Don’t Let Metrics Overshadow Your Love for Your Favorite Sport

How I rediscovered my love for skiing when I stopped tracking vertical feet

Author standing in line for the chairlift in 2017, Photo by Peter Wright

I first fell in love with skiing in high school.

While I had the privilege of learning how to ski years before that, I didn’t begin to find true enjoyment in the sport until I was a little older, and a lot more coordinated.

Attending college in Colorado allowed me the opportunity to explore world-class ski resorts with my friends. Each day I spent on the mountain, I noticed a slight improvement in my technique and confidence. I especially loved riding with friends who were better than me. Without even trying, they challenged me to improve.

More than that, it was fun.

I couldn’t get enough of the joy of carving a turn, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and soaring at speeds that would be otherwise impossible.

On the mountain, I felt as though my skis were an extension of myself.

It was glorious. When I had the time and energy, I was always looking to find a way back on the mountain.

Vail Resorts and the Epic Pass

Across the United States, Canada, and Australia, Vail Resorts owns 37 ski resorts including five mountains in Colorado. Those five mountains include Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Crested Butte, which are all part of a multi-resort season pass under the Epic Pass program. The program allows pass holders to ski each mountain based on the number of days they have purchased.

The pass also comes with a free app called Epic Mix. The app automatically tracks metrics such as vertical feet, chairlifts, photos, and even medals for participating in certain challenges, such as the number of runs skied in a day, or for skiing on a particular holiday. At the bottom of every ski lift, there is a large green sign emblazoned with the number of vertical feet earned for riding up (and skiing down) that lift.

My Obsession with Stats

I remember checking the EpicMix app in 2016 and my highest record for vertical feet skied during a single season was 199,242 during the 2013/2014 ski season. I was so close to reaching 200,000. I decided that I was determined to beat my record the following season, perhaps even ski 250,000 vertical feet.

Vertical feet comparisons, Screenshot from EpicMix

That was when my obsession with tracking vertical feet began.

On days we went up skiing, we would usually stop midday for lunch at a lodge. Without fail, I would check my stats on the EpicMix app. If the vertical feet I had skied that morning was less than what I considered “optimal”, I would make an effort to ski more runs that afternoon, or target especially steep runs to increase my numbers for the day.

At the end of a ski day, when I was spent and happy, having enjoyed an incredible day on the mountain with friends or family, I would still check my stats and revaluate the day based on the number that was reflected back to me on the screen.

In the same way, Instagram had conditioned me to crave validation from likes, Vail Resorts was conditioning me to care more about artificial rewards than the invigorating and highly rewarding sport of skiing itself.

My focus on achieving a certain number of vertical feet had taken away from the pleasure of skiing itself.

Rediscovering My Love for the Sport

When I went skiing this past weekend, I made the conscious decision not to check my stats. Instead, I simply chose to focus on the joy of skiing itself. I knew my stats wouldn’t hold a candle to what I have skied in the past due to COVID, among other reasons.

And I’m so glad I did.

Choosing to ignore the number of vertical feet freed up my energy and focus for what was most important.

It was my fiancé and I’s second day skiing at Mt. Bachelor in our new home of Bend, Oregon and I had the chance to soak up every minute of it. While it was a short day, (we only had so much stamina after so many months of staying at home), we made the most of it.

We rode two new lifts that had been closed the last time we visited in December. One of those lifts was the Summit chair, aptly named for taking you to the very top of the cinder cone that is Mt. Bachelor. At the top, we enjoyed the most incredible view (pictured below).

It felt like being on top of the world.

Photo by Author, View from the Top of Mt. Bachelor 2021

Final Words

What I had believed to be a desire for self-improvement had really become an obsession with an irrelevant metric.

After the limitations imposed by the coronavirus and moving across the country last year, I knew that I didn’t have a chance of beating my stats from the previous year. This freed me up to focus on the experience of skiing itself.

Shifting my mindset from skiing runs with the goal of tackling additional vertical feet, to choosing runs simply because I wanted to ski them allowed me to live in the moment and to have a much more enjoyable ski day.

I only wish I chose to ditch the stats sooner.

Writer. Yogi. Adventurer. Traveler during non-pandemic times. Sharing my human experience with words. IG: janay_wright_writes

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