Surfing Montauk with Debra Rose: March 2023

“Surfing” the Alps

Winter surfing on the east coast is notorious for building a better surfer; increasing paddling strength, boosting the spirit of tenacity, cultivating consistency, and  boosting appreciation for when the water is warmer.  When the upper body needs a break and the eyes a new view of the landscape, head to the mountains for frozen water and a change of pace.

This is a landmark year for skiing in the U.S., record amounts of snowfall and powder have dominated the resorts all over the Midwest and west coast, while the Northeast and Europe have been stumbling along hoping for winter rather than tulips to arrive.  This year a ski trip out west means fresh snow, more open terrain, off-site opportunities, more crowds, and higher costs.  Rather than predictably going out west and following the herd or up north for convenience, maybe this year head east.

Many ski areas around Europe have had a dismal season of limited snow and more brown than white on the mountains.  However, nothing compares to the experience of skiing in Europe, and this year coming from the icy Northeast is the perfect training ground for the Alps.

While skiing on ice is not usually one’s preference, it will make you a better skier the way winter surfing improves your overall surf ability.  No one seeks out icy waves, but those that find them have a novel experience and rarely regret or forget the fun session in the water.  Skiing treacherous conditions also teaches you to pay attention, squashes complacency, and prepares you for obstacles and mishaps.  When you think ‘Swiss Alps’ you rarely associate ‘ice’ and ‘modest.’  And while the mountains are quite humbling, the atmosphere is more understated than most American resorts around the country.

Home to the highest mountain station in Europe, skiing in the Valais area reminds you what skiing down a mountain feels like.  Wide runs, steep ledges, unmarked terrain, you must be on your toes regardless of level.  Relying on your lower body for power and control, skiing vast swaths of terrain offers a fine balance to your summer surfing, activating more muscles than typically called upon to pop-up and catch a wave.  The practice of weaving skiing or snowboarding into your surfing not only makes you a more well-rounded athlete but it increases your appreciation for both activities and hopefully how fortunate one is to have access to both.  Skiing requires more equipment, preparation, planning and investment, while surfing expects patience and flexibility for conditions that are suitable.  You don’t have to stare at the mountain and decide if you want to ski, nor do you have to surf within a certain time frame each day or the ocean closes.

If you do choose to mix up your surfing and add another version of water to your winter, skiing in an area out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to be a well-rounded athlete.  In both activities, removing the gear post ski or surf is as welcomed as the après celebration after. Cheers!