Context: The following informant (S) is a 20 year old bike/ski enthusiast. He explains the avoidance of the words “last run” while skiing and the bad luck it can bring to the end of the day. The conversation took place when I asked the informant of any superstitions he held. The informant told me he doesn’t believe in superstitions, but never to say you’re going to take your “last run,” because it might truly be your last if you do.
S: “Ok… if I’m skiing, or biking, you can’t say ‘Last Run’. Any time I have said ‘Last Run’ or anyone around me has said ‘Last Run’ an we’ve taken a run that is our last run for the day… I have ended up in the hospital.”
Me: “Same. So do you say anything instead of ‘Last Run’?”
S: “Yeah… we say either ‘2 minus 1’ or… ‘9 more runs’ or ‘8 more runs’ if you’re referring to two more runs. So 8 is if you’re referring to two more 9 is if you’re referring to last.”
Me: “Is there a reason for those numbers?”
S: “Nope. That’s just what works.”
Me: “Have you always done that?”
S: “I’ve done that since I broke both bones in this arm saying it was my last run.”
Me: “Did anyone teach you?”
S: “Yeah… everyone I grew up riding with. It is a known tradition throughout the action sports world… like any… any athlete performing at a high level knows that tradition.”
Analysis: Growing up in a ski town, I knew from a young age never to refer to my last run as my “last run.” We would often find code words to signify that we wanted this run to be our last for the day. I had always said “grilled cheese” or “second to last” or “2 more minus 1.” I have heard countless stories of people getting hurt on their last one after announcing it was their last run. I myself made this mistake when I was 12. After proclaiming I was doing my “last run” for the day, I made it almost to the lodge when a snowboarder hit me and broke my wrist. I never will say “last run” again.
A man from Saratoga, California recounts the cultural traditions his father took part in, of skiing Mt. Rainier in the 1930’s as a child. According to his retelling, Mt. Rainier was a prime place for skiing among the youth of Pierce County, Washington. The reason not many people chose to ski that mountain, was due to the layer of volcanic ash that would settle on the snow. As kids would ski down the hills, their skis would wear down at a very fast pace. The solution to this: Buy cheap skis, throw them away when they were done.
My interview with my source, S, went as follows:
ME: Were there any specific like games or events that happened up in your part of Washington?
S: There were a few… I think probably the most interesting one would be when my father would tell me about going skiing.
ME: Tell me about that
S: Well this was back in the 1930s. And he and his friends would go skiing on Mt. Rainier except when they went skiing. It was sort of an all day thing. First they would go to the army surplus store and buy the skis and these skis were really cheap. There were nice skis but they were really inexpensive and so they’d get their skis and then they’d hike up Mount Rainier and Mount Rainier as we know now is a volcanic mountain. But back then it was dormant but there was plenty of volcanic pumice and the wind would blow over the snow it would deposit a fine layer of pumice so they’d go up and they’d ski down Mount Rainier and when they get to the bottom their skis or they bought that day were basically sanded on the bottoms because of the pumice on the snow and so they just throw away the skis and the next time they’d go they’d buy another pair at the Army surplus store.
I’ve honestly never heard of people skiing on active volcanoes–for obvious reasons. To the children of Pierce County, however, they saw this as an opportunity to have fun with no one around to stop them. Their cultural work around for the volcanic pumice on the surface of the snow is quite interesting. Had it not been for the ease of access to cheap, disposable skis at the time, I doubt this phenomena would have taken place.