Marolt: Time to bring back the mogul-makers
December 8, 2015
There's a lot of complaining about fast skiing these days. It's not about racing. It's about plain old recreational skiing. Judging by recent letters to the editor and post office talk, people, mostly young, are into what is called "straightlining." In the old days we called it "making figure elevens."
It's no secret why people are doing it. It's fun! At some point in your skiing life, you are going to wonder how fast you can go before rupturing your adrenal gland. If you live, there's a good chance you are going to get addicted to the kind of speed you buy from Skico instead of a drug dealer. Good for us; it's slightly healthier.
The rush is why we do this silly sport. Getting out to get a tan will give you cancer and wrinkles. If your goal is fresh air, it's simpler and cheaper to walk around town, as long as you stay out of the boutiques, which used to be called "shops" when they contained products we could afford. Exercise? There are many, many more effective ways to build muscle and lose weight than alpine skiing. So, the only real reason to hit the slopes is for the thrill of it.
There are other ways to generate a thrill on the slopes besides speed, and we'll get to that, but going fast is the simplest and easiest way to do it. Modern gear, designed to keep the aging skiing population engaged in the sport without straining anything except the ICW (interior crease of the wallet), has done for our sport what the automatic pilot has done for flying 747s and the Google car is trying to do for road-tripping — it leaves nothing to chance, skill or judgment. Going fast is so easy and comfortable that you almost can't do it.
Slap this technologically advanced gear on snow that is groomed like a middle-aged man's thinning hair every single day, and going like a streak downhill is the equivalent of sipping coffee with your strudel at Gretl's in the old days of skiing.
So, the question is not why people go fast on skis. The question is what to do about it. The most popularly suggested solution is to outfit the ski patrol in uniforms patched up with fluorescent orange bands and stripes to where they look more like baggage handlers at DIA than ski professionals and then stationing them in front of matching orange fencing stretched across the runs to act as control gates at points on the mountain where people tend to go really fast.
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The problem is that everywhere on the mountain is where people tend to go really fast. To adopt this strategy of speed control would be to hire six ski patrollers for every skier and to set up hundreds of miles of orange fencing all up and down the mountain so that it would look like it was on fire from a distance and then having to take it down every night again so that the grooming, or slope polishing, could take place.
Alternatively, and much more efficient personnelwise, would be to have just one ski patroller shadow every person who buys a ticket all day long to make sure they behave themselves in a respectable retirement-home manner. But think of the lift lines!
Lastly, we could install radar-gun scanners on every other tree that can register high rates of speed by passing skiers and automatically void their lift tickets so that when the unwitting schusser gets to the bottom they can't get back on the lift.
Of course, if we start to discourage fast skiing, we know what will happen: Our skiers will start going to places like Vail, where skiers can pretty much do whatever they want on the mountain once they pay a hundred bucks for a lift ticket.
Or we could remind skiers that there are other ways to get an adrenaline rush from skiing at much slower speeds. Few may remember, but in the golden age of skiing there were things called "moguls" on the slopes, which were simple mounds of snow, rarely larger than a Volkswagen Beetle, that presented quite a challenge for skiers. It took years to become adept at maneuvering gracefully through a slope filled with them. Those who could were widely admired for their skill, daring and athleticism. They scared nobody, and no one cursed them.
We are fortunate to have an abundance of ski terrain here so that we could actually experiment with brining the moguls back on one designated mountain for a season just to see how the skiing public responds. The problem is that I don't think anybody remembers how to make moguls.
Roger Marolt fondly remembers the 20-something-year-old machines that used to make moguls on Aspen Mountain in the early 1980s. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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