The death of skiing, murdered by big resorts

Along with many of you, I love skiing. I love to wake up early, pile myself and ski gear into the car and race to the mountain, throwing my boots on in the parking lot, tossing my skis over my shoulder and jumping on the chair lift. Once at the top, taking in the beautiful vistas is almost as sweet as what comes next, the first run. There’s nothing better than carving through powder and laying down fresh tracks until going for your second run and slicing through them once again. Unfortunately, this type of ski experience has become almost extinct. After jumping in the car, you may get stuck in traffic for an hour to park in lot 56, and then wait 10 minutes for a shuttle to bring you near the base lodge. After weaving tirelessly through hundreds of shoppers lingering among countless overpriced apparel shops, you get into the lodge and hunker down in line for 20 more minutes to pay $80 for that glorifying ticket with a bar code.  That barcode, when finally in line for the chairlift, will erroneously be rejected by the $100 scanning gun operated by a scraggly-bearded teenager who sends you back to the ticket line to start all over again. This has, unfortunately, become the typical experience at large ski resorts in southern Vermont. Victims of geography, ski mountains in southern Vermont get inundated by wealthy upper-class urbanites from Boston and New York City looking for that authentic Vermont getaway. Owners of mountains like Stratton, Okemo and Mount Snow have expertly tapped into this market by going from small-scale ski mountains to large-scale resorts. In order to accommodate their new market, they have made the ski experience as luxurious as possible. Pay an initial fee of $80,000 and, at Stratton Mountain Resort, you become a member of a private lodge with ski-on ski-off access, two restaurants, three bars, private lockers, a private spa/massage center and butlers that help you onto and off of your skis. With the exception of Stowe, mountains in northern Vermont have been able to remain small-scale resorts that allow for more emphasis on the sport of skiing and not massages. Although I fear that soon the others will also turn into upscale resorts, for now the geographic divide between the north and the south is keeping our hills free of snotty tourists. Don’t get me wrong; there are some valuable benefits to large resorts, such as the provision of many new jobs for local people. However, there also exists an extreme animosity between the local Vermonter and the visiting urbanite. In addition to the local-tourist tension, the environment takes a toll. One ski mountain hotel that provides local people jobs also levels thousands of trees and bulldozes the land, not to mention the materials used in construction. We must demand the survival of small resort, big mountains in northern Vermont not only for the pure and unadulterated skiing experience, but also for the environmental and cultural problems that are brought about by large resorts. The next time you go to Jay Peak or Smuggler’s Notch and get to the frigid summit wishing there was a big fancy lodge with boot warmers and ski valet, just be happy you’re not still waiting to get there.