Marolt: Where in the world are the Chinese going to learn how to ski?
September 23, 2013
The Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming!
I don't know. That's what the experts are saying, anyway. I understand that there are billions of them and that they've supposedly got this economy that's ready to explode and take over the world, if global warming doesn't get it first, and they're going to have all kinds of disposable income that they'll be dying to throw away on things like skiing and sipping hot toddies at The Little Nell, but I doubt it. Not all of it — just the part about skiing.
I remember when countries in the Middle East came into big money back in the '70s and people were saying the same kinds of things about them. In all the time since they told us to get ready for the onslaught of OPEC oil money coming here, I can't say that I've noticed a lot of it. I know they bought a couple of big houses, but it doesn't exactly feel like they've taken over the town, much less the slopes.
I mean, a guy like Prince Bandar has so much money that even just one of him caused a moderate money-tsunami that washed through town, but I wonder how many lift tickets he bought in the couple of decades he had a presence here. How many pairs of ski boots did he buy? Did he rent any bikes? I never saw him or his entourage having lunch at Bonnie's. His presence in our town was like one gigantic confirmed rumor.
Remember the pictures of the first indoor ski area they built in Dubai? It wasn't a dumb idea; they just built it in a dumb place. If they had put that thing up in downtown Los Angeles instead, I think they had a chance to start a fad that could have caught on in cities all over the United States. If halfpipe skiing and big-air trick jumps remain popular, which is a big "if," it's not impossible to picture an indoor snow terrain park rising somewhere in a large metropolitan area.
I don't think skiing is an activity that easily crosses cultural boundaries. They love it in Europe, and we think it's pretty cool in North America, but I'm not sure a lot of the rest of the world gives it half of a second's thought. Did you know that more people in Canada curl than ski?
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We love skiing so much here in central Colorado that it even has adopted the status of "lifestyle." I think that makes us see it so differently that we lose a great deal of the perspective of the rest of humanity. I'm sure lots of people in England simply can't believe that Americans aren't absolutely head over heels about the game of cricket. I'm sure there are Australians who are shocked how little we know about rugby. There must be people, I don't know where, who are aghast that we in Aspen relegate polo to a sideshow played on a miniature hard-packed snow field during Winterskol week that attracts less attention than the half-dozen entries in the snow-sculpture contest or the canine fashion show. That's just the way it is — we don't care, and nobody is going to change our minds about it. We don't eat dog meat (that we know about), and the Chinese don't ski.
The foreign visitors who come here are, for the most part, experienced skiers from countries with established skiing traditions such as Australia, New Zealand and most of the European nations. I don't think we are gong to attract beginners from China until the Year of the Bowl.
Besides, China has more mountains than we do. Did you know that some of the enterprising people who are causing the economic revolution there are constructing all kinds of great ski areas in their own backyard? And all it has done is proved there are not many interested skiers in China? The shiny new resorts are a bust!
But think about what skiing in China will be like if it ends up anything like the rest of what the Chinese produce. It would be the absolute best of what we in the Western world can design, produced at sweatshop costs and sold back to us at everyday low prices. It would be new. It would be exciting. It would be an adventure to go there and ski in the heart of China's gargantuan mountain ranges at artificially favorable exchange rates.
Huh. When you come to think of it, we might all end up over there on our ski vacations.
Roger Marolt's fortune cookie didn't indicate that beginner Chinese skiers are the future of skiing in Aspen and Snowmass. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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