Making of Refresh: Part 3

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By: John Symms

Montrealien Phil Casabon grabs his ski high above a blanket of legendary Utah powder.
Before I get into this, I think it’s worthwhile to issue a disclaimer: I’m about to refer to the “intellectual tradition of freestyle skiing.” Yeah, I know, LOL. But before you discredit my choice in terminology, please note that: a) I took a class in college called “Intellectual Traditions of the West,” which makes the phrase “intellectual tradition” into a go-to phrase for whenever I’m trying to get high and mighty; b) what I’m about to evaluate consists of the transmission of knowledge and attitudes through generations of skiers, which makes the phrase “intellectual tradition” apt; and c) even the originators of High Times magazine found financial backing and a publisher at some point, so I think I can use phrases like “intellectual tradition” whenever and however I want, thank you very much.

But I digress (is an easy way to bring yourself back to the point, even if you haven’t made a point yet). In the intellectual tradition of freestyle skiing, three distinct philosophies (there I go again with the malapropisms) exist with respect to the significance of backcountry skiing. These philosophies roughly correspond to participant age groups within the sport and can be summarized by the following quotes.

Philosophy 1 (The Oldest Guys): “(Once I saw how quickly young skiers were learning new tricks in the terrain park, I decided that) Skiing isn’t real skiing unless it is accessed by a helicopter or snowmobile and each run contains at least one 50-mph turn above the crest of a fatal exposure.”

Philosophy 2 (The Current Conventional Wisdom): “I love good terrain parks more than anything and I make a lot of money skiing them. But when I was 14 I heard that terrain parks weren’t real skiing when I forgot to fast forward through the voice over in a major ski movie. So once I won some terrain park contests and got sponsors to send me on heli-skiing trips I started saying that (Philosophy 1) all the time because I know what’s up and I’m a real skier.”

Philosophy 3 (The Youth): “I can’t wait until all this hiking, yelling to see if the filmer is ready, waiting to hear him yell back, punching through crust that I thought was going to be powder, and tomahawking to the flats is over so I can go back to the terrain park and learn ten more brand new tricks.”

Could we be nearing the end of the moratorium on irreverence toward the backcountry?