MEN BEHAVING RADLY, THE ALPHA MALE SKIER SYNDROME

Say 'jump' to a group of men and they'll all try to jump the highest. Whether skiing, boarding, kiting, cycling or just having a pint, it's game on for alpha male position.

Who can ski faster, kite higher, cycle further? Or, like alpha male skier, Candide Thovex, ride on rather that in the cable car? Oli Walker goes that extra mile (further than any other guy, naturally) to explore why men need to out ride, out drink AND out do each other at every turn.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am probably far too competitive for my own good. I got it from my sports mad dad. Thanks to him, I’ve been blessed with a competitive nature and I reckon it’s only been a good thing. Not once has my sister ever beaten me at an arm wrestle.

But it’s also got me into trouble. I once launched the only football we had 40 yards into a lake two minutes into a match on day one of a school trip because instead of slotting it neatly into the bottom corner, I thought I’d try and take the keeper's head off. Not so popular that week (I’ve got the scars to prove it).

On the snow, it’s a similar sort of thing. I did a season with a group of testosterone-fuelled lads and it was inevitable from the start that it would get competitive: 'I can do a 360'; 'I’ve had 4 STD’s'; 'I’ve got more nipples than you'. That is the reason why I broke my foot, spent a week in bed with a leg infection (blame the beer) and ran naked up a piste at two in the afternoon. It’s why every week during my season the boys would have a pudding race. Ever tried to eat 43 profiteroles?

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I am probably far too competitive for my own good. I got it from my sports mad dad. Thanks to him, I’ve been blessed with a competitive nature and I reckon it’s only been a good thing. Not once has my sister ever beaten me at an arm wrestle.

But it’s also got me into trouble. I once launched the only football we had 40 yards into a lake two minutes into a match on day one of a school trip because instead of slotting it neatly into the bottom corner, I thought I’d try and take the keeper's head off. Not so popular that week (I’ve got the scars to prove it).

On the snow, it’s a similar sort of thing. I did a season with a group of testosterone-fuelled lads and it was inevitable from the start that it would get competitive: 'I can do a 360'; 'I’ve had 4 STD’s'; 'I’ve got more nipples than you'. That is the reason why I broke my foot, spent a week in bed with a leg infection (blame the beer) and ran naked up a piste at two in the afternoon. It’s why every week during my season the boys would have a pudding race. Ever tried to eat 43 profiteroles?

Or 16 slices of lemon slice? Or chillies dipped in Tabasco sauce? Don’t do it, it’s stupid. But it was a competition and that makes it alright.

It is a fact of life that when it comes to being men, we can turn more or less anything into a competition, because that’s how we roll.

So why do we constantly feel the need to out-do each other on the slopes? It’s like as soon as we strap in all we want to do is go faster than our mates, hit bigger kickers, stomp better tricks and generally be as much of a ‘lad’ as possible. It’s like an addiction.

Maybe it is an addiction? After all, it’s the adrenaline-fuelled chase we enjoy, not the result. Winning is just a bonus. It occurs across all of society: business, sibling rivalry, school, sports and politics. Our society has an obsession with competing. Everywhere you look, people are constantly striving to be better than others.

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Competition only gets fiercer so start 'em young

Last year, a man from Buckinghamshire was sacked from his position as manager of his son’s under 10s football team after sending an email to fellow parents claiming he was 'only interested in winning'. He reckons he was preparing them for a competitive future. I agree with the man. Competition only gets fiercer so start ‘em young. It’s what has created our economy. Growing up competition is an important part of development. It’s a necessary trait to have in order for us to attain goals, conquer fears, lead teams and earn the respect of our peers.

So why do we still feel the urge to compete in unimportant scenarios like skiing and snowboarding? And why is it more prone in men that in women?

It seems the lad mentality that thrives in establishments such as university and the local boozer also seems to thrive on snow. Take a group of young, enthusiastic and ill-minded chums, take away their parents, put them in a foreign country with some mountains and give them a box of condoms and see what happens. They’ll be so intent on outdoing each other that even Miss Piggy might get lucky. Competition is the natural medium through which men compare themselves with their peers and it seems we can’t help ourselves.

Cruising down blues I'd ride switch just to prove a point

We compete even when we’re not competing. I’ll put my hands up and admit that I was always looking to out-perform my friends nearly all the time. Cruising down blues I’d ride switch just to prove a point. My friends probably didn’t even realise but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that. in my mind, none of them were riding switch. Thus, Me: 1 Friends: 0. I’m already winning and they don’t even know they’re in a competition.

The thing is though, we’re all at it. I can almost guarantee my friends were doing the same. As soon as you see someone throw down a legit 180, it’s on. The competition has begun. Men are like apes competing for status and all of a sudden everyone is Billy Big Bollocks and not a single word has been uttered. The casual cruise has become a North London derby. Game time.

Heard of peacocking? It’s the art of doing good deeds in order to impress a lady. If the lady is incredibly hot, the good deeds will be repeated until said hot lady is wooed and thus you can put a ring on it. If we take this idea and put it on snow, it basically makes us all gay as we attempt to peacock our peers with shows of bravery and courageousness. It’s all good fun, until someone gets hurt.

 

On a professional scale, this healthy competition can escalate to the point where athletes are taking huge risks in order to be the best. Professionals obviously accept the risks, but this risk taking trickles down the levels to people who don’t necessarily have the skills or experience to understand the risks they are taking. It’s happened to me. Attempting my first 540 off a 30ft kicker and breaking my foot wasn’t my finest moment, but, of course, I was trying to impress my mates.

Riding with my season buddies was sometimes like going 12 rounds with a hungry Mike Tyson. You don’t expect to be going home in one piece. You’re always aware of what the others are doing and constantly looking for ways to beat them. Bigger drops, a tidy slash, a tree bonk. It doesn't matter what it is just so long as you're winning. Every guy wants to be top dog.

 

Lock up your bitches, the alpha male has arrived.

So is society to blame for all this competition and increased risk taking? Competition is a natural paradigm, constructed thousands of years ago when nature decided that not everyone could survive. This mentality is ingrained into our naïve little minds and has a habit of appearing in all areas of society, whether it be necessary or not.

What we are left with, then, is a construct where we are always striving to be the best and we nonchalantly discard the idea of danger in order to have a chance of being the best. We thrive on trying to out-perform friends because, in the end, competition is fun. It’s part of that ‘lad mentality’. We’re basically apes, at the mercy of testosterone.

A man likes to let the world know that they are better

Now, I’m not saying that males are competitive and women are not. Women can be as competitive as men but the point I’m trying to make is that their show of prowess is more subtle than that of men. A man likes to let the world know that they are better. If the lifts went high enough he’d shout it from the peak of Mont Blanc. Although given man's competitive ways he’d probably climb to the top naked just to prove a point.

Which was why Dan Arkle (below) was butt naked, last year, when he climbed Crib Goch, a ridge next to Wales's highest mountain and the country's second biggest peak in itself, by torchlight using an ice axe. Commenting on his radical behaviour he remarked, 'It was surprisingly mild at just below zero with no wind which is a good job as I was worried about getting frostbite and not just on my feet.'

Naked ambition. Man climbs ridge butt naked just to 'prove a point'

And that’s the essence of it. We are constantly trying to prove a point and be accepted by our contemporaries. Everything is a competition, we just can’t help ourselves. As someone once said, boys will be boys. 

Follow Oli Walker on Twitter @oliwalker16