Outdoor Junkie

“Shut up, Tony! I can totally handle this run fine, I’m just not feeling great after those eight beers last night!”
“No Chad, maybe you just suck.”
Photo: Cristina Munteanu/Unsplash

The Inertia

This may seem trivial to some, but there are times when being in a group is more of a pain in the ass than just going at it solo and following your own itinerary. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where everyone seems to have different preferences of what to do and where to go? It’s your typical Friday after-work debate of which bar to hit up or where the crew should surf the next morning. When it comes to the after-work activity debate, I think everyone will agree that finding a place that serves a good drink is about all the criteria you need to fulfill. But when it comes to skiing and snowboarding with a group, the dynamic is exponentially more complicated.

I have often wondered how large is too large when it comes to rallying a group of friends for skiing or snowboarding. Is there a point where the number of people in a group becomes counterproductive to the fun? If so, what is the magic number; the balance point where the group makes everything more fun? Throw in varying abilities, tolerances, some fresh snow in the case of skiing and snowboarding, and the complexities just seem to increase exponentially. As you can imagine, it is much more complicated than getting a drink.

If you have ever traveled with people whose commitment to the sport ranges from “there are no friends on powder days” to “where’s the après ski going down?” then you definitely know where I am coming from. On one hand, you have a crazed bunch of addicts who would just as soon cut you off from a great line through the trees as they would give you a high five after sticking the landing off that kicker. On the other hand, you have a crazed bunch of ‘addicts’ who will steal your beer or shot and then inform you this round is on you all while giving you a big hug. Sometimes, the same person fits both profiles. After all, we are all human.

In my experience, most adults try to keep nice and manage the variety of personalities in any group dynamic. At some point in the day, however, somebody is bound to be pissed off. A comment as simple as “If we don’t make first chair I am going to be pissed,” has the power to turn it all upside down. Of course, there’s always the person who partied a bit too much the night before to consider. They’re likely still sleeping when it’s time to get up and go while everybody who woke up at the agreed upon time are ready and circling like sharks around a bloody seal. If it snowed all night and it is a powder day, then it is like chum in the water for some, myself included.

Once on the snow, the group dynamic usually breaks down like this: There is always the group defector, who breaks away from the crowd at their first opportunity, only to be found later with a snow-crusted grin on their face. There are those who just go with the flow and do what the group does, even if they aren’t thrilled. These are the non-complainers. Then there are the nonstop complainers who should split from the group but don’t. There are likely a few runs where someone’s sphincter gets tightened and an expletive or two is lofted at a friend. If your role is to play the peacemaker, you pick up a few messes and maybe put a few egos in check. Despite the different personalities, by the end of the day, it’s usually apparent that shredding with a group can be a real pain in the ass. Luckily, most tensions can be diffused by a few drinks at lunch or dinner.

So, back to my point of that magic number. Is it two, three, six or nine? Is it an odd number or an even number? If you’re riding outside the boundaries, you should never be alone — that’s just asking for trouble. If inbounds and you want to hang with bros who may have varying abilities, then do it and deal with it. Just don’t be the asshole who complains the entire day. In fact, in an ideal world, the complainer and the defector are the same people. If you want to rip inbound lines all day without any consequences from others, maybe just go with one other person. Or better yet, go with three. On those days, like the one I experienced recently, the magic number three includes Me, Myself, and I.  Yes, sometimes that is my favorite group. On those days, I am neither a loner, nor a complainer, nor a defector. I am just a realist.


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