Pondering more than bruises on a recent Gore outing
By Klarisse Torriente
We got to Gore around noon on the second Saturday of January, parked in the last available parking lot, changed into our warmest outfits, and boarded a shuttle. We arrived at what felt like a quintessential winter sports fest, a mountain village of families, children and people in all sorts of snow gear, the colors of their outfits like ornaments against the white backdrop.
I’m not around children a lot. Here, it is impossible to ignore their presence. I highly enjoy that aspect of snowboarding—the opportunity to observe kids being kids—vulnerable, risky, daring, adventurous, silly. The adults too, as they cascade down mountains. It is endearing being around people making memories and making them yourself with people you love. Beyond the warm clothes and wintery ambience lies a culture that I want to understand more.
I was nervous driving up the Northway, sweating, getting anxious, regretting not watching more “tips for improving your boarding” videos. I ran through things that could go wrong, or embarrass, or even worse, hurt. Today was my first day on a board this season. I only started snowboarding consistently after purchasing gear secondhand from Play it Again Sports in Latham two years ago. Before then, my snowboarding was sporadic, trauma-filled, pain inducing blows to my athletic confidence. I took lessons, and got out about 11 times last season, gained board control, and some faith.
This sport is expensive, perhaps purposefully out of reach. Becoming a snowboarder was an investment for me. I left last season feeling good, but what would Gore show me? Each mountain is unique as is each day.
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This first appears in the March/April 2022 issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine.
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By 12:30 p.m., the lift lines were long. The friendly, attentive staff directed many people who seemed to be performing in a survival of the fittest competition. I have never witnessed so many people okay with visibly and forcibly cutting.
We watched the vast array of skill levels on boards and skis, some snaking down with ease, others more reserved, and those who were obviously novices. My heart began to race as we edged toward our first chairlift drop, which can feel like the entrance to the gauntlet. Will you make it through a winner, or will you tumble as your pride slides down the mountain? Will people hoot, holler, and cite you as the reason they’re caught on the lift?
We got off just fine, and I began to feel my shoulders relax, and my muscle memory kick in. We headed down Sunway, dodging humans left and right. The trail was sheets of unforgiving ice, the results of a warm spell and a blast of low temperature. With the amount of people skiing, and how late it was in the day, the conditions were to be expected. I felt good, for a while, as my partner zoomed ahead of me, like a pro. I was trying to work my program, not compare, focus on myself, and feel the movement on my board again. I was no Olympian on that first run, but I was satisfied.
I still felt shaky. I am an athlete. I work out most days, I roller skate, I run, I hike a lot. But, as I get older, my body needs more time to warm. In the long lines, most people wore their masks, even the tykes. I felt like I was trying my best to settle in. Yet no matter how much I prepare, the scene is anxiety provoking.
We rode the gondola with a talkative mother and a teenage boy who wanted nothing to do with her conversation. I live for this relatable generational interaction. But I still felt tense and out of place. We headed down our first blue trail. It was more difficult, by definition—steeper, with sheets of ice. It was not long before I clipped an edge transitioning. I slammed my left knee and slid like a seal on my belly with my hands up for what felt like forever. I flipped over my board but recovered to gesture to anyone watching that I was “safe” as if I had crossed and scored at home plate. The mountain was so icy, I could see well defined and shiny patches.
I felt embarrassed; I just wanted to be good. I also immediately felt a lot of pressure to rejoin the upright people. Some chairlift passengers above heckled me. I did not feel like I belonged as I recovered from the pain and the shock of the abrupt and hard fall. I felt as if I would pass out or throw up. Nonetheless, to prevent more injuries to others or myself I got up and made it the rest of the way down. I hated the feeling of failing here where few look like me.
I feel like my failure is expected, or I feel abundant pressure to perform well, to be accepted, and normalized here. I had seen only one other Black person. Gore lacked representation on this day. So, I tried to breathe the pain away, consider my privilege and remember joy is why I am here.
We took it easier the rest of the day and enjoyed a beer at Saddle Lodge. We parked ourselves near the windows and took in the breathtaking view of the High Peaks. I felt beyond blessed, despite the hematoma on my left knee. I am progressing. The many times my mind, body, and board are clicking are musical.
The Gore outing made me think deeply about snow riding and its culture, the $100 lift ticket, the amenities at the lodge, the training needed for proficiency, the brief season and the weather uncertainties. There’s pressure to get your money’s worth. You see big families. I can only imagine the effort and cost. Maybe that is only a concern if you are of a certain socio-economic level.
Then there’s the expectancy that a boarder can ski fast and error-free. If you fall, no one, unless they are in your party, helps you up. But someone is often there to jeer, as those lift riders did to me. How can they be comfortable with bullying?
And I wonder how snowboarding can be more welcoming to those unable to afford season passes or ski lessons. What can attractions like Gore do to make this sport more inclusive? Is it a part of the culture to cater to people who push to the front of the lift line?
MORE TO EXPLORE: Some organizations working on snowboarding and outdoors access: Hoods to Woods, Shred, and The Chill Foundation.
” I had seen only one other Black person. Gore lacked representation on this day. So, I tried to breathe the pain away, consider my privilege and remember joy is why I am here.”
What pain? Please don’t make the jump that ski resorts are racist, because YOU felt uncomfortable for no reason other then to write another baseless article. EVERYONE has access to EVERY ski resort. Money is the only thing that stops anyone from doing anything in this country. If your issue is with pay for different people’s, then work on that. Place the blame where it belongs, and please stop being such a victim. It sounds very privileged.
Horrible race baiting article. Not even worth a glance at
Steve Borne says
“This sport is expensive, perhaps purposefully out of reach”
To just throw around suggestions like this is part of the reason why there is backlash against so many really important initiatives to help marginalized communities.
Just because it’s 200 miles away from NYC doesn’t mean there are gatekeepers. In fact, it’s state subsidized and open to everyone. It’s an expensive sport because it operates a few months a year.
There should absolutely be more effort to provide these types of opportunities to marginalized communities. But, making it seem like there is a deliberate effort today aside from economic obstacles is frustrating.
Amazing that you had to turn this into an article on race. There is no limit at Gore or any other ski area I have visited based on race, faith, gender, sexual orientation etc. Everyone has the same access, and is charged the same prices. There is no privileged access at Gore. Very inappropriate, race baiting article.
Yup another race baiting article.
I used to snowboard at Gore, great place, just can’t afford it any more.
Does that make Gore ski center racist?
Jonny- you took her comment about the pain related to her fall on her knee and twisted into something else. Or perhaps that was a lack of reading comprehension on your part. Either way, the comment missed the mark.
I’m also surprised at the Explorer publishing another comment calling the article race baiting when it simply described occurrences.
ADK Skier says
Hi there, I’m hoping I can provide some optimism for your future ski endeavors by painting a somewhat broader picture of the economic spectrum that doesn’t really come to the surface while looking around a ski resort.
The daily price for lift tickets is set so high so that it’s economically prohibitive and forces people to buy a season pass. It’s by design. All of the major resorts have switched to this model in recent years. Even weekend warriors seem to go for the season pass, as it’s just too much $$$ for a day pass if you intend to go more than 3 times season. It’s stupid, but it seems to be the model that we have to deal with.
Look for smaller, privately owned hills and mountains. They have low day rates. Or hike a local hill. Still fun and it’s great exercise.
As for racial representation, I have to say that this season I saw more people of color than I have ever seen at my local mountain (Whiteface). I’ve been going to this mountain for 30 years and could probably count on one hand the number of black/brown people I’ve seen until this season. I think things are looking up in that regard. I was really happy to see more than just white people everywhere.
I know it may seem like the mountain is populated by rich people who just happen to magically have the means to be up there recreating, but there are many, many stories of hard work, saving, and figuring out how to make it work on a tight budget than you realize. Myself, and the people I know have dedicated a large part of their entire income to this sport. Others save or buy used gear. It’s not a lark or casual thing for most people. People like myself learned on local hills where you have to hike up and down on foot. My kids learned that way and we didn’t set foot on a mountain until my son was 12. All of his learning happened in the back yard on used old gear for free. It’s far too expensive to pay for lessons and gear for our kids. We get gear from the local “Play it Again Sports” and it’s actually pretty cheap. Cheaper than an Xbox.
What I’m trying to say is that you’re not alone. I stayed away from the mountain for almost a decade due to the high prices for equipment and lift tickets, but at some point I decided that sitting at home or using that same money for less healthy pursuits was not doing me any favors.
Here’s hoping that you keep coming to the mountain. Try sites like Liftopia for great deals on lift tickets if you don’t plan on getting a seasons pass. It can be done! And bring your own lunch. The cafeteria prices are insane!
Hope to see you out there!
Unfortunately a lot of sports related activities are expensive. Not as a way to be exclusive but because expenses to run these places, insurance and the overall upkeep keep rising. It would be nice if facilities could have reduced fee days, free “ try it days” or even scholarships for reduced memberships to encourage those who would otherwise not have financial access to try these sports.
Agree with above commentary, I’m not a skier/snowboarder but this article pushes me further from even trying. Stop viewing everything as oppressor or victim. You’re a new snowboarder, just like we are all new at something at some time. Everyone has to earn their stripes or spend their life huddling in a corner in the fetal position. Grow up, be an adult and realize the only opinion the matters is yours and those you trust.
As a White person, I had the privilege of not ever being heckled when I fell down so many times my first day on skis, and that, my friends, is the difference. Ms. Torriente, I own some land that might be suitable for cross-country skiing if that is your thing. Drop me a line and I will tell you where it is. I guarantee that there will be no hecklers there; just you, the trees, and the deer. Nice jacket, by the way.
Then you never fell right under a chairlift. Not always appropriate, but it’s a right of passage to get hooted and hollered at if you fall under the lift. People can tell an oops! fall from an injury fall. An oops! fall will get some hoots, and an injury fall will elicit yells of “do you need ski patrol?”
When you fall on your own land, the squirrels and birds are snickering at you, you just can’t hear them!
Snowboarders should stick to West Mtn. Leave Gore to skiers!
All I can say to previous commenters is: if you haven’t experienced racism, do not judge those who do. You don’t know what you are talking about. In fact, your comments kinda prove the author’s point.
I have been a skier for almost four decades and grew up skiing at Gore. This article makes my skin crawl. Skiers of all ages, races and ski levels, ski at every mountain I have been to. The assumptions this author is making about ski “culture” and being “purposefully out of reach” are ridiculous. If the author feels so uncomfortable at a ski resort because of her personal hang ups , perhaps she just shouldn’t go.
Jeff James says
I was there that day…..oh my goodness it was icy. I fell that day too. I got up, put my own skis back on and laughed at myself for pushing myself to hard. Hopefully I learned something that made me a better skier. BTW – I bought my ticket on-line before I went. I don’t recall the computer asking the color of my skin. Oh and yeah I still had to go to work the next day too.
I never heard of such mean spirited people when you fell!
You should try another ski area. I would suggest greek peak in central ny as my daughter snowboards and skis there.
She has a season pass she buys through a local ski club at s college. It is a big discount.
They also had a special day early in the season – lift tickets were $10 . Also evening lift tickets are cheaper.
Try to go when it is not so busy… like president’s weekend.
It is an expensive sport, but sounds like you love it. It is also something you can do for years to come.
I think comments in this publication can be aimed at readers and maybe the commentators friends.
I wish some commentators would refrain from bullying and belittling .
OMG! the race card because you fell. the people on the chairlift could not see the color of your skin. They laughed because they have fallen as skiers and they laughed at another skier who did exactly what they have done. They did not know your color. Only you did and try to make a big deal of it. If you did not see more brown faces on the ski slope, ask yourself how many friends you invited to come skiing with you. I will not pay $100 or even $50 to ski. I cross country ski. it’s a lot cheaper, no crowds, no chair lifts, no expensive equipment. You can xc ski just about anywhere in the Adirondacks on state trails or old logging roads. Which Gore is a part of. Get out in the woods and do some gliding thru the trees. We skied today. Saw no one. My wife disappeared and I heard her laughing. She fell down while skiing thru some small trees. Her skies were in the air. She laughed at herself for being downed by small saplings. You should try laughing at yourself sometime. Everything is not serious while skiing. Sometimes it’s funny to wipe out. And OMG-somebody else might laugh. I feel terrible but I laughed at my wife’s antics trying to get untangled and back up. Grow up! Get up! And realize everything is not about you. Lose your attitude and you might make some friends while skiing.
Great, well-written article. It covered a lot of themes including vulnerability, perseverance, community. And yes, race/class too. From some of the comments here it seems that the winter sports community could use some education about structural racism and cultivate some compassion for the real, lived experience of being a black person in this country.
I guess I must be old-fashioned, I always believed that skin color shouldn’t matter. It sure matters to the author of this article, what a shame. And what a shame AE publishes this kind of article.
The joy of riding a snowboard is something that can’t be described. I have grown up with it, so I have never thought of it otherwise, but I think that it’s fun and a great way to spend time in the winter. It’s an amazing feeling when you ride down a run, carve a few turns and finish off with a jump, and in the end waiting for your friends to catch up.