There are very few people, if any, that hear my raspy voice for the first time and intuit that the slang spewing forth is coming from a practicing attorney. My lackadaisical lilt, coupled with the vernacular of a mountain town, is a confusing combination. It is much more common for one to assume that I am a lift operator or ski instructor or some other vocation more closely hewing to my first and most dear avocation of skier. This is immensely gratifying: defying expectations is one of my favorite qualities and I am also relieved at not being immediately identified as a lawyer. That is not typically a complimentary first impression. Startled to learn that I can be well-spoken and am not from California, folks often inquire about the source of my particular patois.
Raised by a skiing obsessive and his game wife, I was early and often exposed to the specific vocabulary of the ski world. My brother and I and our friends were surrounded by daredevils experiencing the highlights of the 80s mountain lifestyle. Our idols were all skiers, some of whom were also our parents or our parents’ friends. Pops was literally sending it way before that became a ubiquitous phrase: many of my most poignant childhood memories are of watching him launch off various Northeastern ski jumps. When we got a bit older and started to finally head out West, we interfaced with and looked up to the bartenders, servers, skids, and other dudes and dudettes making their lives in the mountains.
Linguistically, the terms that I picked up in those years melded with the literary influences in which I, as a voracious reader, was also immersed. And all of that was reinforced and reinvigorated every fall when the new ski movies dropped to tantalize prior to the onset of winter. Just as Faulkner and Hesse were pillars of my formal education, Stump and Miller were the foundation of the equally important learning process of how to look and sound cool on and around skis. VHS and DVDs were watched until broken and/or scratched; I can still quote verbatim from any number of ski flicks.
Of course, these twin influences have not stopped, so the depth of my hodgepodge vocabulary continues to grow, bolstered by arcane legal concepts from digesting endless and evolving case law. New appellate decisions continue to feed this mélange and thankfully ski media has also continued to blossom: my influences conflate exponentially. I also have Violet and her cadre to teach me the next generation of jargon. Slay is their current most common and most utilitarian word: adjectives that are also verbs and nouns are extremely useful.
With the temperatures beginning to drop and the leaves starting to yellow, a new crop of ski films is set to premiere, bringing with it a panoply of new argot or at least variations on existing stalwarts. Sickbird, dope, sendy, all of these words are as axiomatic to my speech as any legalese. The democratization of the internet has also created new opportunities for fresh perspectives and lingo. It is not just the big conglomerates that are influencing the culture: edits from random urban ski cliques or esoteric Euro locales add unique dialects to the language of skiing.
As a professional and ski bum (as opposed to professional ski bum, which is similar, but not exactly the same), I cherish the unique high/low combination of intellectual discourse and bro-ed out ski obsession. Each human is a spectrum and I am no different: I can wax poetic on world politics, geek out over turn radii, and have soul-penetrating parental discussions. It is a variegated vocabulary that allows me to move seamlessly between all of the loves of my life.