Other than: What's up?, How are you?, How's it going?, What you been up to?, Wie geht's?, What's shakin'?, How's New York so far?, Another beer?, How's it hangin'?, When's that going to be finished?, perhaps the question I've been asked most often in the past 6 months is: How would you compare skiing in North America, Europe, and South America?
Similar to the other questions most frequently asked, I'm not all that sure that the folks genuinely care to hear my answer. Rather, I figure in most cases these questions are just a means to bridge the time from when the conversation (whether voluntary or involuntary) begins to when it ends. But, for those who know me, you know that I'm always rather keen to discuss skiing and ski days passed, so I tend to prolong my answer to this question in hopes that I can avoid reverting back to questions that result from continuing the smallest of meaningless talk.
Last year, I read the book How Soccer Explains the World
, an easy yet thought-provoking read about, well, how soccer explains the world, authored by Foer, Franklin. Pretty interesting hypothesis to think about and one that might not have satisfied a middle-school teacher's demands that hypotheses be testable. But perhaps examining several different circumstances on micro levels, as does Foer in his book, is a better way to help understand and explain this crazy world in which we all try to live in on a daily basis. Otherwise, we have to revert to trying to write books entitled How the World explains the World
, which, when attempting to pen, probably only gets as far as: "Has the whole world gone fucking crazy"?
I suppose I ski for many reasons: The challenge. The exploration. The solitude. The times with friends. The cold wind on my face. The tranquility of powder snow. The sun that makes for the occasional bluebird day. The cold beer that awaits. The cup of coffee before, during and/or after. And so forth. But, the more I ski and the more I ski in different places, I've come to realize that I enjoy skiing also for the chance to see new places, meet new people, and to understand different cultures and why they are different. And, trust me when I say you can really learn a lot by observing the local skiers, their skiing, and the surrounding skiing environment that tends to influence how they ski and live.
I've skied many places in my life to date. And, I'm awfully thankful for those opportunities because it's taught me a lot about the world and also myself. But, Jacob, who I skied with this summer, has skied literally the world over, and he's a much better person than most that I've met because of it. I'll let his website and pictures prove it: http://www.piltriquitron.com
He has many more pictures that are equally good, and I hope that he'll upload many more because there's a lot to be both enjoyed and learned from them. Frankly, I don't know that I'll ever ski with anyone that is more enjoyable to ski with and perhaps the best part about the skiing was not the skiing, but the conversations that usually transcended small talk during the lift rides, the pre-ski coffees, and the post-ski beers and steaks. He is someone that's seen a lot of places (and done the related exploring without any book or guide) and met a lot of people (the picture of the afghan warlord and his sherpa carrying his skis remains my favorite). And, if he ever found some months to stop skiing, I'm pretty sure after listening to him this summer that he could write a pretty interesting and convincing book entitled: How Skiing Explains the World
Anyway, skiing in South America is difficult to describe. I've tried to come up with answers, analogies, and detailed explanations, but generally all to no avail. I can describe North American and European skiing pretty accurately and am currently happy with my automobile analogies: North American skiing is kind of like a minivan that is family-friendly and does its job but whose entertainment value equally exists in the dvd-equipped TV hanging from the ceiling while European skiing is more like a fast all-wheel drive BMW that makes you feel as if you can explore in fashion but is also fast on the highway should you choose to travel the road more-traveled. But, the only automobile that I can analogize South American skiing to is one that I happened to stumble upon one morning while walking to the bus to the ski hill:
There folks...that's my answer to how I'd describe skiing in South America.
Verstehen? Entiendo? Understand?