White lies

It's only going to break your heart...
It's only going to break your heart... Photo: Graham Tidy

If skiing was your girlfriend or boyfriend, you'd have dumped it by now. It would have all started on the internet, as you were trawling for a new flame. Skiing's RSVP profile immediately caught your eye.

Age: a few thousand years. Looking for: casual flings, long-term relationships, short-term friendships and everything in between. Likes: crisp, sunny days filled with untouched, knee-deep powder. Dislikes: summer, Guy Sebastian songs. (OK, that last one was for me.)

So skiing sounded pretty interesting. Fun, active, just your type. You thought you'd hook up.

The first date went fine, since skiing just happened to be in one of those rare moods when it decided to turn on the charm for you.

It took you out to a nice mountain, plied you with snow and was then enough of a gentleman to just give you a light dusting of powder overnight.

It didn't offer to pay and it was kind of expensive but you could see past that.

By the next year, however, skiing's true nature had begun to shine through. It stood you up constantly, saying it would be there in June but not turn up until July. And when it did show up it was all moody, only occasionally showing glimpses of the old skiing with which you fell in love. Its demands on your wallet were getting ridiculous. You were paying thousands of dollars for ultimately disappointing weekends at which skiing barely even bothered to turn up. It hurt and you knew it was time to break up. After all, you'd been back on that dating website and met someone called surfing. It'd offered to take you to the beach. Skiing, it's over.

What I'm trying to say is that skiing, as a recreational habit in Australia, is bonkers. So is snowboarding. Winter sports in general. Think about it: for what other reason would you shell out thousands of dollars and sacrifice large hunks of precious annual leave on something so completely dependent on the weather? In a country with no major mountains?

And yet a lot of us do it, happily, every year.

As a student, I used to spend my whole year saving up my money and then take one measly week down at the snow to blow it all. I even worked at a ski resort in the US for a while.

It's an addiction, especially once you've seen just how good it can be. Like a heroin addict chasing that original high, you spend all your money chasing that perfect day at the snow.

At least in the northern hemisphere there's some sort of security – there's a better-than-average chance that it will, indeed, snow, lots, and everything will look like it does in the brochure.

The downside,of course, is that it costs a lot of money to get there. It's cheaper to ski locally but then you have to accept that there's a very real possibility you'll spend your long-awaited mountainside holiday ploughing your way through a butt-bruising combination of grass, ice, rocks and slush.

Occasionally, if you're lucky, you might even find some snow that the nice people at the resort prepared for you the night before.

So why do we put up with it – the fickle weather, the high lift ticket prices, the $8 sausage rolls, the accommodation miles away from where you want to be, the puffy clothes you'll wear only once a year, the bars filled with guys pestering the few women who've bothered to make the trek to the mountains?

Why? Because when skiing turns it on, when the stars align, when the gods tire of watching over the careers of rappers and once-successful Australian golfers and actually turn their attention towards giving us some snow, the experience is truly incredible.

There's no feeling that compares with sitting on top of a mountain, the white valley stretched out beneath you and the sun shining overhead as you strap into your snowboard and rise to your feet.

You know the next 10 minutes will be the most glorious of the year as you float through the mounds of powder, carving fresh lines as the cool air whips past your ears.

You forget everything; all the hassles of being there, all the expense, and you just enjoy.

It's how surfers must feel as they drop into a wave or footballers when they score a try, except when you're skiing or snowboarding you get 10 whole minutes of it, uninterrupted, and then a nice little chairlift to take you up to the top and let you do it all over again.

They rarely happen, these moments of perfection, but when they do, it makes it all worth it and you know that come next year, here you'll be again, praying to the weather gods that it all comes good for your one, expensive week away from work. It inevitably won't but you'll give skiing a chance to make it up to you.

bengroundwater@gmail.com

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