Against Skiing

This beloved winter pastime is not for everyone. And especially not for me.

Skiers in action on Brundage Mountain
Skiers on Brundage Mountain, Idaho in 1980. (Joel Rogers / Getty)

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I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you about some of the funniest things that happened in politics this year. Today, though, I would like to offer a break from current events. Sorry in advance, skiers. I hope you are too busy skiing to read this newsletter.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

It’s that time of year again. The time when skiing permeates the culture. Big-box retailers start selling ultrasoft pajama bottoms decorated with tiny skiers. The holiday rom-coms on Netflix seem to all involve meet-cutes at fancy ski resorts in cozy mountain villages. Your friends who moved to Colorado to “find themselves”? They’re hitting the slopes with their expensive season passes.

And this year, my boyfriend would like to join them. He has a milestone birthday soon, he reminds me, and to celebrate, why not take a big ski trip with all of our friends? Because, I reply, I would rather be at home doing literally anything else.

The thing about skiing is, I hate it.

First: getting there. You drive two hours to get up to the mountains, maybe more. You sit in traffic inside your SUV packed with gear, alongside all of the other cars full of people who are also going skiing today. You notice that many of these cars idling in traffic have bumper stickers that say things like CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL and THERE IS NO PLANET B. You want to laugh at this, but you’re too mad about having to ski.

Second: arriving. You put on so many layers of clothing that you are warm but unrecognizable. You trudge up to the lodge and fork over a wad of cash: $150 for the day, not including the $60 you already spent to rent an enormous pair of boots, skis, and sticks. (“It’s cheaper if you buy that stuff!” you might say. “Never!” I might reply.) You struggle with the buckles on your boots. Are they supposed to feel like that? Your weird big toe already hurts.

Third: skiing. You actually have to do it now. The thing they don’t tell you before you ski for the first time is that other skiers do not care that it’s your first time. They will ski right at you and weave around you condescendingly. Sometimes they are toddlers, and this is even more upsetting. Other times they are snowboarders, and you simply have to trust that they won’t knock you over. That’s right, you are entrusting your life to snowboarders.

The first time I ever skied (Virginia), I was 27 years old, and I spent most of the day weeping. The bunny slope was solid ice. I’d ski an inch, slam to the ground, and lie there for a while, because I have no upper-body strength. Once, I did the splits so hard that I pulled a muscle in my groin. My boyfriend laughed a little, which made the pain worse. I spent a lot of time at the ski lodge, eating a sandwich I’d brought from home because ski-lodge food is expensive.

The second time I skied (Utah), I was 28, and I rode a conveyor belt to the top of the bunny slope with a group of actual children. That part was fun, I’ll admit. The ski lift that I tried later was not. The view is beautiful from up there. But when I collapsed at the end, the operator raised her eyebrows. “Not a great place to stop,” she said, helpfully.

By the end of that day, I was able to descend the bunny slope without falling. It was a good feeling, a satisfying feeling. But was it worth it? No.

Because winter is for thick socks and murder mysteries and baked-potato soup. Winter is for smutty novels and sipping cocoa on the couch. It is not for skiing. If I ever yearn to feel a strong, cold wind in my face, I’ll ride my bike downhill with wet hair. Whenever I get an urge to pay too much for mediocre fries, I’ll walk to Shake Shack.

Après-ski? More like I pray never to have to ski again.


Today’s News
  1. The House Ways and Means Committee is voting on whether to release Donald Trump’s tax returns.
  2. A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Northern California early today, leaving at least two people dead and 11 injured, and more than 70,000 people without power.
  3. Wells Fargo was ordered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to pay $3.7 billion to settle charges of consumer-law violations.


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Evening Read
Nazis marching
(Getty; The Atlantic)

What It Feels Like When Fascism Starts

By Gal Beckerman

Among the many Holocaust anecdotes I heard again and again as a child—my grandparents were the kind of survivors who liked to talk—certain stories took on the force of fables. And none was more common than the tale of the brother who stayed and the brother who left. Different versions of this basic narrative abounded, set in 1933, in 1938, in 1941. One brother couldn’t bear to abandon his small shop or his parents or his homeland, while another brother packed a suitcase at the first inkling of danger and set off toward the French border or over the North Sea or into Soviet territory. The more impetuous one lives. That was the takeaway. When the social and political barometric pressure begins to drop, when you can feel that tingling: Leave.

Even recounted by survivors, maybe especially so, the simple story of a threshold, in or out, always seemed too shaped by retrospect. A decision like that—ethical, national, personal—must have been grueling and not at all obvious. How many of the people who swore they would leave after Donald Trump was elected, fearing the same collapse of democratic norms that the Nazis portended, actually did? Not so many. Identifying that point at which all is lost is not so easy.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break
Photo collage of stills from Joanna Hogg's films, featuring Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne
(A24; The Atlantic)

Read. The French novelist Marguerite Duras’s second novel, The Easy Life, which has been recently translated into English, shows the thrill of reading a celebrated writer’s early work.

Watch. The Eternal Daughter (in theaters and available to rent on multiple platforms) is both gentle and suffused with the kind of English tension that its director, Joanna Hogg, specializes in.

Play our daily crossword.


Thank you for being so patient during my screed about skiing. If you’re looking for something a bit more positive, I’d like to recommend this lovely article from our friends at The Washington Post about a dog named Princess Fiona who has a chronic illness that gives her a belly like a balloon. Princess Fiona spent 119 days at an animal shelter waiting for a family until, finally, she met a little girl who loved her. Did Fiona find a home for the holidays? Read it to find out!

— Elaine

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.