Speak Out :: Standing Up for Skiing

[The following was originally written for the Snowmass Sun and is excerpted here with permission from the author. We resisted the urge to put in skiing/snowboarding in every instance, but you get the picture. —Ed.]

Somebody around here has to stand up for skiing. In a great move that inadvertently defended the integrity of the sport, our Town Council...shot down the boringly pretentious Roaring Fork Mountain Club that, for a not-so-small fee, will valet park your car slopeside, carry your skis to the snow and set them down facing the correct direction, buckle your boots, confirm your après ski and wipe your nose to begin your pampered and properly sanitized mountain adventure.

I’m not saying that skiing has to be completely hard core, but the love handles we have sprouted lately aren’t doing much for the image. We’ve become soft around the middle, and that’s bad for the heart.

The greatest mystery in the industry appears to be why the sport is dying. Since 1979, participation in the sport has grown a measly 0.6 percent annually. The problem is that nobody is protecting the image of skiing.

We work so hard here to nurture our branding power with the Aspen Snowmass name. But, I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that we should be selling skiing first and our destination second. If you think about it, there is no Aspen without skiing, but there is definitely skiing without Aspen...unless places like Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Deer Valley continue to up the ante on converting the sport of skiing into an activity for lazy rich people who refuse even to carry their own equipment to the slopes.

We are dumbing down and pricing up our sport to death. We are catering to a small group of people who have no interest or ability to promote the sport.

It’s no secret to ski industry executives that catering to the crowd that demands to be catered to is destructive for the long-term survival of skiing. Why do you think we go through the tremendous effort to stage the X Games here every year? It’s an attempt to clear the stuffy air.

The downward spiral caused by focusing on sweeping up the crumbs of the upper crust has to stop. Bending over backwards for the miniscule fraction of our guests causes inconvenience for the majority of our visitors.
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standing up for skiing

The popular image of Colorado skiing is that it caters to aggressive, pretentious, rich new yorkers and texans. That may be unfair but where there's smoke there is fire. I won't ski in Colorado just because I prefer not to mix with those people. I'll take down-to-earth, hard-skiing norwesters any day.