Would You Rather: Mellow Groomer Laps vs. Nonstop Terror

Blister Would You Rather
Luke Koppa getting his groomer on (Mt Crested Butte, CO)
Would You Rather: Mellow Groomer Laps vs. Nonstop Terror, BLISTER


More ski terrain is opening up in much of the country, so in this week’s iteration of Would You Rather, it’s time for a quandary on that subject. Mellow groomer laps can be a blast, but what if that was all you got to ski? And conversely, stepping out into some gnarlier situations can be exhilarating, but would you really want to be totally puckered every time you clicked into your skis at the top of a run?

Q: Would you rather spend a whole day skiing green groomers, or the whole day skiing terrain that legitimately scares you? What if it’s a whole season?

Luke Koppa

This is definitely a tough one, and one where I do not have a clear answer (as opposed to our previous skiing Would You Rather, regarding late-season vs. early-season conditions, where the answer seemed more straightforward).

This is mostly because, with either option, I know that I’d end up skiing less than I normally do. While I truly loved getting to ride lifts early this season, when there were only a few low-angle “green” groomed runs open, I also got bored of that pretty quickly. And if I were only skiing super gnarly terrain, I’d be very hesitant to go out every day like I normally do (which, to be clear, I’m super grateful to be able to do).

That said, with how this question is phrased (“a whole day”), I think I’d go with the “terrain that legitimately scares you” option.

This is primarily because, when I am skiing that variety of terrain, I can be satisfied after a few runs. Metaphorically (or maybe someday, literally) crapping your pants at the top of a line makes every turn very involved and exciting, to the point that I typically only need to do a handful of those runs in a day to feel like I made the most of the day.

Conversely, while I love making turns down any slope, I can get pretty bored pretty easily on mellow terrain. Despite the advancement of skis that make that sort of terrain much more interesting (e.g., Black Crows Mirus COR, Line Blade, Season Kin), I don’t leave the hill with the same satisfaction skiing mellow runs as I do after seriously dinging my self-confidence on sketchy terrain.

So I think I’d go the gnarlier route for this one.

However, if we were talking a full season of skiing one type of terrain, I think I’d probably switch sides. If I’m spending every single day I’m on two planks skiing stuff that terrifies me, I think I’d either (1) quickly injure myself and/or (2) just give up cause I’m sick of throwing my soiled bibs in the washer after every day on the hill. If I went the other route, I’d definitely still reduce the number of days I opt to go out since I’d get pretty bored and lose motivation, but I could also make things more interesting by doing things like finally dialing in flat-land butters, finally learning how to ski switch while looking over both shoulders, finally learning how to drag my hip on not-steep slopes, etc. And in the end, one of my main priorities is to still enjoy skiing and do it as much as possible, in which case I think the mellower option makes sense in the long run.

David Golay

My thinking is pretty similar to Luke’s. I like skiing challenging terrain and making things exciting, but I’m also not super enthused about being fully gripped bell to bell each day I go out. So if it’s one day, I’ll take a brave pill, put a mouthguard in, and go scare myself.

If it’s a whole season though? It’s harder. Either way, for basically the same reasons that Luke laid out, I’d definitely end up skiing less than I normally do. And I’d definitely end up skiing in the backcountry less — the “green groomer” option definitively precludes it, and while I love touring for interesting lines, I’m also typically a bit more cautious when I’m miles from the trailhead with no ski patrol around to come to my rescue. And so if I’m only allowed to ski legitimately scary terrain, I’m just not going to step out nearly as much, and that would be sad.

I’d also be really curious to get some time on the class of “fun carvers” that Luke mentioned and see how that impacts my answer. The kinds of skis that I usually gravitate towards (big, heavy, straight chargers) absolutely do me no favors when it comes to making chill groomer laps fun. I just haven’t skied anything remotely like the Line Blade or Black Crows Mirus COR, and they’re so far removed from what I know that I have a hard time imagining how I would (or wouldn’t) get along with them. Traditional frontside carvers can be a ton of fun if you want to lay trenches all day, but I’m awfully curious about the class of skis that lets you do that and goof around and ski switch and so on.

And so, if it’s a whole season, I think I’d take the mellow option. I’d ski fewer days than I normally do, but I’d buy some different skis and embrace making as many turns in a run as I can. I’d try to get better at skiing switch. (That’s a very, very low bar.) Maybe I’d even try to learn to snowboard. Or tele. I could find ways to have fun in that scenario, and that sounds better than spending every moment on the hill terrified (best case) or just blowing myself up and ending my season early.

Blister Would You Rather
Dylan Wood taking a more exciting line (Mt. Crested Butte, CO)

Kara Williard

The question has two phases, and so my answer mirrors a lot of what Luke and David said. When it comes to a day of skiing, being challenged and uncomfortable is something I enjoy. Being legitimately scared can also transform into doing something you didn’t know you were capable of, and having the reward of looking gleefully back up at a line that didn’t feel possible from the top. I enjoy pushing my limits and challenging myself. There are days when fear has been harnessed into focus, and I feel myself emerging into a new realm of possibility. This isn’t a feeling I seek all the time, though. Some of my goals with skiing are going to require getting scared and exposing myself to some discomfort, but I think I would much rather take this in small doses.

Another piece here is that I also haven’t done that much scary skiing, especially since tearing my ACL two seasons ago. That injury also changed a lot for me, as it was the moment that I decided I would rather ski into my old-age than, and really be thoughtful around factors I can control.

So, when it comes to making a choice around an entire season, I would choose the mellow, green-groomers. Here’s the reality, I really like skiing, and the best part is, even on a green groomer I know there are things I can do to improve. I want to breakthrough to a new level of angulation in the carve and get my hip that much closer to the ground. It’s also plausible that I would take up tele. Daily scary skiing just isn’t sustainable, and how long before the scary skiing takes away the mellow skiing, in the form of injury or worse? Props to those that can do it day in and day out, I will leave it to you.

Eric Freson

ABS. Always Be Scary.

Those moments I remember best are the ones where the outcome is truly unsure or unknown. You are dancing on the very edge of sustainability, and the challenge is to see how long you can walk that tightrope. When you fall off, which direction will you fall? The capital of my life is cool memories and experiences. Therefore, ABS.

ABS is exhausting, and, to live that life 24/7 (#hashtag), would be exhausting and stressful, but I’d choose exhausted and stressed over bored any day. And at least I know I will be skinny, cause my heart rate will always be JACKED.

Finally, I really enjoy the process of coming back from an injury or a beat down. Getting punched in the mouth (figuratively), and needing to build yourself back up is a great way to experience tangible progression, development, and growth in areas of your life where it may be harder to obtain or observe that sort of feedback frequently. Because normally you are operating as a subject matter expert, and your daily gains are going to be smaller.

The real trick is to make sure you’re doing it for yourself. The moment you start scaring yourself because it’s what you “need to/should do” (comp skiing, film segments, showing off, whatever…) because it’s what people expect you to do or what you feel obligated to do, you are screwed. #doitforyou

What Do You Think?

So are you team #ABS, or are you happier playing it safe? Let us know in the comments.

15 comments on “Would You Rather: Mellow Groomer Laps vs. Nonstop Terror”

  1. My favourite, most skied run legitimately scares me but it’s more of a “this is pretty intense but I’ve got this” level of fear. If we’re talking that level of fear I’d happily ski it all season, if it’s more “I don’t think I’ve got this” fear I might go the other way

  2. Skiing mainly in the Midwest, I would have to say #ABS as opportunities for that are not as plentiful here. Trips made out west are always focused on more difficult terrain, and groomer runs are for warming up, getting around the mountain, and rest after hammering laps. As stated that might be a hard path to sustain, but there’s no better feeling than pushing your confidence level. Learning that you are physically capable of doing something that was scary mentally is so satisfying.

    Alternatively, as I thought before reading the whole prompt… What if you could only go scary fast on groomers and never have a mellow run. Going Mach chicken on wide open runs is also very fun, but wiping out on some ice can be a real bummer.

  3. For me, I think the answer really comes down to .. “do you have people who depend on you for their existence…” … ie… spouse/kids.

    Pre-kids… scare me

    Post-kids…. groomers all day every.

    • Similar to a previous commenter, I too didn’t start to become a good skier until later in life. Now, at 65, I have to consider the ramifications of significant injury. As my ski buddies remind me, “what if you couldn’t ski any more?”
      That said, I tilt toward the scary. Having to count on getting one footed during a drop-in to avoid the rocks in a no fall zone gets my juices pumped. Another two broken ribs this week, though, is beginning to have me reconsidering….

  4. Age effects this equation. I was a late starter and did not get serious about skiing until I was 45. At that age I was still able to take the inevitable hard knocks as I progressed along the learning curve. Having started so late, aerial aerobatics were pretty much out of the question, but I have developed into a well rounded, mostly directional skier. Now in my 70th year, a dangerous fall would probably put an end to my enjoyment of a sport that motivates me to stay fit and and brings much excitement to my life, my motto is, “I want to do this again tomorrow!” In reality, the “either or of greens” or XX has many more shades in-between. Restrictions do happen like no snow or when rain and a freeze turns the mountain into boiler plate. To prevent myself from becoming bored I do drills, check my posture and try find little features or a string of gentle bumps to play on. When the mountain is open I am cautious, if the pitch is steep and icy and there are rocks below, I say to myself, Don’t go! It’s a bit like the way I drive to the hill, with my speed restricted to safely navigate the conditions. I am often heard to mutter when folks pass needlessly, if you want to get there earlier, leave earlier!

  5. I would hurt myself either way: doing something stupid while bored on mellow groomer or just probability taking it’s toll on the “this is a bad idea” line over and over again. So probably just wouldn’t ski much which is very sad. We need happier questions. Like “what lift would you like to rip out and turn the whole area into an avy controlled pow fest where turns are earned”.

  6. I don’t get scared of ski runs. I’m more afraid of getting taken out by some snowboarder than falling to my death navigating cliffs and chutes.

  7. Reminds me of the time I was sharing a lift ride at Mt Bachelor with someone newly arrived from Crested Butte. I kind of apologetically talked up Bachelor as a fun mountain, even though there’s not much steeps. His response was that ‘its kind of nice not to be scared all the time’!

  8. Depends on conditions too, what is scary some days isn’t on others so…. But playing the chance or Murphys cards, I’m more likely going to hurt myself eventually on the harder stuff too.
    So at 50 years old, looking at longevity for years to come and time on snow overall, I’d go with the perfecting groomers…..but sub 25 years probably the opposite.

  9. I have, a few times, gone down runs to find out there was a mandatory air. Thankfully not over 10-15ish feet but it definitely gets the pucker factor WAY HIGH. Dont really care to do that again, those were back in my more “youthful” days! ;)

  10. As a life-long bump skier, I have a built-in aversion to green groomers. It was really cool to hear imaginative ways to create fun on the groomed, though, in this commentary. I turned 62 this year and still find myself skiing black/double-black all day. My work as a carpenter has kept me pretty strong, and the knees remain solid after some ACL and more minor surgeries. So the challenge for me in gnarly technical terrain becomes all about control. To navigate scary stuff, not miss a pole plant, really use your gift of vision to keep fluid and relaxed, has allowed me to improve in the gnar. I have spent some serious days at Kicking Horse, and learned to enjoy and relax on terrain I don’t think would have been fun for me before. Control has now become the source of fun, not aggressive skiing. The reality is, if you are overly gripped in scary terrain, you won’t be able to ski it well, and it won’t be fun, because tightness leads to unwanted accelleration. So, as Amos Lee might say–“keep it lose, child, keep it tight!”

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