Praying for Snow (and choosing the correct drink for Ski-God consumption.)

Skiers are a superstitious bunch, and the Pray for Snow ritual is our most cherished ceremony. As a group, we skiers share many similarities to ancient, tribal people living in a time when entire civilizations were dependent upon rain. Drum circles, rain dances and virgin sacrifices atop volcano craters were performed in the hopes that such dramatic shows of piety would wring drops of water from the clouds and ensure a successful growing season. We skiers also have our yearly rituals, only we want that falling water to be frozen. Our entire culture of mountain life is dependent on something that also comes from the sky and will ensure a successful ski season – snow.

Virgin sacrifices aside, we pray for snow to cover our mountains with life-affirming powder. Just as barbarians from times long past burned effigies to their gods, we too perform drink-infused dances around bonfires stoked with skinny skis. As natives may adorn themselves with feathers and war paint, we too dress up in gorilla suits or ballerina costumes for late-autumn bike rides. And just as lambs were slaughtered upon a stone altar as an offering to God, we too climb atop our own altars, the mountains, and pay homage to the snow gods by drinking our favorite choice liquor, then pouring some onto the rock and ice for our “homies” above. We carry out these sacraments, like those who came before us, in the hope that Ullr, the Norse God of Snow, will be pleased and bless us with a record snow year.


But like all superstitious ceremonies, skier rituals must be done correctly to ensure that our white salvation from heaven falls down to us in plenty. Any error or slight that may offend Ullr and his minions could mean the difference between weekly dumps of double-digit snowfall totals, and a cold winter of hard skies and dirt-patch ski runs. Unfortunately, this was a lesson learned the hard way early last season, and the entire Rocky Mountain region paid for the oversight.

You may recall December, 2009, when most ski resorts in the Wasatch were officially open for the season, but we were skiing on thin ribbons of artificial snow (or as my friend Mason famously refers to as “a G-string of white on the bare ass of the Wasatch.”) That year, the holiday season was looking grim and weather forecasts predicted dry conditions for weeks on end. The dry-spell was torture for powder hounds, akin to being blindfolded in a strip club.


None of us could understand what had gone wrong. We prayed for snow and attended Utah Avalanche Center fundraisers. We double checked to ensure that multitudes of 80’s era skis were burned to nothing but rusty edges and cinder. Yet despite our efforts, Ullr had forsaken us. It turns out the culprit, my aforementioned friend Mason, (name changed for protection) was the one at fault. He was the guilty party who cursed us with brown mountains, and he eventually admitted his crime when the mistake was far too late to fix.


Here’s how it went down. As per usual, the annual ceremony of climbing to a high point of the mountains to converse with an invisible deity occurred when Mason hiked to the Wasatch Crest above Desolation Lake. On this strategic ridge between The Canyons Ski Resort and Big Cottonwood Canyon, Mason performed his voodoo and poured an offering of booze to Ullr onto the quartzite rocks. But instead of quality hooch like Jagermeister or a fine scotch, Mason poured Ullr a sampling of “bargain priced coffee liqueur” that he bought five years ago from a discount bin in Wendover.


Ullr was not pleased.



When Mason copped to this, we were flummoxed that he could be so careless. Aside from this one instance of kneeling before Ullr with cheap liquor in hand, Mason is actually the most pious, ritualistic skier I know. He even built a shrine to his two favorite deities, Ullr and Buddah, on his bedside table. Every night before a ski day, Mason keeps Ullr happy by placing an Alta-logo shot glass full of Jagermeister before him. Mason religiously performs this rite for good luck, and to ask for plentiful snow-totals come sunrise. So it was with surprise and disappointment that he told us his story.


Now, before you direct any ill will toward my well intentioned but misguided friend, he does offer a realistic excuse for such a major discretion. He blames the State of Utah.


See, the ritual was performed on a Sunday, and of course the state-run liquor stores were closed, so it was impossible to just swing by and grab Ullr a more appropriate libation. If we were living in a more alcohol-progressive state, it would have been easy to back a pickup truck to the door of a neighborhood grocery store and fill up on higher end, ski-god approved spirits.


In fact, Mason theorizes that if Ski Utah were to “sponsor a study to quantify the snow total’s relationship to the access of Jagermeister and the inevitable ceremonial donations to Ullr that accompany the consumption of said liquor, then we could convince the DABC to remain open on Sundays and holidays.”


Of course, this opens the question of whether Ullr even likes Jagermeister to begin with. How are we to know what an ancient, mythological being wants to drink after a day of Telemark skiing in Valhalla? Ullr is a Norse god, but Jagermeister is German. Perhaps he prefers Barenjager, a honey liqueur from 15th century East Prussia. Or perhaps he’d rather relax with Aquavit, an herbal drink from his native Scandinavian country. But Ullr would be more likely swayed to bless us plastic-booted peons with his namesake, Ullr, a Nordic-style peppermint and cinnamon schnapps from a distillery in Oregon.


But I digress. Even if we can’t know for sure what liquid treasure our snow god desires, it’s probably a safe bet that a more creative offering is needed, and that 24 pack of PBR your flannel-clad buddy brought to the bonfire in some dude’s backyard isn’t going to cut it.


This year, Mason repented for his ways. He hiked to the top of Kessler Peak in the Wasatch Mountains, stood at the top of the peak, took in the 360-degree view of Big Cottonwood Canyon under a crisp, fall sky, imagined the landscape buried under layers of snow, and withdrew a flask. This time, Mason made his offering with Macallan Highland Scotch. He thinks Ullr rarely gets anything of that quality. I hope it works.


So whether your Pray for Snow ritual involves growing a full winter beard despite your wife’s protests, hiring Ute Indians to perform authentic snow dances, throwing an all night, hedonistic powder-kegger, ascending a mountain to offer ritualistic booze, or taunting the winter gods by dressing up in bikinis and cut-off jeans despite the autumn chill, be sure that you pray without even a hint of sarcasm, irony or mockery. Pray like you mean it. Pray hard. Because if you don’t, it could mean a mountain of difference between a 700-inch season with daily powder, or pathetic, ice-covered resorts wilting beneath immovable high-pressure systems.


As for Ullr, my prayer to him is simple, and goes as follows: May our winter season be blessed with cold air, deep powder, and a stable snowpack. Amen.

3 Responses to “Praying for Snow (and choosing the correct drink for Ski-God consumption.)”

  1. […] Ullr, and he will make his wrath known, as Brewddha discovered a few season ago as described here. So, I packed some whiskey in a Montana Fly Company flask (let’s hope Ullr likes to fish) and […]

  2. I myself am a devotee of Ullr (ᚢᛚᛚᚱ) and am quite familiar with genetics, cultures, and migrations of northern Europe (mainly the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and Slavic nations) for I’ve been studying those subjects for at least 3 years now. I’m not saying this to sound pretentious, I’m stating this to show my credibility for what I am about to say. But, I digress. The peoples of Germany, Austria, parts of Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, northern France, the UK, and all of Scandinavia share an uncanny ethnicity compared to the rest of Europe, of course having slight variations. This is due to Viking Raids and migrations, as well as the fact they are all relatively next to one another. Thus, because their common ethnicity (genetically and partially linguistically), they have developed similar cultures from which their native religion spawned (technically European paganism is the only religion that truly spawned in Europe). The Old High-Germans called Óðinn (Odin), the Scandinavian name, Woudan or Wōtan, in Old Saxon he was Wōdan, and in Old English he was Wōden. Overall the pantheons of the various Germanic peoples had the same basic structure, names of the Gods and their attributes being quite identical to each other. The reason the Old Norse adaption of the original Germanic pantheons is that despite Scandinavia’s goal to Christianize, many people continued pagan practices, thus preserving them as well as many books being written down on the Nordic adaption of Germanic paganism. Iceland is the largest source of Scandinavian paganism, for when Iceland decided to Christianize, they did not forbid private practices of the Northern Tradition, thus allowing it to continue its existence. Sorry for the super long comment, but my main point is that all people of Germanic ethnicity can worship the Norse adaption, for all the rituals and beliefs are identical. Thank you for reading my ramble.

  3. Evan,

    I stand corrected. I guess Ullr actually would drink Jagermeister.

Leave a Reply