Cultural Experience | Colorado

Après-Ski vs. Actual-Ski: A Semi-Educated Discussion.

2007_0411lizispictures0073A quick Google search of ‘Ski Culture’ returns a hardly surprising – yet still slightly frightening – first hit of ‘Après-Ski’. Says it all really.

By Lizi Woolgar

 The origin of skiing for recreational purposes dates back to 1860-ish in Sweden and Norway, but this was mainly cross-county skiing. Alpine skiing – favoured by holiday-makers of today – was founded in (unpredictably) the Alps. Skiing holidays have now strayed so far from their origins that, to go on a vacation classed as a ‘skiing holiday’, the act of skiing itself is not even required. As Mary Kerr (2013) so eloquently put it:

 “This is a far cry from the original goals set by early skiers who, with lunch-laden backpacks, traipsed through the woods on seven-foot wooden skis as they sought a wilderness experience away from their frenetic daily lifestyle at home…”.

 Party resorts like Val D’Isere, Tignes and Chamonix have glamourised this relatively recent revelation of ski holiday = clubbing holiday. This excessive type of holiday is popular within the famed #UniLAD culture (and dare I say it, ‘Ladette’ as some girls now class themselves, euurgh). My golly gosh, how stuck up am I? Well actually, not at all … just … ‘ladette’ … no… never OK. But, these resorts are also renowned for their great skiing opportunities and runs, which forces those skiers not so fond of partying into a difficult dilemma.

 I first got thinking about this topic after catching an episode of Snow, Sex and Suspicious Parents (#NoShame). Obviously, with other shows like What Happens in Kavos, The Magaluf Weekender and The Valleys (oh gawd, I know), the British public are no strangers to today’s youth drinking culture. Teens (or tweens) head off with their pallios to the most popular clubbing destinations for a week of heavy drinking and kebabs. Fine. I support that. These destinations are just full of like-minded people, so pretty much everyone is happy to deal with fellow annoying revellers and the only people typically get hurt are themselves (and their ever-hardening livers).

[N.B: I want to immediately take myself off this picture of an imaginary pedestal I am painting; I went to Zante for a week aged 18. And I loved it.]

 Anyway, after I watched this episode – and seeing quite how much the Uni students’ holiday intruded on others’ well-earned weeks away – I can’t help but think that maybe us youngsters are beginning to overstep the mark. The hotel had so many noise complaints (from nearby families) that the police were called. I can’t help but imagine this is a regular occurrence. The party scene of today seems to be infiltrating ever more holiday destinations, so that past family-friendly resorts are no longer quite as appealing. Sure, why don’t families just head to different resorts, right? Well, what if they have been going every year for as long as they can remember? What if they bought a chalet there years ago, before it was infected by youth and unashamed joy? Do we expect to bulldoze down all such quaint mountain resorts?

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If you really only want to do the Après part all day – you crave the atmosphere but not the skiing graft – just don’t even bother trying to ski (if under the influence). You will not pick up skiing in ten minutes and you will probably never pick it up if you are hanging hard. Or drunk. Skiing requires patience. And are we patient when we are drunk? Just think about how impatient you get waiting in a toilet queue on a night out. So no, we are not patient when drunk. If you have no interest in actually learning just don’t waste time or mountain space for ‘a laugh’ because it could end up being the most disastrous ‘laugh’ you’ve ever had. Maybe grab a tea tray and show tobogganing who da boss.

 I think the real difficulty comes when twenty-something revellers come to heads with family skiers. Skiing relies on the respect and consideration of others. It just would not be possible if no one thought of anyone else. I know, I know, travelling with 5 of you on one pair of skis in your purpose-bought onesies probably seems oh-so appealing, but trust me, you really do not look as good as you think. You might also be dangerous and quite intimidating to families. What happens if your drunken friend goes charging into an innocent eight year old? Just imagine if your own fam was skiing and you had to deal with those pesky kids…that’s right, YOU ARE THOSE KIDS.

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 Probably everyone knows someone who has sprained, cracked or torn something whilst skiing. For me, it was my mum. Her hand was skied over and literally sliced through the ligament…and she still insists on going on about it. But in all seriousness, that moment of bad-timing resulted in a few days in Austrian hospital, a couple of operations and an extended course of weird-hand-exercising physio. She still can’t open a jam jar.

 Many people forget that skiing (unless you’re crawling down the nursery slope) is, first and foremost, an extreme sport. Skiing is dangerous sober, let alone combined with Après-ski-intoxication and other unpredictable skiiers. During the 2011/2012 ski season, there were a reported 54 fatalities and 510 serious injuries (NSAA). The death of Natasha Richardson (#ParentTrap #FaveFilmEvaaa) really hit home for me. I know we all have it drummed into us that we really should be wearing helmets, but us young folk (myself included) love ignoring parental advice. My pathetic excuse is that my head feels “too claustrophobic” in a helmet. Which, is in fact, true. But still pathetic. Skiing really is just (s)no(w) fun if you end up in a cast now, is it? Probably not worth that extra shot of Schnapps either.

 With skiing under the influence actually being illegal in many US states, I fear this could be the way we are heading. I don’t believe such an enforcement is necessary but I do reckon the minority that ski – like, actually, fully, wasted – are putting the rest of the skiing population in an unfortunate and unfair position. I remember my first ever ski instructor used to enjoy a beer or two at lunch. That was just his thing. What if poor Roland could no longer indulge himself because of a few rowdy Englishmen?

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 Some kind of balance, a compromise will need to be reached in the near future. As a 21-year-old myself, I know that we are not evil. We do have respect and consideration for others. However, I do also know that after a few bevvies, you often forget the length of your limbs, that your volume control can be turned down and that – despite not being able to see through a wall – the sound of music can actually (by some kind of magic, surely?) travel through plaster.

 But it’s not all doom and gloom (not quite sure why I woke up, like, 50 years old today). Since the 1970s, the overall rate of reported ski injuries has declined by approximately 50% (Dr. Shealy). So perhaps all the extra NSAA efforts in enforcing codes of practice and increasing safety awareness really are paying off.

 I say by absolutely all means do both. Have a party AND skiing holiday – but maybe try to keep the two as separate activities. Just leave your skis at the foot of the mountain and catch the gondola back up. If you can’t catch it back down, skidoos will always help you out. You will not be left stranded at the top of a mountain! Maybe even consider a slopeside chalet or hotel to avoid the worst of the run. It’s useful to remember that, because of the altitude, the alcohol will have more of an effect on you than normal, so don’t go around thinking you categorically cannot be drunk because you “normally aren’t on X amount”.

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 Part of skiing really is the Après-Ski. The atmosphere with everyone in high spirits, winding down in those icy blue, sunny skies (complete with burnt noses), is so infectious. It’s a feeling you cannot recreate any place else in the world. You’ll know the feeling I mean if you’ve ever skied. What you do after you ski totally should be a vital part of your holiday. Perhaps just not the only part, y’know.

 But look, I’m no hypocrite. I will openly and honestly say that if you gave me a ticket to Val D’Isere right now (well there’s no way I could afford it myself now, c’mon) I would totally go. And I would ski and I would drink alcoholic beverages and I would have all of the fun. BUT (especially after writing this grumble) I would try my hardest to respect other skiers, hotel guests and generally not be an obnoxious child about the whole thing. And I guess that if just a few more people tried to do the same, there might be a little more peace and safety on the slopes. Peace and love y’all. 

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Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.


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