Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Lift lines, sanity, the CB ski patrol and Presidents’ Weekend

Photos of last weekend’s lift lines in Vail were all over the internet and tagged mostly as “insane.” Lines that seemed to stretch for miles and had people waiting for more than two hours to get on the lift while paying north of $200 (rack rate) for a day ski pass works out to a pretty expensive ski day per run. Articles online state that three feet of snow drew the swarms to Vail, but three feet of snow on that not-so-steep terrain, especially during a day that got warmer and warmer, made for some apparently less than spectacular powder runs.

We’ve all come over the bench at East River and stopped when seeing a line snake up the hill. But the longest line ever seen back there is probably a quarter of what was pictured in Vail last week. Let’s hope that’s where it stays.

While some of the local businesses owners might profess they would love to see lines that long at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort lifts in the hope that those lines will translate into lines at their iPad credit card reader, skiing is ultimately about experience. Skiing is certainly a social experience, but standing in a two-hour line with thousands of strangers isn’t what most people classify as a wonderful social experience. The independence or solitude that many people feel when hitting a slope sure wouldn’t have been prevalent last week in Vail.

That’s part of the beauty of this not-easy-to-get-to ski resort called Crested Butte. The intermediate runs are really intermediate. But the steeps are fantastic and can handle three feet of powder. Or, we should say, the slopes and the expertise of the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol can handle that much powder. This year in particular the patrol seems to have done an outstanding job getting the steeps open. There wasn’t a ton of snow when the T-bars started turning but that’s okay—I for one just love being back there for the feel. One of the highlights from last week was the wind and storm blasting through the trees in the Glades while skiers were protected in pockets of mountain bliss.

Our Extreme Limits terrain is full of soul (and rocks, by the way). But having those runs open when the big storm finally came in meant they could be open quickly for the goods—and they were open all weekend and into this week with Monday apparently being a 90s sleeper powder day in Third Bowl. So thanks to the Crested Butte ski patrollers for opening the gate to our real skiing experience. It was great.

As for the Vail lift lines: If any experience is that poor, the chances of that person coming back to stand in line at a lift for hours isn’t really that great. Wanting more, more, more people works against the soul of skiing and ultimately against the reality of better business. Balance is imperative. It’s insane to want that cluster here.

Speaking of insane and lack of balance, it’s Presidents’ Weekend and—oh, I won’t go deep into Donald but given the holiday it is appropriate to mention him. To me, he seems off his rocker much of the time. On pure policy I disagree with his bashing of old allies and friends and his denial of climate issues. I prefer protection of public lands instead of monetizing every square inch of dirt. Heck, our ski area is on public land and monetized so it’s not the principle I disagree with, it’s the balance. He doesn’t seem to appreciate balance. But I think he’ll probably win another term unless the situation really changes.

While the economy continues to hum, he of course takes all the credit. And his deregulation agenda might be a contributor. In the big picture, however, regulations that help keep things like the air clean and water drinkable seem pretty reasonable. I like that pristine public lands stay pristine and not simply a place to put another mine. Blasting an Apache burial ground in Arizona to put up a wall shows no respect. That’s just me and that’s my take on his policies and not his personality, which is my main issue with the guy. His narcissistic obsession, his constant mendacity, his mean-spirited middle school insults are not what make America great.

But at the next level, Donald has always been Donald. It is those who applaud his character flaws who will look back on their life and perhaps wonder why they went insane during this time. Apparently out of fear of losing their job, they have helped normalize behavior most of us wouldn’t allow in a three-year old—bullying, lying, vindictiveness, simple meanness. Donald’s acolytes have normalized a politician using the public power to try to punish political opponents and anyone else he feels has not been loyal enough. They have normalized the practice of a sketchy businessman dipping into public tax dollars to increase his business while in office—whether it is overcharging for Secret Service rooms at his properties in New Jersey and Florida or rerouting military jets to refuel near his struggling Scottish golf course to get a few more bucks at his property from the military. They have normalized name-calling and malice in the public square. It feels they are gleefully out of balance.

It will be hard for someone to beat Donald when the economy is humming and the Dems can’t seem to figure out how to shoot straight. That too is insane.

But America is more than its economy. It is the idea of opportunity, character, a land of law instead of kings; leadership and inclusiveness. It is the shining city on the hill that draws courageous and smart people from all over the world. I just hope all citizens take those things into account this November and then they vote.

Anyway, it is the middle of winter in Crested Butte. It looks like winter with snow banks in town and almost everything open on the mountain. It is a good time in the season. Mid-February is when the sun feels real and the optimism of spring can be felt. The sun stays up longer, the birds begin to chirp louder and the temperatures start to rise. Presidents’ Weekend will bring some lift lines to the resort but I’ll guess our biggest lift lines will be 10 or 15 minutes. That indicates business, soul and balance here in the north valley.

Things are still sane here at 9,000 feet.

—Mark Reaman

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