The overused youth card

Tony Vagneur

Coming off the bottom of Red’s and headed toward Lift 3, I looked up the hill and spied a guy ripping along Tortilla Flats at a high rate of speed, but saw that I would beat him across our intersection without any problem. I scanned back to the front to check the terrain, then sideways up the hill for one last look.Still clear for me to cross, but just as I did, the kid (still 30 yards away) finally saw me (was looking at his tips, I guess) and did a frightened hip-check, just out of reflex, I suppose. He apparently thought his failure to see me sooner was my fault, and he immediately made his displeasure known. I stopped and let his inexperience rail for a while, but finally pointed out that he was so inwardly focused, had he been a coyote marking his territory and I had been a cranky grizzly, I’d have had his sorry butt before he got his leg lifted. There was a brief glimmer of comprehension and as he slithered away in a dying blather of obscenities, he could be seen to use all four edges.If you believe everything you read in the papers lately, spectator sports like the X-Games are the wave of the future and we’ve got to accept them as “loss leaders” if we’re to stay competitive in the “youth market” of skiing. Baby boomers, those born between 1946-1964, are considered the “already captured” crowd, and are being schooled to move over and make room for the young ones.Are you kiddin’ me?The X-Games are good, but once again, they are spectator sports and spectators don’t buy many lift tickets. Not too many ski boots or skis, either. If it’s future skiers and boarders we’re going after, we might as well throw pennies in the nearest wishing well. However, if we’re looking for crowds, tobacco-stained snow and partygoers, we may have arrived at our calling. But let us be careful, or come February 2010, the hoi polloi will ditch us and we’ll be much like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district in the 1970s, hungover from too much infamy and facing the hard road back to recovery. I rode up the lift the other day with a twenty-something boarder who said he’d traveled from Los Angeles to witness the X Games at Buttermilk. Asked how he liked riding, he said he didn’t particularly, just rented one to try it out and thought he might stay home next year and watch the television. As he rumbled down the off-ramp, he did an awkward 360 with only one foot locked in, fell hard on his back, and gave me a sheepish, painful smile. For some reason, I offered him a hand up. My two cents says the ski company would be money ahead making a concentrated effort to get middle-aged people (including Generation X) on the hill. This group far outnumbers the kids, has a more expansive attitude toward life, certainly has more money, and appears to have more surely learned to think for themselves. Look around sometime and you’ll discover you’re involved in a dangerous sport that is not youth-reliant. Even if you’re over 50, you might, at any given moment, still be the youngest person in the lift line. The kids will come to it in time, but we first have to teach them how to participate rather than watch. Remember the long lines going into Tulagi’s in Boulder, or any music venue in the college days? Every kid in the country wanted in to see his favorite band, but how many of those kids who waited for hours ever picked up a guitar and learned a few chords, let alone joined a band and actually played? I rest my case. Tony Vagneur thinks we’re using the youth card instead of cultivating it. Read him here on Saturdays and send mail to


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