Classic Post: In Defense of the Chimney

Classic Post: In Defense of the Chimney


Classic Post: In Defense of the Chimney


Andrew Hays looking down the Chimney

Andrew Hays shares some of his thoughts on Squaw Valley’s Chimney in this email to our editor.

Lately there seems to have been some considerable controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the Chimney and just how rad it is…or perhaps isn’t.  Throughout it has had its share of defenders and enthusiasts but an ever growing number have derided this unwitting geological specimen as overrated, overexposed and *gasp* not that cool.  At the risk of giving HECKLER, the imposters also known by the same name, and the seemingly limitless supply of pointless pseudo-witticisms directed towards this issue a sense of legitimacy, I’d like to take this opportunity to wade through the skepticism, doubt,  and half truths to remind everyone what makes the Chimney just so great in the first place.  Let’s be clear here I don’t think that anyone would argue that this is the rowdiest zone in the world, we could easily rattle off a list of more technical, challenging, or downright risky lines to ski at Squaw Valley but that would be to miss the point, it is not just the terrain itself but a cocktail of factors that create the experience that is skiing the Chimney, an experience that can be rivaled by few other resorts.

Matt Palmer Photography –


1). It’s Legit

This is a tough place to start as most of the Chimney’s ardent skeptics would claim that this is in fact a myth.  A popular jab employs the time tested “anyone can straightline”  logic.  An informal survey of the bunny slope confirms that this is for the most part true.  However, given that fact, it remains to be seen why then everyone doesn’t just ski the Chimney.   Theories range from the “if you could look down it you wouldn’t think that” argument, to the coarser, generally referencing the requirement of an abnormally large anatomical portion of the male reproductive system.  None of these really seem all that scientific though, where is the hard empirical evidence?  The bottom line is that for approaching four decades it has been a featured part of the top ski films.  From Craig Beck’s Daydreams (if you haven’t seen this you need to, you will feel inadequate as a skier) to Ski Time, on to the present with the most recent Warren Miller film, few inbound zones have the pedigree as the Chimney.  Like playing in an old ballpark you get to share in the history of names like Beck, Schmidt, and McConkey.

2). It’s Right There

Location Location Locatoin! Take a lift get off, walk for 5 min, put skis on, ski line, repeat process.  There are mountains out there that you can get to some pretty wild stuff (as would Squaw if they’d allow us to get to Nat Geo) but give anyone a choice to hike a long way to get to something cool, or hike a short distance, most would choose the later.  If you want to get rad and you want to get rad right now, the Chimney is your place.

3). It’s Flat On Top

Some might see this is a bad thing.  If you’re getting radical it should be steep and exposed and in no way shape or form should you get to stop and look at things without being heckled right?  Well yeah, but then you’d just be skiing the fingers.  The Palisades form a special spot that you can build with your friends, feed off the energy of others.  Each successful run builds the collective confidence, each ragdoll plants the seeds of doubt.  On the edge of a cornice conversations are had, notes are shared, plans are amended, lines are sent.  If you are convinced that anyone can ski the Chimney, and you haven’t already, then I highly recommend that you do as soon as possible, but of course not this year, because we are closed.

4). It’s Flat On The Bottom

Let’s be honest here this is Squaw Valley, if you’re going to ski something cool someone better see it.  I don’t know of any other place that provides a viewing gallery quite like the Newport area.  And view they will.  Kids, lesson groups, and rad dogs alike will all congregate to take in the show.  The Alpine contingent might grumble something here about egotistical Squaw skiers, soul skiing and such.   Skiing is supposed to be about fun and it is hard to believe that you can honestly tell me that doing something cool in front of a bunch of amped up people is less fun than doing it by yourself in the woods.  In the depths of the summer my mind will always bring me back to the satisfaction of pulling into the top of Newport after a successful run.  The energy becomes palatable.  High fives are passed around, limits are pushed further, memories are made.

Matt Palmer Photography –


5). It’s Fun!

I should have made this number one because nothing else matters beyond it.  Who cares what the people on the internet say.  Who cares if it is steep or flat, exposed or wide open.  Who cares if it is overrated or if it’s the same line Miles skied already on the internet.   It is fun to ski, high snow or low tide, with lots of air, or just a little.  If you’ve skied the Chimney before and you genuinely didn’t have a good time, I’m sorry, but I fear that you are jaded beyond repair, and if you’ve only seen it, I recommend you put it on your list, there will be plenty of people to cheer you on…even if you crash.


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