Marolt: If it brings you down, it’s not your friend
December 17, 2013
I wrote a column about skiing, and a guy wrote me an email about my column about skiing. He wanted to let me know that skiing isn't a sport because gravity does all the work.
I have a rule of thumb when it comes to determining if a particular activity is a sport or not. If you wear something on your feet that you wouldn't show up to church in, it's a sport. I don't care if it's hockey skates or sunscreen — if it's not acceptable for Sunday service, you're doing a sport when you cover your dogs with them/it. Steel-toed shoes used to be a little troublesome when considering this distinction, but they now come in so many fashionable styles that the rule definitely holds.
As you might guess, I didn't spend much time worrying about whether ski racing is a sport. What troubles me is that there are people in this world who believe gravity is a skier's friend. I don't think you would even have to try skiing to know how ridiculous this idea is.
There is a very simple test to prove to anyone that gravity is nothing to trust when you are on top of a mountain in winter attached to boards designed to slip on snow. You take a doubter to the top of Bell Mountain and have them click into a pair of skis while you tie a bandana around their head, covering their eyes in the process. You tell them to lean forward just enough to break inertia. Within seconds, the terrifying screams will prove to everyone who is the boss.
“I suppose if you are a speed skier and your aim is a straight line to the bottom of the slope in the shortest amount of time possible, gravity is your friend, but who tries that more than once every season down Big Burn with an iPhone app recording your progress toward that goal?”
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When we were kids, I remember a writing assignment in which we were to describe skiing to someone who had never done it. For most of us, it turned out to be a difficult assignment. It was like explaining why oatmeal tastes better with brown sugar — "Because it's sweet" is my guess. Strangely, a smart aleck who had roots in the back of the room aced the assignment using similar economy of vocabulary and sentence structure. I will give, word for word, his entire essay: Skiing is a controlled fall.
That was it. The teacher loved it, and he loved it because he was an experienced skier.
I suppose if you are a speed skier and your aim is a straight line to the bottom of the slope in the shortest amount of time possible, gravity is your friend, but who tries that more than once every season down Big Burn with an iPhone app recording your progress toward that goal? All the other times you are on the hill making turns, you do what gravity is trying to keep you from doing. That fight is what makes your legs feel like you played Slug-Bug with a professional German cage fighter while driving all the way across his native country before lunch.
It's true that you can't ski very well without gravity, but you can't have a very good football game without another team trying to grind you into pulp, either. Gravity and the opposing team are necessary evils you need in order to play the game.
This got me to thinking about the Snowmass Village sales tax. Unlike Aspen, almost none of the tax we collect up here goes to nice things like funding health and human services or our schools. The majority of our obnoxiously high sales tax goes to marketing this place. It is not our friend. It has become counterproductive.
We need a sales tax, and we need marketing, but we have set it up so that we are on a very steep, slippery slope with dull edges. I think people who sleep and ski in the village are looking for excuses to head into Aspen to eat, drink and be merry in its retail establishments. We're giving them another one with our sales tax. It's like the price of gas. It's not that big of a squeeze on the budget if you really think about it, but people don't. They home in on it. Our double-digit sales tax makes people's eyes pop.
There is a simple test to see if people care about sales tax. Look at what happens to retail sales in places where, once a year, they declare a holiday from it. People shop blindly wild! Sales tax is a controlled fall into pricing ourselves out of business. We need to throw in a turn, for crying out loud. Our sales tax is counterproductive. The more we charge, the less people shop here, and the higher we have to raise it. I am afraid our sales tax might be pulling us straight to the bottom.
Roger Marolt sees the gravity of our double-digit sales tax. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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