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Winter on Winter: Everyone Is A Local Somewhere

Winter on Winter: Everyone Is A Local Somewhere

[ March 8, 2010 - 2:03pm ]
Winter on Winter: Locals
Our online columnist, Tom Winter, talks about the local ski bums he's met around the world who have shown him their secret stashes. And one, in particular, who didn't.

The other day I was on a chairlift with a “hardcore” local. This individual had all the trappings of “coreness”: The duct tape on the pants, the avalanche gear strapped to the pack, the fattest skis, and the chip on the shoulder. This “local” of course, moved to the ski town in question and the chairlift that we were riding less than 10 years ago. But, man, was he core and cool and wasn’t shy about letting me know how core and cool he was. The first thing I thought of was how my dad used to ski patrol at this mountain, and how that I had learned to ski there, years before the lift we were on had been built.

The second thing I thought of is how many locals I’ve met who were stoked on the fact that I was visiting their mountain and riding their favorite chairlift. Locals who shared their secret spots, favorite runs and introduced me to their friends, so I had someone to hang with during après ski. Locals who showed me secret traverses to out-of-bounds zones. Locals who waited for me at the bottom after crushing me on endless bump lines. And locals who I had nothing in common with except for the commonality that we both skied, and loved the sport. In fact, looking back on more than 40 years of skiing, the best memories aren’t the epic lines or deep powder days, but the people I’ve meet while skiing.

There was Vlad, a crazy Russian who asked for everyone’s autograph in his ski instructors’ certification book. Born in the frozen mountains of central Siberia, he earned his turns by hiking mountains with his brother that probably had never been skied before and probably have never been skied since.

And Rodrigo, who lent us his bachelor’s pad in Farellones for a week. It had a small deck that faced west, with a grill. We cooked on the grill every night while drinking Chilean red as the sun set over Santiago, far in the haze of the valley below.

And Josh, the ski bum’s ski bum, who showed me my home resort’s epic backcountry lines when I showed up green and naïve, and who still works odd jobs in Vail, racking up as many days a year as he can 20 years since we first met.

Or the guy in Michigan, with two mismatched skis (one a Kästle and one a Rossignol) who threw huge backflips off a kicker at Blackjack while we cheered him on, and then bought us all beers in the local bar afterwards.

There are more, many more: the memories of their faces and names as fleeting as an April powder day, but the underlying ties as strong as the mountains that the snow falls on.

I’ll probably never see Mr. Hardcore again. But that doesn’t matter. One day, perhaps older and wiser, with more miles under his skis, he’ll understand that we’re all locals somewhere, and that sharing our love of snow, mountains and place is what really makes a local a local. Because when you peel away all the bullshit, attitude, image and, yes, duct tape to expose the core of skiing, it’s the people, not the place that really matter.

For more from Tom Winter, check out


yep, this tells it like it


yep, this tells it like it is.

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