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On Skiing—Generation Y(ered)

On Skiing—Generation Y(ered)

Features
By Ryan Dionne
posted: 01/15/2006

Technology abounds, and, being a Generation Y-er—I'm 22—I embrace it. Answering my vibrating cell phone in a movie theater, compulsively checking my email every 10 minutes and flipping between MTV, the Today show and American Chopper while I stuff my face with Cinnamon Toast Crunch are essential parts of my life.

And while I'm checking my email, a friend down the street is playing Madden NFL '06 on his cell phone while jammin' to his iPod Shuffle that he wears around his neck. Technologically loaded devices consume me and my friends, and no matter how much we hate to admit it, we rely on them every day.

Skiing has always been the perfect way to escape all the gizmos and gadgets that have taken over my life. Just Mother Nature and me. I love being surrounded by the sounds of skiing: the lift's squeaky wheels, the steady swoosh of edges on snow, the polite chatter of strangers sharing a chair. But that's changing.

More and more, technology is forcing its way into my quality ski time. And I'm not happy about it. Sure, there's always been the rude, self-important 50-year-old business guy on the chairlift talking too loudly on his cell phone. But I'm embarrassed to say, compared to my generation, that guy is starting to look polite.

Earbuds blaring Green Day. Ring tones trumpeting a few seconds of the latest Ludacris rap hit. Camera phones. Mini-video cams. PDAs. And don't even get me going on text-messaging. Some of my generation look like display racks at Circuit City when they hit the slopes.

Though I love technology, I resist letting it dominate my ski day. Since I was about 3—or at least as far back as I can remember—many of my favorite memories are of family ski vacations. Waking up to see frost on my bedroom window, then hurriedly putting on ski gear. Riding the first frigid chair to the top of Whitecap Mountains resort in Wisconsin while it seemed like half the world slept. Chatting with my mom and dad on the way up so I wouldn't feel guilty about ditching them to ski trees with my older brother.

Chairlifts force people to talk to each other. And this is how it should be. The ride up isn't the time to change playlists, call your girlfriend or text-message your buddy. Chairlifts have always been a way to get to know someone. "Where're you from? is all it takes to get the conversation rolling. I've heard how the town looked 10 years ago, how to beat the lunch crowds and what runs to hit early before they're icier than a skating rink. I've been told about epic snowstorms from before my time and the perfect corn snow skied on the previous run.

A common bond is formed before the chair crests the ridgeline. The skiing tribe is re-enforced. The gap between generations is bridged, if only for a moment. Then you push off to the next run—and the next new friend.

Like many sports, skiing is just as much about socializing as the activity itself. Why else do so many people flock to the bar after a long day on the slopes? It's all about sharing tales with fellow skiers. Tales of wooden skis taller than your body. That killer mogul run you finally conquered. The perfect powder day. The ultimate ski babe. [NEXT]But as the "old farts sit at the bar drinking and sharing stories, the Generation Y-ers are too often surfing the Web, checking email, feverishly speed-dialing friends on their cell phones or pulling out headphones and using the hotel's wi-fi to download music to their MP3 players. At the end of the day, they surround themselves in an isolating cocoon of technology. Unfortunately, a lot of Y-ers are missing out on that crucial ski bond.

That crucial bond is what keeps friendships—and the sport—alive. Making fun of my friend for "hugging a tree before I could teach him how to stop, and laughing off my bloody chin after it collided with my knee as I landed a drop are stories that I'll pass along at the bar in 20 years. Nobody's going to want to hear "I still remember that killer System of a Down song I listenedd to the first time I conquered St. George.

Gear manufacturers think they know what my generation is all about, and are capitalizing on our techno addiction. Nearly every manufacturer now has cell phone and MP3 compatible jackets. There's even a jacket with speakers in the hood, a mic in the collar and—I kid you not—a caller ID screen. Whatever, dude.

If you can't live without your gizmos and gadgets for a day, then why are you skiing in the first place? Do everyone else a favor: Leave your technology at home or stay home with it. The sound of boots clicking into bindings signifies an escape from the everyday life—not an opportunity to bring everyday life to the slopes.

Let me set the record straight: I'm not some uptight grouch. I, too, have music in my soul, and love blaring it from my bass-booming speakers, whether it's the new single from Saliva or my Charlie Parker MP3. But I've stayed away from bringing my songs to the slopes, letting my buddies and my surroundings provide the soundtrack. The whole point of skiing is to be connected to them—not tune them out.

JANUARY 2006

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