I moved to Boston for a once-in-a-lifetime job. It was my first winter in almost twenty years that I wouldn’t be living in the Rockies. The first snow came to New England and it went to waste, melting on wet, black streets. The ski life I’d left in Montana suddenly felt like an ex I regretted dumping. I tried making new friends, took up yoga, joined a gym. I was still hurting. I missed my powder skis. Skiing here was never going to work.
My new friend, Amy, a New Hampshire Native and self-proclaimed skier, suggested we visit a ski-making demo at Parlor Skis, a custom ski builder in an industrial corner of East Boston. Their factory is next to the tiny Constitution Beach—a beach so small it’s more a parking lot than a vacation, like east coast ski areas I presumed. Inside they were drinking beer. At least I’d have one thing in common with these people. We went in.
The first thing I noticed, above the ski press machine was a sticker. Ski the East. I pointed and laughed.
“It’s like saying Forget the Dreams.” I said to her. Slogans are supposed to inspire us, like Save Ferris or Believe in Yourself. Ski the East? C’mon. Icy moguls, tiny hills, big crowds? Still laughing, I looked at Amy who glared at me like I’d said the moon had better skiing.
“Why not go back to Montana with that attitude.”
“Hold on,” I said. The east has half the snow, half the vertical, a quarter the acreage, twice the crowds. “It’s not a ski destination, it’s a necessity.” No one would ski the east if they could ski the west. Funny that someone wanted to celebrate it instead.
She didn’t quite stomp her foot, but close. “I’ve skied here my whole life, my parents skied here, my grandmothah skied here while my grandfathah fought in World War 2.”
I felt like I’d insulted her whole family. I tried defending myself but she cut me off.
“There ahh more ski areas in New England than all of your precious Rockies.”*
She had a point, even though she’d have to stack a few on top of each other to equal a Big Sky.
“And there ahh powdah days.” She said. I imagined day-long lift lines and denim skiers double ejecting everywhere. She didn’t call me a jerk, but kind of. “Don’t come ‘round here with all your powdah snobbery.”
Wait. A snob?
In my defense, before Boston, skiing was everything. I walked to the lifts from my home, bagged first chairs and knew lifties by name. I’d skied the Super C Couloir in Chile, snowmobiled into the Canadian backcountry, skinned thousands of vertical feet in New Zealand. Chasing powder was my life, and the east coast had none of it. Skiing here was a joke.
Amy quit talking and just looked mad. A part of me thought she was too sensitive. Another part of me realized I wasn’t doing a good job making friends. No boasting of powder, no dogging man-made snow. She was right, I was a snob.
I turned toward to the ski builder who continued spreading glue, sandwiching wood and laminate before inserting into the press. He was making a mid-fat, 105 in the waist, aspen core, carbon fiber. He explained how they made every type of ski, even fully rockered fatties. These guys understood powder.
“Um, so what makes eastern skiers different than western skiers?” I asked. Maybe he’d save me.
He didn’t hesitate. “Hardah spirit, hardah snow.”
The eastern skiers’ lives are indeed hard. They endure blue ice, bone-soaking cold, and elitist westerns’ judgments. That toughness is precisely what makes east coasters so proud. They want to celebrate that no matter how bad the conditions are, the skiing, must go on. Even for the snobs.