hill at Winter Park, the narrow passages and steep fall lines of the Jane never lent themselves to grooming. As a result, the skiers of the day found that our pitches led to the growth of a brand of mogul absent at nearly every other Performers-friendly resort. We laugh at Vail’s “morale bumps” and thumb our noses at A-Basin’s paltry Pallavicini. We have exposed roots and double fall-line. And a trio of fixed-grip doubles to escort us there.
Our kind have spent the better winters of our formative years paralleling with soft knees through the mogul fields, comparing notes on preferable lines… left, center, right… trough, mid-line, crest-to-crest… and we still do. Styles emerged that were as unique as the riders crafting them, and our niche was safe.
But skiing evolves. Ask most any skier who never put in the effort to learn bump skiing, and they almost always respond in an identical manner: “I never really liked the moguls… I prefer powder.” Or “I never really liked moguls… I prefer groomers.” To us, this is not an offense, but a clear admonition that said responder never had the stones to conquer our terrain. Good riddance. We were the keepers of the craft. You can ski Vail and try your hand at Highline for a pleasant little bump run. Maybe we can meet apres ski at the cinema to catch a matinee of “The Notebook” while we’re at it. You might have well said “I never really liked moguls… I’d rather pull out a Barbara Streisand album.”
The truth is that none of us enjoy the moguls. While your mind finds total focus in a minefield of small VWs, we would all prefer to be skiing powder. Although we will never admit it, we even enjoy the corduroy now and then. But skiing bumps and the necessary esthetic involved is as essential to our identity as silly hats are to Shriners. In a world that now embodies ski-bikes and boot skis, bump skiers are as true to the technique of our fathers as anyone before. An ill-fated attempt by Barry and Intrawest to groom Outhouse led to local outcry, and the still-omnipresent bumper sticker reading “Don’t Groom Mary Jane. -God.”
And here is where I grow concerned. With the advent of fat skis and rocker and pontoons and gimmicks galore, the parallel turn is in danger of becoming extinct. I’m not talking about over-exaggerated pole plants and the clown that makes every bump turn look as if his life depended on his mid-riff bending 90 degrees. I’m talking about the core, man… overlapping ski tips and boots that touch. Leaving a single track in the snow. Respect.
There is new style. Style evolves, and we all appreciate this basic truth. But the lift lines have evolved into a ski-show more intent on gnar than on function in day-to-day realities. The art of the turn is being lost in favor of a ubiquitous ‘tude, like every one is too cool to ski forwards, and couldn’t be bothered with a pole plant.
I’m not saying that my way is the best way. I’m not even saying that it is a legitimate way. I think these thoughts because this is how it has been done for decades, since the advent of Arlberg technique. No, I’m not saying that it’s the best way… but it is the way of Mary Jane. And when noodlers are endangered at the Jane, we need to consider the future. Are we plunging into it head-long without a game plan? Sure the ski companies are selling their sick sticks that are great in AK and on epic powder days. The gritty trenches are where we live, however, and the gritty trenches are where we work. And in the gritty trenches we make due without Chugach powder and endless steep descents on a daily basis. We are the children of the trees, of the fall-line, of classic esthetic and fixed-grip doubles.
This is a story with no conclusion. Take a look for yourself at your local hill, still the beating heart of skiing in America, and start evaluating style for yourself. Not to bring down someone’s stoke or day on the mountain, but for a more important concern… to raise the awareness of a lowered bar, a weaker expectation.
Say what you will about me, but on most days you’ll find me at the Jane. My people live there.