WHAT IS A SKI NUT?
How do you characterize a skiing nut? Similar to panning for gold, if you sift away from the human population mix those who are only mildly pro skiing, neutral, or who are negative about skiing, then skiing nuts are the nuggets you are left with. In fact, if you are reading this, chances are your interest might well be such that you are a bona fide skiing buff yourself, or at least have the potential for so being. Aficionado was once commonly used to describe devotees of skiing but that term, like the traditional narrower ski, is seldom seen today. One skiing nut I know claims his life "operates in two sections—skiing and all the other stuff." There is a comparable approach one sees on t-shirts that says, "Skiing is life, everything else is details." There is another one that says, “I ski, therefore I am.” One thing about skiing nuts is that they do have a constant attitude about their sport—gung-ho. Pros on the International Ski Federation (FIS) Tour ski for opportunities to earn a living whereas skiing junkies live for the opportunity to enjoy skiing.
To the nut, skiing is the “sport.” However, the term sport to some might only imply a pastime or diversion. Calling it a passionate hobby is getting closer, but even that doesn’t fully capture the dedicated fervor that at times approaches total absorption. Snow sliding rats don’t just love or enjoy their sport. They need the sport, crave the sport. They feed off the suspense and excitement that comes with every turn’s chance for either success or disaster on a run that challenges their skiing level. The satisfaction from a series of precise turns down the fall line of a beautiful mountain is the psychological fix that keeps skiing addicts coming back for more. Beginners are only able to occasionally experience that exhilarating high on green slopes, intermediates more often on blue slopes and advanced skiers fairly often on black slopes. However at all levels, the opportunity to experience the same fist-pumping rush that the FIS World Cup Tour professionals have from a good run is the hook that brings the skiing nut back for more. The vision of increasing the frequency of those special runs is what motivates skiing heads to work on their technique like driven, eager beavers.
To acquaintances, a skiphile's love for the sport leads to behavior considered somewhat unusual if not outright abnormal. When no one is expected to be looking, members of the species are occasionally discovered crouched in front of a mirror, practicing their turns by rotating their thighs and shifting weight to the outside foot of an imaginary turn. To an avid ski rider, it is more than merely a sport, pastime or hobby. It is a committed condition, a way of life involving all things related to skiing. Skiing becomes a life quest, a passionate mission of experimentation, practice and improvement. This includes skiing itself whenever possible, reading all available skiing magazines, studying instructional videos, taking professional skiing lessons and of course watching or recording FIS World Cup meets shown on TV. To all that we must add the time and investment spent on ski equipment and clothing.
Zealous, obsessive, compulsive, driven, totally-committed and addicted are some of the nicer descriptor words used by unsympathetic observers. You hear terms like “skiing-crazed dude or dame” and much worse. At all ability levels, skiing zealots are fanatics with tolerance, but only barely, for those not imbued with their enthusiasm for the sport. The characteristic that distinguishes novice skiing lovers from those more advanced is only the more noticeable degree to which their enthusiasm for the sport exceeds their ability. However, regardless of ability, a skiing nut never seriously thinks about not taking skiing seriously.
Uncommon fervor is the common denominator.
The skiing enthusiast has been lightheartedly characterized above as obsessive and intensely focused. There is another side to skiing enthusiasm that is worth talking about. Skiing well is preferred, but enjoying the challenge of the sport is what ultimately motivates most skiing lovers. There are a few "gotta look better and ski faster than everybody else" exceptions, but for most it is an opportunity to enjoy skiing and testing themselves. For most skiers the ultimate satisfaction comes from trying skills they have been working on and skiing to the best of their developed ability; in other words fulfilling their current skiing potential. In that sense skiing is a means to examine and expand the boundaries of one’s concentration, conditioning, reflexes and motor skills. It is the experiencing of what often gets lost after early childhood, the joy and satisfaction of moving and controlling one’s body. Observe the wonder and delight of little ones that are starting to walk and explore their new locomotion. They so enjoy and can’t get enough of it. Getting philosophical, what that really means is nothing less than probing the physical limits and nature of one’s self, of one’s being. That is the essence of classical sports competition as defined by the ancient Greeks, and what I submit ultimately motivates the interest, efforts and dedication of most skiing nuts.
The final, more positive image of the skiing nut I would like to leave you with is that of a seeker, an explorer in both skiing and life. Anything that is worth doing is worth doing with enthusiasm, attention and commitment. Generally skiing nuts approach all their endeavors with this attitude. They don't just go through the motions—they live and they play with an interest and passion for what they do. Skiing nuts have an outlook toward their sport and their life that my Louisiana Cajun relatives express as “la joie de vie” — the joy of living.