Powder Turns and the Art of Living

Mitsu’s eyes seemed to light as he delved into the subject, describing new possibilities and aesthetic nuances. It was like hearing someone talk about a song or a work of art that spoke to them. But we were talking about skiing. Tele skiing. As in, why would someone do it? Mitsu’s response-describing the subtleties available within a telemark turn-made me realize that, for him, a perfect powder tele turn is a work of art.

As a blundering, mostly blue-run alpine skier, that was a revelation: that the quest for creating a perfect turn is an eternal journey-one that, for someone like Mitsu, expresses much more than the simple act of descending a snowy mountain. It’s a reflection of his own creativity and drive for perfection.

Fashion blogger Garance Dore asked in a recent post, What if style is much more than just our clothes? She says, of course it is, and wrote that style is really all the things-large and small-that make up the art of living: “It’s putting together a beautiful dinner. Cultivating your passions. Knowing how to pick out flowers. Creating beautiful friendships. Writing a letter. Being fulfilled in your work. Knowing how to travel.”

Of course, most of my friends relate more to picking a line down a snowy peak or up a crag than picking out flowers. But I think the same idea applies. In fact, I think it applies to just about everything in life.

Art doesn’t just belong to the painters, the writers, sculptors and filmmakers. It’s a way of being thoughtful about the things we do, and the pursuit of perfection, or creativity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s making dinner, building furniture or working a boulder problem.

I think of my friend, food writer Anna Brones. The message I get from her blog, Foodie Underground, is not that I should be eating fancier foods. It’s that I should simply pay more attention to my food, and to preparing it. It’s about savoring the simple pleasures of a perfectly made cup of coffee, or taking pride and joy in preparing a single vegetable from the farmer’s market.

Maybe in our rush to do more, or consume more, we’ve forgotten to ask, Why do I do things this way? Or, how can I do this better? Or, what’s the most beautiful way to do this? Everything we do can be an expression of ourselves, if we let it.

I think of Mitsu because his passion for carving a perfect tele turn is the same passion he applied to building a beautiful industrial-style kitchen table for his house from reclaimed wood. It’s also the same passion he brings to doing his absolute best at his job. And it makes me wonder, how could I be more excellent, more creative in the things I do?

By the way, if you’re into tele skiing, check out Paul Parker’s Free-Heel Skiing, now in its third edition.

Photo: Austrian National Library/Unsplash



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