Say what you like about internet fora, they serve an essential purpose in keeping the worst crashing bores out of live social interaction. Thanks to the old interweb, your chances of being collared at a social gathering by some borderline autistic obsessed with the intimate detail of antique Airfix kits are vastly reduced. (The effect on said people of that sort of social isolation is another matter, but never mind.)
Not that I’d accuse the online skiing-obsessive community of general social inadquacy, but I’m sure their friends are relieved that they can get it out of their systems elsewhere than down the pub, where the rest of the drinking public tends to be less than fascinated by the relative merits of rear entry versus four-clip boots.
Specific obsessions vary according to the forum – the denizens of www.natives.co.uk (skint resort workers) discuss packing, weight limits and the uses of gaffer tape while snowHeads (middle-aged punters) complain about ski carriage charges, and the inhabitants of TGR (thirtysomething Americans pretending to be 15) talk about ….. well, who knows really, given their rather strange vocabulary.
snowHeads forum activity in the summer verges on the bloody silly (from ‘my Mum caught me trying on ski gear in my bedroom’ through discussion of the merits or otherwise of various vacuous TV programmes to ‘gosh how I love my iPhone, sad sucker that I am’), but now that actual skiing activity looms, the chat will no doubt revert to the regular old favourites, regardless of the fact that they have all been discussed ad infinitum every year since the forum launched and everyone already knows what everyone else’s opinion is.
1. Will it snow in x resort on y date? Well, it might – it is winter after all. On the other hand, I once spent a season in Serre Chevalier when it snowed on Hogmanay and then refused to do it again until the following winter. So who knows?
2. Snowchains, will I need them? An old favourite, this, and one which runs and runs. Yes, appears to be the answer. Or possibly no, assuming you have winter tyres, although you risk being arrested and summarily shot if you don’t have a set of chains in the boot. This one usually goes to at least six pages, spawns four supplementary threads and degenerates into a lot of petty pseudo-legal rubbish in a language most of the protagonists barely recognise, let alone understand.
3. What’s cooler, boarding or skiing? Comedy value just for the fact that it involves a bunch of near-pensioners discussing what’s ‘cool’. Generally a page or two of general argy-bargy and slanging match along the lines of ‘you lot sit in the middle of the piste’ vs ‘but at least we don’t wear unflattering trousers’ before everyone agrees that it could be worse and at least none of them snowblades.
4. Do I need to wear a helmet? An old favourite which brings the bossy nannies out of the woodwork in droves. Much pompous hot air regarding the setting of examples to children belonging to complete strangers (I’m sorry, but if you want me to be responsible for your children I’m going to demand some say in whether or not you have them in the first place), silly discussion about the cost to the NHS of head injuries, and censorious tickings-off of helmetless instructors. So far it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that if instructors and pisteurs rarely wear helmets it might be because they aren’t all that essential. But there you go, I’m sure a bunch of holidaymakers know better than people who make a living at it.
5. Tour operator package or DIY hols? Another perennial which even pops up from time to time over the summer. Generally the forum is a nest of ‘tour ops are evil and you will go to hell if you use one’ evangelists, with the odd voice of reason sticking a head over the parapet from time to time. Large operators are generally agreed to be the most evil, though newbies might grudgingly be allowed to consider a small specialist company as long as they promise it’s only for their first trip.
6. What clothes should I buy? There are two ‘what clothes’ threads. The first one is usually started by someone apparently in a dilemma over the Archaeopteryx Uber-Gnarly Goretex Extreme jacket at the price of a small car vs the Arachnid Ski Instructor Lookalike Heliskiing parka at the same price but in blue. This person doesn’t actually want a jacket at all, and is just trying to convince everyone that he (it’s always he) is a God who skis nothing but 50° couloirs. The second clothing thread is down to some poor hapless noob who asked the question in all good faith only to be put off the sport for life by a bunch of Archaeopteryx-wearing wannabes assuring him that he won’t be able to hold his head up in public unless he buys a week’s supply of merino wool Y-fronts at £50 a pop.
7. What skis should I buy? The general consensus here seems to be big fat rockered ones which will only be useable once every ten seasons unless you do all your skiing out of a helicopter over Alaska. But I confess I haven’t made a detailed study of it as all the discussion of sidecuts, turn radius and effective edge sends me scurrying for the wine rack after three posts.
8. What snowboard should I buy? As above, though you can usually guarantee that some smartarse (probably in an Archaeopteryx jacket) butts in after four posts to say ‘you should buy skis instead and stop sitting on the piste har har’ thereby derailing the procedure and turning it into thread #3 above.
9. What’s the weather doing in X resort? Usually followed by a fight over which website has the most accurate forecasts, discussion of what La Nina is up to and its implications for snow cover in Courchevel in the third week in January, reported views from decrepit resort alcoholics who claim that the bumper sloe crop means early snow, and a load of links to weather satellite pictures. I know this sounds dysfunctional, but I’m afraid we all do it.
10. I have my weight too far forward/back/sideways, should I unweight my uphill ski/stick my bum out/buy new skis? I see these threads appear all the time, but I have no idea what they contain because I can’t face opening them until I’m at least half way down the wine rack, by which time I can’t actually read anything. Suffice to say that you are highly unlikely to improve your skiing technique by reading about it on the internet.