Back when mags were in their heyday, I had a brilliant idea that I wish I could have seen make it to the newstands. Fake Snowboarder Magazine. Everything that I loved about snowboarding - the setting, the sense of speed and freedom, the travel, the having hot chocolate near a mountain. Just none of the faff of actually doing it.
Sometimes I feel a bit like that about skiing games. I love SSX and all that, but what I really love, I think, is that these games give you not a set of levels but an entire mountain range. In Steep - which is wonderful - I love leaving the slopes behind and pulling out to this huge wall of ice and rock, fabulously rippled and crenellated. I love mountains but I hate broken legs. What to do?
Snowtopia has spoken to me. I have been playing this game all week. It's a ski-slope tycoon game that's currently in a gorgeously slim alpha. It is also a lovely breath of crisp, chill breeze. It ruffles delightfully.
Ultimately I'm sure you'll be doing a lot of tycoon stuff in this game, but for the alpha I played there is a sort of mountain-air clarity to it. You are given a chunk of mountain with an area at the bottom that you can call your own. From here you send out ski-lifts to the top of the crags and then pair them with slopes. Once it's all connected, people start to come in and ski. Add more slopes, upgrade stuff, check on the happiness of your skiers, which generally comes down to fast churn and a range of slopes for different abilities, and you are golden. You start with zero visitors and the current alpha tops out at 150.
There is so much to love already. I love the business of scanning the mountain to look for a potential slope. Where is there room to have a good run but also ensure I can get a ski lift up there? I love the business of upgrading equipment and keeping it staffed. Once a run is in operation I zooming in close and watching the little skiers racing down. I love the word skiing, which is so odd to look at on the page.
More than anything though I find myself getting lost in the landscape. Once a run is populated, I tend to whizz off with the camera, roving the peaks and looking for hidden valleys. I'm not really looking for fresh route potential here, if I'm honest. Rather I'm just searching for the perfect piece of place to make me feel I am alone somewhere, somewhere wild and rare and pristine.
Pristine is the heart of it, I think. That smooth snow. Those simple objectives. I love Snowtopia now when there is so little going on in it. I'm sure I will love it even more when it's, you know, fully-featured. But like a mountain at dawn, there is something special about seeing it right now, in this strange quiet state.