From Stoked to Smoked: The outdoor hierarchy of fun

Matthieu Petiard skiing
Matthieu Petiard

From shredding the slopes to skating twirls on a frozen alpine lake, outdoor recreators have devised a myriad of vocabulary to describe their adventures that must sound like gibberish to city folk. Still, while trading stories about your latest excursion, you might feel the need to embellish the tale with more detail than such mundane phrases as “rad” and “gnarly” can provide. Thanks to the creativity of fun-hogs far and wide, a stoke level ranking system isnow afoot, even being reported on by REI and the Washington Post. Here is the Swillin’ team’s interpretation of these different ways to have fun.

Type I – “YipppEEEEEE!”

This type of fun feels like the equivalent of eating warm chocolate chip cookies and milk served to you by your grandma before bedtime. It’s the no effort, pure-bliss fun that gave fun its wonderful reputation. Sledding, skiing down Buddy’s Run on a bluebird day or seeing a moose while snowshoeing all qualify. Best at Type I fun: children, puppies, Santa’s elves.

Type II – “Just a quick water (or beer) break and back to it”

This type of fun requires a degree of physical exertion and skill, but not enough to block off dopamine production. It comes with highs and lows throughout, like a steep uphill that is later rewarded with killer views of the valley. Skinning up Hahn’s Peak, cross-country skiing downhill and playing hockey all constitute Type II fun. Best at Type II fun: Twentysomethings, soccer moms, Spongebob when he’s focused on making Krabby Patties.

Type III – “I swear on my Melanzana we are never doing that again…until next season.”

Type III fun is the kind of fun that’s actually mostly suffering, really only cool to remember once you’re showered, eaten and are sitting on your couch posting your sufferfest on Instagram. It’s the type of fun you might watch YouTube videos of other people doing while sitting on that same couch having done nothing all day. Skinning up multiple mountains in a day, camping below freezing or climbing Mount Everest all make this list. Best at Type III fun: Olympians, the Loch Ness Monster, Tom Cruise in every “Mission Impossible” movie.

No matter the type of fun you’re experiencing, the most important thing to remember is that it’s all fun as long as you do two things: get outside and come back in one piece.

—Abby Van Der Graff