I always feel like ski lifts are cheating.
The prize of that view, that feeling that you are a giant, that in fact you might be a god, and the entire world stretches out before you, the snowy mountainside falling away beneath you and the solemnity of those dwindling pines at the treeline… I feel like these things should be earned. Perhaps these beauties should be more rarefied, the sole domain of those willing to struggle endlessly upward to attain them.
But here, in Breckenridge, I stand strapped into a pair of long, slender planks comprised of wood, carbon fiber, epoxy, polyethylene, plastic, steel and wax. I glide across groomed, domesticated snow (some of it probably man-made) with hundreds of other “outdoor enthusiasts”, queuing up in orderly lines for the ski lift. Jovial teenage boys scan the breast pocket of my jacket with a device that then produces the sort of fake laser noise you might hear in a 1980s sci-fi film, or maybe Star Trek. We all scoot along slowly and awkwardly (skis are meant for going fast, not slow), sort of like cattle in a pen, toward a row of electronic gates that open and close rhythmically. As my row of six skiers bursts through the gates and shuffles toward the loading line, the attendant delivers an oft-practiced speech about holding your poles up, looking behind you, grabbing the back of the lift chair…
And then we are aloft, riding effortlessly up the mountainside. Treetops are beside us, skiers zip beneath us, and the valley stretches out behind us. The multitude of Rocky Mountain peaks rise regally above us, and we are carried toward them with no effort. We will be delivered near their summit after several consecutive conveyances, free to drink in the view, to marvel at our own great heights, and to then careen down the manicured slopes at unsettling speeds, covering miles in minutes, only to queue up and do it again.
It just doesn’t seem fair to the mountain.
Here is this majestic thing, this giant of stone that took millennia to rise from the bowels of the earth and who guards its secrets with avalanches and crevasses and dangerously low oxygen levels. Here is this opportunity to test our mettle, to pit ourselves against ice and snow, fatigue and hypothermia, to revel in our strength when we conquer the summit, when we earn that view, that solitude, that freedom.
Don’t get me wrong. I am no mountaineer. I detest being cold (which is any time it is below 60 degrees outside), and I abhor walking uphill for any length of time. These two traits effectively preclude me from mountaineering, despite my proclivity for rock climbing (for the record, these are very different endeavors) and the occasional sufferfest up a fourteener. But I am a mountain girl, and I do enjoy the view. I just wonder if it might be a little bit sweeter if I had to work a little harder for it.