SNOWMASS VILLAGE --Somebody around here has to stand up for skiing. Even though they didn't do it by a conscious effort or intent, I want to thank our Town Council members for doing it nonetheless. In a great move that inadvertently defended the integrity of the sport that is dear to our hearts and pocketbooks, last month they shot down the operations of 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 apres ski and wipe your nose to begin your pampered and properly sanitized mountain adventure.
Town Council denied a permit to this venture for reasons within their purview to do so. They cited traffic snarls and congestion in front of the Timberline Condominiums as grounds. Yes, those are valid concerns. But, didn't you get the feeling that there was more to it than this, and Council was only using the tools available to it for doing its job so it didn't have to say the real reason for nixing it?
This isn't about class warfare, as many familiar with local goings-on might assume. It's about wimps, pansies and pampered prissies who can afford to bring a lackadaisical laziness to a sport once viewed as invigorating and athletic. Let's be honest: An assault on the sport we love is personal.
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.
I've skied long enough to know the enjoyment of skiing even though the presence of ski concierges, nose wipers and uniformed butt kissers at the base of the slopes gives me a gut reaction that maybe I ought to get back on the bus and head home. I can work through that initial impression. But, what about would-be skiers in far-away places who hear about this kind of nonsense and just say "yuck!"?
The greatest mystery in the ski industry appears to be over why the sport is dying. Since 1979, participation in the sport has grown on average a measly 0.6 percent annually. The problem is that nobody has been 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, Deer Valley, etc., etc., 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. I don't get the feeling that these types who rely on servants to de-fog their Gucci goggles head up the mountain to experience the elements and healthy vigor of skiing to later tell adventurous tales about and spread the excitement. Isn't word of mouth still the best advertising?
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 that we rely on for our livelihoods and
peace of mind. They demand on-mountain private clubs, certified ski instructors to act like serfs, and all assortment of special privileges on the mountain. Although they represent a small segment of the market, their boorish demands make big news, especially in a place like Aspen.
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. We know jet-set snobbery is not the image we want to project for our long-term health, but the immediate financial rewards are too good to resist.
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 who demand services that cause inconvenience for the majority of our visitors - who are, by the way, affluent enough to make this place hum economically - doesn't serve us as well as spokespersons of the Roaring Fork Mountain Club suggest. It was only their pocketbook talking.
Roger Marolt hopes that when Town Council finds out he agrees with them, they don't change their minds. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.