Letter: From a proud knuckle dragger | AspenTimes.com

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Letter: From a proud knuckle dragger

This piece is in response to the ill-informed and bigoted op-ed of one Roger Marolt ("Knuckle draggers and the devolution of skiing," Snowmass Sun, Feb. 8). I am ashamed to have seen this piece in The Aspen Times, as I would think that they would not publish such a wasteful piece of hate and garbage. I refute Marolt's points and have a few things to say about his opinions:

First, this piece is written by a privileged son of the valley, a valley that has a long history of shunning the sport of snowboarding and those who participate in it.

As a West Coast implant to Colorado (14 years now), I can attest to the snowboarder-as-a-second-class-citizen attitude that exists in Aspen. It is tiresome when old men on skis get on the lift and crack a joke about, "Oh, another snowboarder." So clever old man, have you never ridden a lift with a snowboarder before? This type of prejudice is unique to the ski town and extends beyond ignorant quips and attitudes. You see it constantly in the lift lines and on the slopes. In this valley, it is so bad that you also see it in professions that accept snowboarders in other parts of the world but not here (think patrol and alpine guides). And you see it in our media, such as this article. Blaming snowboarders for the problems of the ski industry is like Trump blaming Mexicans for being rapists; it just doesn't correlate but it makes for a great scapegoat and a continuation of an already embedded prejudice that exists in this valley and other ski valleys around the world (Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen are the most extreme examples).

Second, if Marolt was an expert snowboarder after his third day (which he obviously wasn't), then he might realize the sheer joy that one gets surfing fresh snow in a manor that one can never do on skis. But I have a feeling he never got that far and just assumes that because he linked some turns on a groomed slope he mastered a sport that takes as long as skiing to master in any discipline in the sport. Go ask Chris Klug or Gretchen Bleiler if they were winning gold medals on their third day of snowboarding. It takes dedication and hard work in each individual discipline to reach the top, just like anything else in this world. Belittling the process only deters the kids in this valley from even trying and potentially becoming the next Jeremy Jones or Travis Rice.

Perhaps Marolt would do better for his community by supporting all of the sports, arts and educational paths that kids can pursue in our free and open society, rather than being close-minded about certain pursuits of happiness. Because of individuals like yourself who skied here for life and raised families, there are more youth that ski in Aspen than many places. Kids like to do what their parents do, and since this valley has such a deep skiing history, it is no surprise more kids ski here than snowboard. And if you think that kids don't snowboard anymore, then perhaps you should go to the Midwest or to the West Coast, or even to Breck, Telluride or Steamboat to see healthy snowboard culture living and thriving in the youth.

Third, I do agree with you that the ski industry has become prohibitively expensive, but snowboarders are far from the root cause. As a matter of fact, snowboarding is the anti-glamour of snow sports; one that exemplifies individualism and a certain grittiness that has been lost in much of the mainstream skiing culture. The ski bum of the past that you lament loosing has turned into the snow bro that washes dishes in order to make turns on his board everyday. It is people like you, whose families have made money on the ski communities that they loved so much, who have changed the culture. You and others like you have supported selling the town and the sport to the highest bidders, not snowboarders. When has a skier ever boycotted the Olympics because they felt that it was too mainstream and a sellout of their sport? Not one that I can think of, but look to Terje Haakonson for an example of such a movement in snowboarding. The rich elite at Deer Valley don't even allow snowboarders at their resort, and I would posit that because snowboarding is a less glamorous sport, it has a much more democratic appeal. This elitism in skiing doesn't help the industry or the root cause of why the numbers remain flat for a sport that has a dim future with climate change upon us anyway.

Fourth, don't hate because we have more fun than you, Marolt. You sound like a bitter washed up old skier who needs a hug and a pow day on a snowboard.

In the end, I just want to say that I have plenty of friends who choose to ride on two planks and plenty that ride on one. We are all out to have fun, but the constant diminishing of a choice of what stick to ride is ridiculous, and this type of bigotry (let's call it what it is) should not be promoted by such a respected publication like The Aspen Times. Power to the knuckle draggers of the world.

Chris Burley
Aspen