“Are beginners and infrequent skiers … being priced out of the sport?”
— "The Boom and the Bust”
Powder Magazine, December 2014
Somewhere, Paul McCollister is smiling. He’s dead, of course, but nothing would satisfy the snarky, uber-capitalist founder of the Jackson Hole Ski Area more than to know that the dirtbag skiing faithful has finally come around to his way of thinking.
Paul was a visionary and original partner of perhaps the greatest American ski experience, but he was also a hard-ass and kind of a dick … as the tale goes, he coined the memorable phrase “I don’t want any of those garlic-breathed farting hippies on my tram".
Paul recognized early on that expert skiers got more for their money than a beginner, and it sort of pissed him off. As a reporter in Jackson in the 1990s, I remember at one point he posed the idea that a paying customer should be able to push the dirtbags out of the way by reserving a seat on the Thunder chair at, say, 10 am on a powder day, and the idea made people’s heads explode.
But heading into the winter of 2015? I think Paul’s idea is probably just a season or two away … everywhere.
Above all else, Paul was a pretty smart guy. He knew that money talks in skiing, and that it was only going to talk louder as time went on.
But money talks everywhere. And skiing will always be one of those havens where a turn speaks louder than a tiara.
Good skiing. Brag-worthy skiing. Skiing that you lie about. Skiing that you dream about. Skiing that's hard to get to, and when you get there it’s hard to get to the goods first. Yes, that skiing is getting more expensive. It should be. And worrying about it is like worrying that the awesome taco place that you told everybody about for the last 10 years now has a line around the corner.
Yeah, there should be a line. Cause that fish taco is fucking amazing.
Skiing is, and always will be, about fantasy. Small mountain skiers dream of the big hill. Big line skiers dream of going even bigger. And those who worry about people not skiing anymore are people who don't ski in-bounds on Saturdays. Let’s face it, the reality is that there’s never been a better time for people to stop skiing. (Take a deep breath. I know you’re with me. Just dream about it for a half-second and tell me with a straight face that it doesn’t turn you on).
Honestly, it’s impossible to imagine more options for dirtbag skiing than there are now. College passes, 20-something passes, boomer passes, uphill skiing, plastic shit-board skiing, tow-in skiing, stair skiing, urban skiing, taco skiing (I just made that up) … Skis will never be better. Skiing will never be easier. Heliskiing will never be more available. Cat skiing will never be more ubiquitous. Bootpacking will never be easier. Powder turns will never be easier to make. ‘Showgirls’ will never be made again. Things are good, dude. Chill out. Look at the bodies. Look at the lines. Look at that untracked powder line over there in the willows just past the gully. Looks awesome.
If you’re willing to actually work for it instead of just throwing money at it, there’s always a way. Because when you go skiing, you go to remember who you can be, who you used to be, and who you want to be.
Garlic, farts, and all.