SPEW Less, Ski More

Only the experience matters. 

The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he do?Henry David Thoreau 

If there’s one thing I hate about skiing (and I LOVE skiing), it’s that skiers are totally, completely obsessed with gear. In the lift line, on the chairlift, at the lodge, it’s always, “How do you like those boots?” and “I’ve been thinking about picking up a set of those bindings.” and “If you like those skis, you should check out these…” At the bar. In the car. On groomers and in the gnar. It always comes back to gear. And it drives me nuts.

How much difference does gear make to our enjoyment of the sport? If you’ve been using skinny skis from 2001, jumping on a pair of modern rockered powder skis is akin to stepping from a horse and buggy into a Ferrari. But if you have a pair of fat boards from the last few years, a comfortable pair of boots, and bindings that keep you reliably attached, you’re already styled out. You’re winning skiing. No need to discuss any further until something breaks.

One of my gigs is as an editor at a ski magazine, and I’ve been deeply involved with testing new gear for nearly a decade—dozens of skis, boots, and bindings every year. Is it fun? You bet. But here’s a dirty little secret: only a handful of those hundreds of products made me feel like an appreciably better skier. Very few really sucked. And most were perfectly capable—step in, ski powder, laugh, and crack a beer at the end of the day. Repeat as necessary.

My hypothesis on the phenomenon of SPEW (Ski Product Envy and Worship) is that it has nothing to do with gear at all. It’s about dissatisfaction. A good chunk of SPEWers don’t get to ski as much as they’d like, so obsessing over gear is a way to think about and relate to the sport while not actually participating. Other SPEWers might ski a lot, but ultimately wish they were better than they are, and think the newest, coolest widget might just get them to the next level. They’re both using gear to compensate for feeling dissatisfied—which is silly, because skiing is silly. And fun. And it exists purely to make us feel good, and, well, satisfied.

The answer of course, is to ski more. That goes for all of the questions in the world, by the way. Forget about the gear you have and need and want and covet, and just go slide around as often as you can. It’ll be fun, I promise.