Boundaries, taking the form of signs and ropes, are placed by Ski Patrollers at every ski resort in designated areas. They are there to deter skiers and snowboarders from entering a ‘hazardous’ area. Yet, ski patrollers have limited control on preventing people from ducking under the rope. Besides cliffs, Stevens Pass is a space without physical boundaries. The power to stay ‘in-bounds’ or go ‘out’ rests with the skiers and snowboarders.
“The loss of material space leads to the government of nothing but time.” (Virilio, The Overexposed City) Certain people will inevitably venture into the ‘out of bounds’ areas; it is just a matter of time. Tabs cannot be kept on those who are on the slopes. ”Speed suddenly becomes a primal dimension that defies all temporal and physical measurements.” (Virilio, 385) There is a good chance that anyone at Stevens can make it to the backcountry without being seen. While ones speed gives them the ability to explore the mountain at whatever pace they choose, ‘their’ speed also allows them to be elusive and evade patrol. This can be both good and bad. There is a problem with people entering the backcountry without any avalanche and snow safety knowledge. Once you go into the ‘out of bounds’ area, your instincts, talent level, equipment, mind, and those who you are with, become your tools to survive.
With almost all of my interviews, I asked about the ‘boundaries’ at the mountain. I am in search of “a more profound sharing of knowledge’s, an implicit and sometimes explicit dialogue from very different vantages about the shape, meaning and implications” of bypassing a ‘closed area’ sign in search of powder and new terrain. (Daniel Kerr, We Know What The Problem Is)
Three out of the six interviews I have done took place inside a lift operator control building. The lift operator acts as a surveyor to make sure everyone exits the chair safely. I have found a few Ski Patrol hanging out in here as well. The ‘control tower’ gives them a good vantage point to keep an observant eye on their surroundings but their visibility only goes so far. I took the picture below at the top of Tye Mill Chair on Big Chief Mountain. I conducted an interview inside the hut that is on the left; I was greeted by a lift operator, as well as two ski patrollers, one guy and one girl. The male Patroller answered most of my questions; the lift operator chimed in a couple times, and the woman sat and listened.
Here is a short edit on ‘boundaries’ that includes segments of audio from three interviews I conducted at different spots on the mountain: http://vimeo.com/38040274
Film and photographs have the ability to last forever; they capture moments that otherwise may turn into another forgotten memory. While still a very active participant in the space, I have taken on the role of an observer as well while documenting my experiences at Stevens Pass.
“Culture depends on giving things meaning by assigning them to different positions within a classificatory system. The marking of ‘difference is thus the basis of that symbolic order which we call culture.” (Hall, 236) There is ‘difference’ all over the mountain. “Difference signifies. It ‘speaks.’ (Hall) Different skiers and snowboarders, of all ages, races and abilities, apply their skills and styles to the diverse terrain that is offered. The film Life In A Day spoke directly to the ‘differences’ that exist all around the world. Stevens Pass doesn’t offer the same type of diversity that is seen in the film but not one person on the mountain is exactly the same. Everyone has a different identity that shapes them. Engaging with people and talking to them about their experiences at Stevens reveals subtle differences that I wouldn’t have known beforehand.
“Publicity is the culture of the consumer society.” (Berger) Stevens Pass is not necessarily a consumer society. Yet, to a certain degree, I have become a consumer looking for those ‘perfect’ opportunities in which to photograph or film someone or something while on the mountain. Both [film and photography] “use similar, highly tactile means to play upon the spectator’s sense of acquiring the real thing, which the image shows. In both cases his feeling that he can almost touch what is in the image reminds him how he might or does possess the real thing.” (Berger, Ways of Seeing)
A photo or a film has the ability to capture the attention of an audience. And behind every photo or film, there is meaning that is attached. With a ski movie, the viewers are usually getting a first-hand view of life at the mountain. “Two discourses – the discourse of written language and the discourse of photography – are required to produce and ‘fix’ the meaning.” (Hall)
John Berger said, “The pursuit of individual happiness has been acknowledged as a universal right.” We all measure happiness differently and achieve it through different activities. Skiing brings great joy to my life and I know that, for both skiers and snowboarders, Stevens Pass brings them joy as well. Here is a short edit I made with my friends: I used the discourse of music for the ‘written language. We took Skyline chair to 7th Heaven. Enjoy!
“Reality exists outside language, but it is constantly mediated by and through language: and what we can know and say has to be produced in and through discourse.” (Hall_Encoding)
“Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined.” An outsider relies on media to imagine life at Stevens. You have to visit to see first hand what it is really like. According to McLuhan, we live in “the electronic age of instantaneous communication.” His “definition of media is broad; it includes any technology whatever that creates extensions of the human body and senses, from clothing to the computer.” Everyone brings a different kind of ‘media’ to the mountain. Clothing and equipment differ; tv media crews aren’t documenting the mountain on the regular; GoPro’s and Contour cameras are always present; technology has been immersed and thrown upon all of us; we carry it with it and project our thoughts to the world through different mediums. As we saw in Welcome To Pine Point, a different documentation style was used to create an engaging product for the audience. “New technology is thus a revolutionizing agent. We see this with the electric media and we saw it several thousand years ago with the invention of the phonetic alphabet, which was just as far-reaching an innovation-and had just as profound consequences for man.” (McLuhan)
Stuart Hall said, “The institutional structures of broadcasting, with their practices and networks of production, their organized relations and technical infrastructures, are required to produce a programme.” (Hall_Encoding) “Of course, the production process is not without its ‘discursive’ aspect: it, too, is framed throughout by meanings and ideas.” All art has a message tied with it. Interpretations of it may differ from person to person. “Before this message can have an ‘effect’ (however defined), satisfy a ‘need’ or be put to a ‘use,’ it must first be appropriated as a meaningful discourse and be meaningfully decoded.” (Hall_Encoding)
“Audile-tactile tribal man partook of the collective unconscious, lived in a magical integral world patterned by myth and ritual, its values divine and unchallenged, whereas literate or visual man creates an environment that is strongly fragmented, individualistic, explicit, logical, specialized and detached.”
After McLuhan was asked, “what are you doin?” He said, “Sometimes I wonder. I’m making explorations. I don’t know where they’re going to take me. My work is designed for the pragmatic purpose of trying to understand our technological environment and its psychic and social consequences…I want to map new terrain rather than chart old landmarks.” I can relate to him here.
“All media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment.” (McLuhan) To get some insight into the lives of some people while at Stevens, I conducted a couple interviews.
This first interview was done more than three weeks ago and includes myself and a friend on our way up Tye Mill Chair:
This next interview was filmed in the terrain park hut last Thursday (2/16):
The landscape of Stevens speaks to the wants and needs of both skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels.On the mountain, unless you are with your friends, the people whom you are sharing the mountain with have a mystery about them. Caps and goggles hide their faces from the winter weather. Yet behind the mask there is an individual with a different identity from the one I have. “Whereas ‘space’ denotes the three-dimensional organization of the elements which make up a place, ‘character’ denotes the general ‘atmosphere’ which is the most comprehensive property of any place.” (Norberg-Schulz, 418) A community of people, from all walks of life, with similar and different interests, can be found at the mountain.
Skiers and snowboarders can escape the reality of city-life and enjoy what nature has to offer their soul, body and mind. A different kind of spirit or genius loci is created at Stevens, and is found both on the slopes and in the lodges. The passion that Bruce Kehr and Don Adams had for skiing still lives on at the Pass.
Building a ski resort is no easy task. Many variables go into the construction process. There are both needs that skiers and boarders seek out on the mountain and seek out in the lodge. With any ski resort, the slopes are filled during the day but the lodges slowly fill as the day goes on. The mountain map is designed as a guide for skiers and boarders. If you have never been to Stevens, pick one up and reference it often but once you know the mountain, go explore and find runs that don’t ‘technically’ exist. That is the beauty about skiing at any mountain. Skiing is like painting or making music. You just do it. I don’t have to think about what I am doing. It is second nature now. I create a flow on the slopes. Ski resorts give power to the people to be creative with their style of skiing or boarding. Skiing is not a sport. It’s a way of life.
Interaction and communication takes place all over the mountain. Whether you are taking a chair up, in the middle of a run, in the park, backside, frontside, backcountry or the lodge, communication is inevitable. The lodges allow for the masses to gather and enjoy one anthers company. Multiple entrances are in place for people to enter and exit. “There is a problem with doors. Visitors push them to get in or pull on them to get out (or vice versa), but then the door remains open…cold rushes in and heat rushes out.” (Latour, 229) “This is where the age-old Mumfordian choice is offered to you: either to discipline the people or to substitute for the unreliable people another delegated human character whose only function is to open and close the door.” (Latour, 230) People are constantly coming and going and are aware of their surroundings, at least for the most part. The door closes on its own. The lodges bring different personalities together to create a diverse group of like-minded people. Once finished with lunch, exit and go hit the slopes again.
Boundaries are placed in various locations around the mountain for an intended purpose: to keep skiers and boarders out of harms way. The ski patrol team has a job to direct people towards safety by placing out of bounds signs in, but people still inevitably venture into the backcountry. There is a sense of adventure in all of us. We sometimes want to seek out places that are off-limits or that have not been explored before. If you does go ‘out of bounds,’ you must be very cautious of your surroundings. In Michael Foucault’s Panopticism, he talks about self-surveillance. Each skier and snowboarder that takes to the slopes at Stevens mountain is always self-policing. We are all disciplined in our actions and must be, at least to a certain degree, but we are all human and accidents happen. You have to be aware of how the natural surroundings affect you and how your actions affect the other people who are on the slopes. You must be able to anticipate what may come next while venturing into the back-country but even the most well-prepared skiers and boarders can’t predict the future.
Users are definitely self-policing while in the terrain park. People take turns when dropping into a jump or rail. “The Panopticon was also a laboratory; it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments, to alter behaviour, to train or correct individuals. (Foucault) Skiers and boarders use the park as a laboratory to fine tune their craft. “Discipline may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology.” (Focault_Panopticism)
“…do this, do that, behave this way, don’t go that way, you may do so, be allowed to go there. Such sentences look very much like a programming language. (Latour) To a certain degree, we have all been conditioned to act a certain way that fits within society’s rules and norms. On the mountain, rules still exist but they aren’t always followed. There aren’t mountain police watching your every move, which allows for creativity and freedom from surveillance. Yet, as we saw in movie Attack the Block, actions do have consequences. Trouble can arise real fast at any point in time on the mountain and take everyone by complete surprise. It is better to take precautions than just seek out new terrain for the hell of it. We all have to look out for the well-being of our fellow skiers and boarders. Tragedy struck at Stevens this past weekend when three people passed away after an avalanche was triggered in the backcountry near 7th heaven / Cowboy Ridge. My prayers go out to their friends and family. The Stevens and general ski and snowboard community lost some amazing people. Here is a link to the story:
Stevens Pass, located high in the forested Cascade mountains off highway 2, attracts snow enthusiasts from near and far each winter. Founders Bruce Kehr and Don Adams saw potential in the area and acted upon it. Their vision set the framework for a ski resort that today attracts skiers and snowboarders of all identities. It is no Whistler but Stevens has a lot to offer. Massey said, “Space is…always in the process of becoming; it is always being made. It is never finished; never closed.” The first lift built was a rope tow. Today, with five parking lots, three lodges, ten chairlifts, and more than 1100 acres of skiable terrain, there is plenty of space to accommodate the thousands of people that make the trip to the mountain each week.
Brian Hoey said, “Ethnographic fieldwork is shaped by personal and professional identities just as these identities are inevitably shaped by individual experiences while in the field.” Our lives are shaped by the experiences we have, the people we meet, and the places we visit. Skiing has shaped part of my identity and continues to do so. I started skiing when I was five years old and have been to a number of ski resorts but Stevens offers a culture that is unique in its own way. Christian Norberg-Schulz said, “Human identity presupposes the identity of place.” The mountain culture can not be defined by one person or one characteristic. Everyone brings a new perspective to life and has a style that they express on the slopes. Massey said, “Without space, no multiplicity; without multiplicity, no space…Multiplicity and space are co-constitutive.” As we saw in One Below the Queen and The Places we Live, our identities are in some part defined by the space or place in which you find yourself.
Stevens is a good hour and a-half away from Seattle but offers a very scenic drive. The skykomish river fades into the valley as you rise in elevation. Tye Creek Lodge and Kehr’s chair lift come into view as you approach the parking lot. Here’s a link to view the parking lot:
The upper lot was closed but when it is not, we usually park there and can ski straight to the lift or take a rope tow to visit the lodge.
Wherever you choose to ski, you can find diverse terrain that suits abilities from beginner to expert. Skyline is a good place to start if you want to find some challenging but rewarding runs. Take a right at the top and go on some cruisers or take the chutes to the terrain park. You’ll go under the Brooks two person chair before passing the park hut. You must watch an instructional video and pay a $5 fee to get a park pass. Drop in and choose your path. Jumps, boxes and rails fill the enclosed space that is surrounded with orange fences. Let’s go back to the top of Skyline. Go left and take the 7th heaven chair to find some of the most difficult but rewarding terrain on the mountain. Take a black diamond down, traverse over to the other portion of the front side, or hike Cowboy Ridge and explore the backcountry. Take caution in out of bounds areas. You should have an avalanche beacon and transceiver and have knowledge of the terrain you are venturing in to.
The front side is home to eight of the ten chairs on the mountain. Hogsback can be accessed from the lodge or by traversing from Skyline. If you are new to the sport of skiing or snowboarding, I would recommend taking the Daisy chair, as it offers the easiest runs. Kehrs chair, a fixed double, offers intermediate and advanced trails, and takes one to the base of the double diamond chair. To get to the backside, take either the double diamond or tye mill chair. The backside gives you access to terrain that allows for creativity. To get to Tye Mill, you must traverse over from the top of Hogsback. If you are new to the mountain but are an experienced skier or boarder, I would highly recommend that you go to the backside, also known as Mill Valley. Two lifts, Jupiter and Southern Cross, will take you back to the top.
The lodges offer a space to reenergize and take a break from the skiing. The masses gather to create a different kind of atmosphere than is found on the snow. The first lodge was built in 1937 but went up in flames in 1940. There are now three lodges that offer different services. As we saw in The Highrise Project, each room differed, although from the outside looking in, they looked to be somewhat similar. This applies to the lodges as well. From the outside, they share certain features but a new atmosphere is created within the walls by the people that occupy the space. Tye Creek Lodge offers a deli, the Foggy Goggle bar, and a gear rental shop. Granite Peaks Lodge is home to Bull Tooths Pub and Eatery, Cascadian Kitchen, and the T-Bar market. This lodge is the most crowded come lunch time. It offers both inside and outside seating. Pacific Crest Lodge is a short walk from Granite and offers a Taco Bar, the Iron Goat Pizza Station, and an outdoor grill that is open on the weekends. Here is Granite Peaks:
Mark Curran said, “For as the ethnographer Allen Feldman also argues, ‘a full record is a myth, what one achieves is
a fractured narrative.’ Spending time at Stevens Pass, and maintaining a blog for an extended period of time will result in a ‘fractured narrative,’ that gives one insight into a mountain culture. I am not fully immersing myself in this culture for I visit and then leave, but I will be making visits very often.
As Sarah Pink said, “reality is visible, observable and recordable in video or photography.” Pictures and video can’t fully capture the essence at Stevens but I will attempt t0 try. I’ll finish with this quote by Jay Ruby: “In a postpositive and postmodern world, the camera is constrained by the culture of the person behind the apparatus; that is, films and photographs are always concerned with two things – the culture of those filmed and the culture of those who film.”
Each week, a team of working individuals occupy a site that is surrounded with distinct boundaries. Security personnel and barbed wire fences with signs that say Construction Area-Keep Out, send a clear message to someone walking by. And while the fences are only temporary, they’ll be keeping the public out for a good amount of time. Husky stadium is one of many structures that make up the larger UW campus. For some of the workers, this site may reinforce ideas of being ‘at home.’ Maybe they attended UW in the past, live very close, or have been to a football game or track meet. But for others, working in the Seattle area may be a first. It isn’t the same for everyone. Communication is essential to working efficiently as a team on a project of this magnitude. There is a different set of social dynamics working within this site. Whether someone is receiving orders or talking to a co-worker about the days events, bonds between crew members are made. Just like on a football team, each member is given a certain assignment. And with time, interactions between individuals, whether good or bad, are bound to happen.