I have had some fascinating conversations on chairlifts — spending ten minutes dangling above a mountain with a stranger is a unique opportunity to get a snapshot into someone else’s life. Therefore, I loved the premise of this piece from Gloria Liu, who spends all day riding a lift and chatting with people. She may not uncover any deep revelations (besides the nightmare of ski traffic) but she does find a common denominator in her eclectic sample: Joy at being on the mountain.

But if few leisure activities demand as much of us, few, if any, match the reward. Over and over again, people told me that despite the effort, or the cost, skiing was worth it: for the time spent outdoors with loved ones, for the opportunities to challenge themselves, for the thrills and the pleasure. We do a lot for this sport, and yet it still delivers, at a payoff ratio that defies logic or rationality. One guy told me that a single untouched powder run last season made all the other lackluster snow-free days worth it. The math of skiing makes no sense to anyone but a skier.