But now, resorts coddle skiers so much, it's like a padded-room version of the mountains, a relaxing, spa-like space in which you can observe the mountains, but not really be in them. Snowbasin, Utah, for example, has elegant bathrooms that look like they belong in Trump Tower. Beaver Creek, Colorado, has escalators that deliver you to the chair lift. California's Northstar-at-Tahoe has a new village with more wine bars than ski shops. Deer Valley, Utah, has a seafood buffet that costs $62 per person. The newest hotel at Snowmass comes with ski valet, in-room milk frothers and poolside cabanas.Ummmm . . . Yeah. The experienced skier would say "No shit. This has been going on for a long time, where have you been?" Of course things are getting more "guest centered." High speed lifts, meticulous grooming, and terrain parks all developed because resorts are focused on giving the people what they want. In fact, I actually had the seafood buffet at Deer Valley (inside tip: if you go for lunch, it's half price), and it was delicious. The real question is, are we looking at the development of the "new" ski resort? Is the old school Alta/Mad River Glen/Jay Peak model dying?
At Gore, we live through the old vs. new debate every day. I think we all realize that change is inevitable. We just hope that the good parts (new lifts, trails, glades, etc.) outweigh the bad (congestion, faux-euro village, etc.). But even if everybody's worst fears come to fruition, will Gore cease to be a great time? I think this is where the article gets off track:
"Okay. But admittedly, this is pretty plush, no?" I asked her. "I'm assuming this kind of thing helps you attract upscale clientele."
"We attract the core skier who is interested in steeps and bumps but we also have a strong destination skier market," Dowd explained. "For people who take a ski vacation and only ski one week a season this chair will be a memorable experience. Why not pamper guests and make their vacation stand out?"
Here's what I wished I'd answered: Ski vacations should stand out because people challenge themselves and learn something -- about the mountains, about themselves. That is what should make a ski trip memorable. Not some heated orange box that gives you a view of the mountains, but never really lets you experience them first hand.Does a heated seat on a lower mountain chairlift prevent you from challenging yourself? Does it prevent you from exploring the mountains? Does it somehow sour your mountain experience? While it sounds like cheesy corporate spin, the woman from the Canyons is exactly right. For some people, a ski vacation isn't great unless they're pushing the limits of what's possible on skis: dropping cliffs, ripping trees, and launching insane tricks in the park. For other people, a ski vacation is great because of the buffet, the wine bar, and the poolside cabana. And really, there's no reason that the two can't coexist. The day before I enjoyed the Deer Valley buffet, Ace and I enjoyed untouched tree shots and prime slackcountry in the Daly Chutes, completely alone on a mountain populated by people who prefer to stick to the groomers. And I'm sure that the many of those people didn't even care that a 10 minute hike could yield steep, powdery chutes. They were too busy thinking about the buffet.
What has happened to our sport?
But whether you're talking about the shrimp scampi or the tree-choked pillow lines, the only thing that makes a ski vacation "stand out" is the smile on the face of the individual skier. And nobody should have to tell you the "right" way to get that smile.