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Predictions are cheap

Photo: Oscar Enander, from Ski Bum

The softest, fluffiest and cutest powder snow is born of extreme violence. Storm clouds punch, tear and kick their way across the mountains. It’s an atmospheric bar room brawl; an altostratus upper cut, a cirrus knee to the midriff, and finally a cumulo-nimbular kick in the unmentionables. The alpine zone is the WWF of weather. Pray for powder, but expect a healthy variation of snow, wind, precipitation, and atmospheric theatrics.

Some people deal with this variation by sitting curled up in front of a warm television and cursing the unpredictability of nature. These folks demand the average, worship the mundane and couldn’t keep their footing on a medium-sized pile of mediocrity. The rest of us try to forecast the weather.

Modern humans will never accept that some things lie beyond our power to know. Like how to find something to watch on Netflix. Or explaining what the fuck an NFT is to someone over 40. In our secular age the weather has replaced God: a fickle, terrible, and unknowable power that mocks our carefully laid plans. Most painfully when we are trying to choose which day to activate the powder clause in an employment contract.

The alpine zone is the WWF of weather. Pray for powder, but expect a healthy variation of snow, wind, precipitation, and atmospheric theatrics.

Our lives are awash with forecasts, and always have been. In the course of our long history, we have never left the most important facets of our lives – money, love, war and freshies – to mere chance. Throughout the ages people have filled their knowledge void with predictions by reading tea leaves, crystal balls or a Mean Sea Level Pressure map.

An entire weather-forecast industry has sprung up to feed the insecurities of the powder warrior. This is a group of highly disciplined, intellectually rigorous, totally accountable, science-based professionals. Like that guy on the news. And your brother-in-law. You probably wouldn’t bother listening to them except that it’s a battle royale between all the important things your mum thinks you should be doing with your life and the extreme FOMO of missing a powder day.

One doesn’t wish to reinforce gender stereotypes. But you will never encounter a more aggressive ‘cock off’ than a group of males debating alpine weather. After a couple of beers things can get pretty ugly, where even the only vaguely interested observer gets slapped upside the head by an isobar. But if you want to ski powder snow then you’ll need some appetite for the contest, because only rarely are the goods served up on a silver platter. Straight-down, windless, deep powder days are celebrated with abandon, often involving cross-dressing and spilling more amber fluid than you catch.

More frequent is your typical corner-store ‘mixed bag’ powder day. The mountain looks like a plasterer’s radio. It appears to have somehow snowed uphill, leaving fine ripples of untracked snow that could be blower, wind-pressed waves, three-inch-thick crust, or treacherous ice shark fins. But you won’t know for sure until you’re deep into that first turn…

The person who predicts the most powder days gets the most powder days. Not because they’re more accurate but because they will ski more often. If you’re Joanne (or Jonny) on the spot you tend to get the powdies.  That’s the real secret of weather prediction: the overwhelming desire to go skiing whatever the forecast.

Excerpted from Ski Bum by Sam Masters. Limited edition print run available to order now from Powder Press.


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