Author: Cassandra Whelihan
The reasons behind why people spend their winter seasons chasing blue bird skies are unbounded, but one thing is for certain, they are passionate.
â€œI think the world is a better place with people who are in love with the mountains, as simple as that sounds,â€ said Jeremy Jones, a professional snowboarder, in an interview conducted by Transworld Snowboarding.
Born in 1976, Jones has been shredding since the age of thirteen. He has taken part in the perpetual transformation of the ski industry and has also recently challenged more people to hike for their lines (back country mountaineering) in place of resort and competition skiing. Nevertheless, this industry is forever evolving and has come a long way.
What many people havenâ€™t considered is what skiing was like back in the baby boomer generation. During that time, a ticket for night skiing at Moose Mountain was three dollars and a full day ticket to Wildcat was $10. Today, tickets are easily $100 per day, and thatâ€™s with owning your own equipment. Aside from price, however, what else distinguishes the past from present?
Skiing in New England back in the 60s was a lot different without snowmaking.
â€œThere was a lot of what we used to call blue ice, where the springs would freeze up,â€ said Gary Cassily, 54, owner of Fryeburg Glass in Maine.
Cassily, an esteemed ski bum, has spent his life out in the mountains. He canâ€™t recall a time when he hasnâ€™t skied; itâ€™s been a long time.
Back in the grunge phase, as Cassily likes to call it, his experiences were a lot different than simply resort skiing. Without a lot of money but determined to shred the rad, Cassily hooked up with a group of similar minded guys and set out into the wilderness.
â€œI donâ€™t mind lift service, but Iâ€™ll hike for it,â€ Cassily said. â€œI got into the ski mountaineering part in my late twenties, early thirties. I was into telemarking and skiing with backpacks, going on two to three day tours which were just out of this world, crazy.â€
This was a time when backcountry was not yet widely recognized.
â€œThe people I hung out with were not like the normal people â€“ we were always outside and camping out in the winter time,â€ Cassily said.
Mountaineering is not for the faint of heart. It requires sleeping outdoors, survival skills and hard work. No doubt, the rewards include nature, adventure and memories; however, itâ€™s not for everybody.
Farther advances include the gear available to snow enthusiasts. Throwback times when rolled up dungarees or colorful onesies were the norm and people rocked Nordica Astra Salomon boots.
â€œThe equipments come a long way. I want to catch up with it a little bit,â€ Cassily said. â€œTo climb in the future I need to get set up with a releasable heal binding and some skins and a wider board just to make it easier.â€
Like most equipment, the technicality that gear has undergone enables current mountaineers to explore as far as their imagination allows, and thatâ€™s just what Cassily did.
â€œWhen I was in high school, I used to build jumps in the back of my house and do all kinds of crazy stuff. We were at the cutting edge of all the craziness and extreme skiing thatâ€™s going on now. The X-Games and all that â€“ we were pioneers,â€ Cassily said.
The innate desire to explore must run through snow-goers veins. Why else would they yearn to spend the winter seasons repeatedly clambering up and down mountainsides? Jones describes it as â€˜white momentsâ€™, when the mind and body come together, working as one â€“ itâ€™s as simple as breathing. It seems to be a deeper spark, a connectedness with oneself and with nature that keeps people chasing after the perfect winter.
The freedom and challenge are also motivators, according to Cassily.
â€œAh, the freedom: Freedom, the outdoors and the mountains. Skiing is an individual sport. It can be a team sport, like racing, but itâ€™s up to the individual to push his or her own limits and I love that part of it,â€ Cassily said.
Even as a child he has loved the sport.
â€œWhen I was a kid I was so excited. If I was skiing the next day I couldnâ€™t even sleep and itâ€™s never failed â€“ Iâ€™ve never lost it. Thatâ€™s what drives my whole life, thatâ€™s how I operate. Just the other day I was thinking, Jesus, I feel like Iâ€™m skiing. I was driving on a tight corner road and I was going too fast,â€ Cassily laughed.
This concept of freedom while riding also resonates with long-time, East Coast boarder, Paul Trull.
â€œThe freedom when Iâ€™m out there and Iâ€™m on my board, I definitely donâ€™t notice anything else thatâ€™s around me and it takes me somewhere else,â€ Trull said.
Park Manager of Ragged Mountain, Tim Donahue, has continued boarding all these years in the name of fun and progression.
â€œOther than the fact that itâ€™s really fun, boarding is just one of those sports that feel natural to me and I can always learn or do something new,â€ Donahue said.
Furthermore, the communities out on the mountains are all encompassing. Cassily said he likes the people he has met throughout his years of snow covered memories.
â€œI just like the people that are out there. Outside â€“ if itâ€™s cold, if itâ€™s rainy, if itâ€™s snowy â€“theyâ€™re still out there,â€ Cassily said. â€œIt seems to be a pretty good class of people. Iâ€™ve made some really good friends in the ski industry.â€
Spending the last moments of his fatherâ€™s life with him on the bunny slope is proof that the mountains are not just for the young and the love for them never dies.
According to Jones, â€œJust being in the mountains is really fulfilling; it makes me feel good at the end of the day.â€