In today’s digital world, the prominence of cell phones and social media is a major contributing factor to both pros and cons in the outdoors, and more specifically, skiing. You can track your kids or friends on your phone and reminisce about those fun times you had when scrolling through your photos on social media, but on the downside, come lunchtime, everyone is huddled around their phones instead of talking to each other.
Thinking back on the days of walkie-talkies and physical maps, it certainly was more challenging hitting the slopes before smartphones. Just imagine having to ask the people in your car for directions, who had to search through maps for where you were and where you were going, or rolling down the window to ask strangers in the car beside you for directions, or the worst option: having to unfold a map across your steering wheel while driving. Planning an exact meeting time and location with your friends required precise instructions and usually a fallback plan, and documenting your adventures on the mountain was limited to a few pros or hardcore parents, hauling around a giant handheld VHS camcorder (thanks, Mom) in order to catch anything on film. It is hard to imagine these scenarios for Millenials or Gen Z nowadays.
Cell phones have undoubtedly simplified several aspects of skiing, including navigating and communicating before, during, and after a day on the slopes. Most resorts utilize digital trail maps and have RFID and GPS tracking systems linked to an app that is also connected to find your friends or family’s approximate locations. You can check for up-to-the-minute notifications regarding traffic, lifts, terrain, and weather all in just seconds.
So, have Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, etc, positively or negatively influenced the thing we all love most, skiing? These are some possible examples heard and seen from lift lines to après and all around the community.
- Anybody can learn anything at any time. Want to learn how to ski park? Rip down moguls or slay powder the proper way? Not sure what gear to buy that best suits you? No problem. A simple search on YouTube can lead you down a rabbit hole of learning opportunities.
- Making, keeping, and sharing of memories. Keep a photo album of your days tearing up the slopes or share publicly with family and friends pictures from your recent ski trip with just the click of a button.
- Important information and education is quickly and easily accessible, user-friendly, and everywhere. Resorts keep us updated with parking, lift and terrain closures, and pow-day snow reports we all look forward to. Minute-by-minute traffic and road conditions take away the “not knowing” while traveling on snowy winter roads. Avalanche centers around the world provide forecasts and in-depth reports on snow stability and other factors that contribute to a fun and safe day exploring.
- Marketing and advertising. It has never been easier for brands to reach consumers, for fans to engage with their favorite athletes, or for general connecting and networking within the industry. Promotions, sales, giveaways, and important reminders are always at our fingertips.
- Positive influences spread everyday goals of Leave No Trace, pack-it-in, pack-it-out, and common courtesy and respect for this phenomenal planet and the ski community. With millions of tuned-in users, many brands and influencers use their online presence to raise awareness and inspire education towards community-related causes, while promoting positivity and stoke as well.
- The inability to detach for a minute, be in the moment, and take in the surrounding beauty. By instantly going in their pockets for their phones to start scrolling once seated on a lift or gondola, skiers and snowboarders are missing out on wholesome experiences that ski resorts can offer, like thanking and chatting with a ski patroller or the camaraderie gained from striking up a meaningful conversation with a stranger.
- People are constantly distracted and oblivious to their surroundings and what is going on around them. By stopping in the middle of a run to pull out their phone and take a picture, unaware riders put themselves and others at risk of getting hurt and are going against the responsibility code for proper safety while stopping on the mountain.
- “Do it for the Gram” mentality. By sending something way above their comfort level for a video, or using every opportunity as an on-mountain photoshoot, skiers and snowboarders with the intent of posting everything they do before, during, and after a day on the mountain takes away from the genuine moments, views, and connections with other people, nature, and the mountains while promoting and encouraging the same behavior.
- Internet “trolls” and gate-keepers lurking behind their phone and computer screens. By dissuading the sharing of useful, general information or demoralizing other riders who are learning and simply enjoying their time on the mountain, these skiers and snowboarders discourage people from getting outside, progressing, and having fun, while portraying a negative outlook on the community.
- The state of constant competition. With apps that promote online users to compete for who can ski the fastest or the most vertical in a day or season, many skiers and snowboarders focus on reviewing and comparing stats, rather than just enjoying a beautiful day of skiing.
To me and many others, the main importance of a day spent skiing is getting outside, interacting with nature, and being grateful for the beauty surrounding you and the blessing to be there participating. Mental health research on social media shows a high potential for negative side effects, while research regarding skiing and mental health proves to have obvious, extraordinary benefits. However, when used correctly and genuinely, social media can radiate positivity and provide incredible entertainment. It can grant anything from thrills, laughs, and tears, to opportunities, compensation, sponsorships, and infinite enjoyment from the time spent (your own or others) filming, editing, and posting.
Social media and cell phones have an indescribable force and pull on the ski industry, and there is no doubt that the experience of a day on the slopes has changed for many. Like many things in life, moderation and balance between skiing and social media is an important factor to continue to be able to authentically enjoy both activities. You can be for or against the digital and internet age we live and ski in, but one thing is unmistakably true: it is here to stay and will only continue to advance.