Skiing was born from a sincere love for winter and mountains. It may have strayed a few times, but last winter proved that the essential spirit of skiing is still alive. I am shaking in the early hours of the morning as I step from a cold bivouac into a wet pair of ski boots. I’m trying to stick skins onto a frozen pair of skis, having completely forgotten to do so the day before, with my head in a fuzzy cloud as a result of a full day of adventures in the snow. A part of me is screaming to get back into that warm sleeping bag. But another part of me hears the cry of a little owl, sees the shy morning light rising slowly behind the eastern ridge, and smells that unmistakable scent of spring in the mountains. I set off uphill without hesitation or much thought. Most of my worries have been left behind, but my head is still swimming in deep thoughts.The hypnotic and meditative movement of skinning uphill helps the mind reach conclusions that would never occur down in the valley. When dawn breaks the song of black grouse drifts through the trees.
As I make my way up the mountain I am fully aware of the fact that each part of my equipment has left a footprint during production. Just like I draw two slowly extending parallel lines with each step. That is just how it is, all living beings leave their traces as they go through life. The wolf and the chamois try to hide theirs because it benefits them and now the human race is faced with a similar decision. If I want to ski, it would be dishonest of me to say that I could do it without skis, or boots, poles, jacket, helmet, backpack, gloves ... Why would I feel guilty for making my way into the mountains if that is precisely where I need to go to build a connection with nature. It is this very connection that I need to fall in love with the mountains and to defend them against bulldozers and senseless new mega resorts. Things are always relative. Just as the peak of a mountain is not as far up from the valley floor as its absolute altitude would have us believe, the damage done to trees cut to make skis is more than made up for, by bringing people to breathless places. Protecting nature does not mean keeping people away. People must be invited into nature to build their own intimate relationships and decide for themselves if they want to be part of the solution, or part of the problem. That is how true protectors of untouched nature are born. It is a simple matter of cause and consequence.
The concept of sustainable and environmentally friendly products is healthy and good. Humanity has made it to where it is today by being sustainable. Anyone with a grain of common sense knows that the Alps are no place for raising kangaroos, that a tiny lawn cannot feed twelve cows, and that it is better to use wood from local forests to build a barn and fences, because it is just easier and cheaper, as well as safer. That is why people stand to defend the forests, pastures, and rivers around their homes. Old school skiers know their local mountain or tiny resort is the best place to ski, so they help support the place by buying the ticket and visiting. This is the simple ancient concept of not sawing off the branch you are sitting on. This behavior is not a random development, it is a matter of evolution, choosing the right path - or the sustainable one.
The people ready to stand up for nature are those who know it best, the skiers, hunters, fishermen, hikers, or kayakers. Every human venture into nature leaves a mark, but nature leaves its mark on the human as well. If we all manage to keep to the simple teachings of our rural grandparents, we will keep skiing remote valleys and small resorts on good and resilient skis without guilt for a long time. If you need wood for a ski, cut down trees near the factory and be smart about it. If you need metal, find a local steel mill. When you need knowledge and ideas, extend an opportunity to people near your factory. Their personal sense of responsibility will breathe life into the manufacturing process. What you end up with is a community, a perpetual source of good ideas, well maintained functional forests, secure sources of materials and a label that will declare all your past exhibitions of common sense as green and sustainable. Fortunately such things still exist today. One such community can be found in Begunje, Slovenia.
Written by: Rok Rozman