Thursday, October 28, 2010


I’m political (I pay attention to stuff) and partisan (I prefer one side over the other), but I’m not presumptuous enough to think that my way is the only way.  I only bring this up because, this being election time, even ski sites are filled with political opinion, flamethrowing, and bickering.  I debated posting this because I really don’t want this blog to be political at all, but I figured: what the hell? 

I used to try to convince people that my way was better, but I’m increasingly finding that I don’t really care.  I vote, but living in New York, my vote doesn’t really count for much.  I’ll talk about politics, but I don’t really try to change anybody’s mind, and I never talk about it when I’m drinking.  I’ve skied with ardent Tea Party supporters and Green Party members, and I’ve had just as good of a time with both.  Skiing is nice that way.  I never ask people on the lift what they believe and they never really ask me.  It’s not because I’m not interested, it’s more that there is a lot of other stuff to talk about.  I’d much rather have a conversation about what trails are good than what aspects of the health care bill are good.

Which is why this article in the Washington Post the other day was so bullshit.  Here’s a sample:

Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows -- "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven't any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they've never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.

Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.

This column has been thoroughly debunked elsewhere, so I’m not going to really get into the entire thing, but I do want to talk about the skiing and mountain biking portion. 

While skiing has had a pretty well established history of being “elite”, to use the author’s word, I don’t know that it’s entirely justified.  Sure, a lot of people who ski are from higher income brackets, but a lot of them aren’t.  According to the Tacoma News Tribune, 46% of skiers have a household income of $100,000 or more.  But a majority of people that you see at the mountain make considerably less (including me).  And a lot of people who would like to ski are prohibited from doing so by excessively high costs.  Mountain biking is in a similar position.  The initial cost to mountain biking is pretty high, and if you live in a city, you need to have a way to get to the trailhead.

I think the real problem here is perception.  The author assumes that Skiing and Mountain Biking are things that only the elite do because it fits into his premeditated story line.  He assumes that NASCAR and Mixed Martial Arts are things that the elite do not participate in (because those two things are the bastions of “real America”).  But going to a NASCAR event or an MMA bout (scroll to the bottom for the really big numbers) would be just as expensive as a day of skiing or a new mountain bike.

What’s really going on here is that people like to do different things with their lives.  While one person might prefer watching cars go around in circles, another person might like spinning his legs in circles.  While one person might enjoy watching one guy beat the shit out of another guy, another person would enjoy hucking himself off a cliff.  Labeling someone an “elitist”, just because of his chosen form of recreation, is a ridiculous injection of nonsense into the cultural conversation.  And I’m starting to wonder if that is the point.  Perhaps this author is just intent on separating people into “us” and “them”.  To me, though, it seems worse than that.  Maybe it’s just because I’m a skier that sometimes struggles to pay his bills, but it seems like he’s trying to attach a stigma to skiing that has apparently already been attached to salad, science, and school.

But, like I said, this isn’t a political blog, and I don’t really care anymore.  If you want to tell the world that skiing is too frou-frou and hoity-toity for the masses, be my guest.  It just means that there will be more powder for me and my “elitist” friends.   

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Here’s something I’ve always wondered:  Why do things lose their luster?  I’m not just talking about precious metals (I guess there’s a pretty scientific explanation for that).  I’m talking about people, things, and activities. 

Have you ever met someone that you like every once in a while?  Or you’ve said “I can hang out with him for a weekend or so, but any longer and I get kind of sick of him.”  But if you go a couple of months without seeing the guy, you wonder what he’s up to, and you want to connect with him again (but not for too long . . .).

Or you buy a new toy that is supposed to be awesome, you use it for a couple of months, and then it starts collecting dust.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone’s Nintendo Wii pushed to a dark corner of an entertainment cabinet, not even plugged in.  I don’t remember the last time I used mine.

And even activities are like that.  I want to go skiing so much right now, I’m actually thinking about driving the 4.5 hours to Sunday River to fight 200 other people on a run covered in snowguns blasting my face off.  I’m not going to do it, but the fact that I’m even considering it is ridiculous.  But by the spring, I can’t be bothered to ski on a day that isn’t springerific (a word I just made up to describe a perfect spring day – which may encompass anything from soft corn to 3 feet of cold powder).  If it’s icy, rainy, or cold, I find something else to do.

I recognize the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility (which basically says that you get less and less benefit from each additional plate of food you get at a buffet), but I don’t understand why some things seem immune to the rule.  I mean, my Wii doesn’t get used anymore, but my mountain bike definitely does (finally back from the shop – nice).  And my previous skiing trip doesn’t make me want to ski less; it makes me want to ski more.  With that in mind, I’ve developed the Skiing To Orbiting Knobby Equations, or S.T.O.K.E. for short.  Taking a variety of factors into account, I constructed the following Formulas:

Skiing Stoke = log10(0.7s + 0.17A1.5 + 0.1E2 + ln[0.4db] - 0.1t)

MTB Stoke = log10(0.17A1.5 + 0.1E2 + ln[0.4db])

Where s is the amount of snow on the ground, A is anticipation, E is probability of an epic day, db is the likelihood of a beautiful day (when you go out skiing or riding), and t is the probability that I might have to teach when I go to the mountain. Each of these variables is a value from one to ten depending on the month.  For example, October has a 10 anticipation factor for skiing, but only 1 for mountain biking.  February has an 8 for amount of snow on the ground, but only a 4 for beautiful days.  For skiing, March gets a 6.5 for epic days because I figure there’s a 65% chance of an epic day when I go skiing in March (counting days that I miss work to ski a Powder day). 

Using these data, it is possible to graph my Stoke for skiing and MTB over the course of the year:

As you can see, there is a noticeable dip in the Ski Stoke from December through February.  This drop in stoke is almost completely attributable to the likelihood that during those months, whenever I’m at the mountain, I’ll probably be teaching lessons instead of freeskiing.  Also of note is that in March and April, while my skiing stoke is at its peak, my mountain bike stoke is pretty high.  This is probably due to the fact that it’s possible that I’ll get a day or two of riding in during those months.  As high as my anticipation for the ski season is in August and September, I’m (most likely) not going to be getting any ski days in.  Therefore, my stoke for skiing doesn’t rise as quickly as my stoke for MTB.

Additionally, this graph proves one more thing about my skiing and mountain bike riding:  with the increasingly short days, I have way too much free time on my hands.  Maybe I’ll go play some Wii. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I’m all for supporting local ski resorts. I grew up skiing at Maple Ski Ridge in Schenectady. I ski at West Mountain a lot. I’ve been known to make appearances at Willard, Royal, Hickory, Titus, and Big Tupper. If I’m in the neighborhood, I’ve got the skis in the car, and I’ve got a few hours to kill, I’ll ski just about anywhere.

But I draw the line at taking vacations to “resorts” with 750 vertical feet. I only mention this because one “lucky” woman has won a “ski and snowboarding adventure in New York at Holiday Valley Resort” on Wheel of Fortune. Don’t get me wrong. I like a vacation as much as the next guy, and I’ve skied Holiday Valley before. The town of Ellicottville is pretty cool (get the Pale Ale and the Shephard’s Pie at Ellicottville Brewing Company). But when I think of ski areas that I’d like to visit, Holiday Valley ranks somewhere around 387 (between Mt. Brighton in Michigan and Sundown in Connecticut). Seriously, if you’re going to give away a New York ski vacation, why not let them go to Lake Placid? Or at least the Catskills?

But that’s not the worst part. The total value of the trip (staying at the new slope-side Tamarack Club) is an eye-popping $5,736. Wow. For that price, you could fly to Salt Lake City (which, now that I look at it, is only $300 round trip, Hmmm . . .), then spend 40 days at the slopeside Alta Peruvian with all your meals covered. You could fly to Calgary and get 4 days of cat skiing, lodging and meals at the Island Lake Lodge in British Columbia for $4,000. Hell, you could pay for an apartment in Jackson, WY for an entire season for $5,800. I guess if you’re on the game show, you shouldn’t look the gift horse in the mouth.  And maybe the trip was for 4 people or something.  I still think I’d have to ask Pat Sajak what the hell was going on.

Although, one thing that Holiday Valley does have going for it is the rule that Crock Pots are not only legal, but considered a “family tradition”.  I haven’t partaken in this kind of activity (I’m usually the lazy bastard who brings chips and salsa to a pot luck), but I think I might start. There’s nothing better on a cold winter day than a hot meal cooked over a few hours in a crock pot. I’m sure the organizers of the Crocktoberfest Crock Pot competition would agree. In fact, one of the judges is a skier:
Mr. Rosenberg, who lives in Boulder, Colo., said he's currently waiting on the $1,200 skis he custom-ordered from Folsom to advertise his obsession with pork products. "You can get dancing girls. You can get ones that say 'I am cool,'" Mr. Rosenberg said. "But very soon there will be two pieces of bacon skiing down Vail Mountain."
I guess there are all sorts of ways to spend your money . . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

Film Contest Idea

“One good thing about music: When it hits, you feel no pain.” I was really just looking for something mellow for the video in my previous post, but I’m glad I chose Bob Marley.

If feeling no pain is the good thing about music hitting, feeling good pain is the one thing that hits when skiing happens. Regardless of how many miles you pedal, trails you climb, or kilometers you run, you’re always a little bit sore after your first day on snow. And I gotta say, I’m cool with it.

I’ve been on a high the last couple of days, and the only reason is that I skied on Saturday. I’ve got a skip in my step, I’m feeling a lot calmer, and I’m pretty content with everything going on around me. It’s pretty amazing how a short, 30 minute run down a relatively flat pitch is able to completely change my mood, but I guess that just shows how much I love to ski.

In the spirit of my new, laid back, calm mood, I present to you the acoustic version of the skiing internet hit My Friend’s a Pro:

The original version was created for a video contest in which contenders have to set up, shoot, and edit an original ski film over the course of 3 or 4 days. I think this kind of contest would be incredibly fun to do. I edited my video from Saturday in about 2 hours while writing a trip report and doing various other things. I didn’t have access to a computer on Saturday night, I didn’t get home until 4:30 on Sunday, and I still got it done by around 8:00, uploaded by 9:00. Today’s computer technology is amazing.

I think it’d be great if there was a short film contest at Gore that started on the first chair Friday morning and ended at around 5:00 on Sunday. The Ski Bowl could be opened both nights for twilight shots. People would have basically 3 days to film and edit a short (sub 5 minute) movie using the mountain as a set. If it catches on, there could be a different theme every year (something vague like “Adventure”, or “Freedom”). On Sunday, everyone could sit around, beers in hand, and watch the finished products. Then, the judging would have different categories (Funniest Film, Best Skiing, Best Trick, Best Cinematography, etc.), and prizes would be handed out. The mountain could even strike a deal to use some of the footage in its commercials if it wanted.

This kind of thing has been done before, so it’s not the most original of ideas, but I really think that it would work well at Gore. There’s a pretty good sized group of people filming themselves these days, and that number is getting larger every year. Why not tap into a growing part of the skiing community and get some free publicity at the same time? I’ve had ideas for contests before, but I really think that this one’s a win-win.  Given three days, I bet that I could make a freakin' masterpiece.  I want to try.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Skiing and Nudity

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The period between now and the first turns of the season is the hardest time of the year to be a skier. It starts to get too cold to do things outside, but not cold enough to get enough snow in the mountains. It’s dark outside when you get up, and (after November 7th), dark when you drive home. There are only so many ski movies you can watch, magazines you can read, and gear sites you can browse before your brain devolves into a gray sludge that won’t become normal again until you feel cold wind in your face and fresh snow beneath your feet. Adding frustration to the general malaise, my mountain bike has been in the shop for the past three weeks. What part on a mountain bike could possibly take three weeks to fix, you ask? Exactly my point. So I’ve been resigned to riding my road bike, scanning internet sites, and dreaming about winter.

One site that caught my attention was Like the Famous Internet Skiers, these guys are addicted to snow, and their site is a collection of trip reports, information, and video that is virtually guaranteed to pump you up. In addition to the weather reports, resort news and gear reviews, the site boasts its own freeride team. Sick!

Because the site is “Unofficial”, they don’t always hem closely to the resort’s party line (although they do like to party, and they definitely rip rowdy lines). You may have heard of their recent incident involving the game of G.N.A.R.. If not, here’s some detail:

McConkey and Gaffney created G.N.A.R. — short for “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness” — as a point-based system for determining who was the “raddest” skier at Squaw within a given time frame, be it a week or an entire season. G.N.A.R. points are awarded based on the discomfort a situation presents and your attitude towards conquering it. Following that formula, stomping a big cliff air might get you 500 points — but skiing that same line naked after shouting at the top of your lungs that you were “about to rip the s--t out of it!” would earn you over double the points. G.N.A.R. points are also won or lost for random acts as defined in the rulebook: Losing your goggles in a crash costs you 1,000 points, while skiing into the High Camp hot tub fully clothed earns you 10,000…

The Unofficial Game of G.N.A.R. commenced on Tuesday March 9, at about 4:30 a.m., or at least that’s when the first contestant arrived at the KT-22 lift line to claim his 5,000 points for first chair. What transpired once the lifts spun is unlike anything the Valley had seen in many, many years.

Not only did every skiable line get ripped, but the zany competition pushed the athletes to up the ante and toss tricks or look for other means of scoring extra-credit points. One skier tossed an inverted Lincoln Loop off the Fingers to earn a 1,000-point trick bonus. Dozens of skiers dropped technical “BN” lines — BN being short for Butt Naked — and earned even more.

The freak freeskiing fun showed no signs of stopping until about 2:30 p.m. when a BN run went sour. Squaw Valley General Manager Mike Livak personally caught one of the contestants skiing naked after a Palisades lap. Livak was not amused. He pulled the skier's pass (5,000 point penalty) and asked to speak with Unofficial. Despite attempts, Unofficial was unable to contact Squaw management that Tuesday evening.
The G.N.A.R. negotiations began unexpectedly the next morning when Squaw Mountain Manager Jimmy King met up with the crew as they waited in line for KT-22 to open. He immediately told them the game was over until further notice, pulled their passes, and asked to hold a meeting with everyone involved that morning.

I think the real story here (besides the fact that Rob Gaffney and his brother Scott grew up skiing at Big Tupper), is the increased corporatization of Ski Areas and the resulting blandness of the skiing experience. The naked ski days at Crested Butte are gone and panty trees all over the country are sporting old, faded bras that haven’t been in style since the 80’s. And speaking of the 80’s, where are all the hijinks that seemed to occur so regularly in my cheesy movie collection? I haven’t seen a crazy prank or on-slope ski-off in years (it’s possible that the dearth of over-the-top antics means that there’s a shortage of smarmy Austrian antagonists, which may be related to the recession). Resorts are being groomed, corporatized, and childproofed to death. And now, it looks like you have to travel to Europe to see a decent bikini race.

Really, I just want to see ski areas retain their individual identities. Not every area has to be Stratton. The Starbucks/Helly Hanson/Faux European Clock Tower-filled base village doesn’t have to be at the bottom of every mountain. Some resorts should be developed with the family market in mind, but others should retain the wild atmosphere that dominated the earlier days of skiing, the 70’s freestyle era, and the early 90’s “extreme” movement. So, a few guys and girls are skiing naked for a G.N.A.R. competition . . . Big Deal. And a few people want to get naked at the end of a long ski year . . . Who cares? At the heart of it, I guess I just want to see more nudity. Perhaps my brain has already turned into gray sludge.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Adventures vs. Sessions

A lot of my trips are sessions.  Every ride at SMBA, every trip to Gore, every hike up Cascade is something I've done before, and I'm doing again.  Sure, I might do some interesting new stuff when I get to the mountain (ski a new line, try a new trail, etc.), but the general routine is the same - get up at the familiar time, make the familiar drive, get on the familiar lift.  I call them sessions because it's kind of like when someone in the terrain park is sessioning a kicker (or a rail, or whatever).  Basically, he's doing the same thing over and over again, practicing, dialing in new stuff, and getting better.  Certain attempts are extremely sick (or even epic), but it doesn't change the fact that he's just going up and down a familiar feature.

Because most of my trips are sessions, my trip reports will all be pretty similar.  I generally like to hit the same trails, with a similar group of people, and do similar things afterwords (i.e. drinking heavily).  That's not to say it's not absolutely fun (because it is), but it doesn't lend itself well to the blog format.  There's only so many times I can post a video of skiing on Rumor (or mountain biking Bee at SMBA, etc.) without it getting boring.

With that in mind, I resolve to have more adventures this year. Times when I don't get up and drive to the same mountain.  Times when I might camp overnight, or see a line from a backwoods road and attempt to ski it, or do a new activity that I don't normally do (snowshoeing? ice climbing?).  Besides, adventures are more fun to read about - even when they happen on your home mountain.

And speaking of adventures, the new Powder Magazine apparently has some photos from an adventure that was ummm . . . less than fully legal:

Inside the magazine, you'll find a two-page photo (by a photographer who's used a penname and an unnamed skier) and a story written by Peter Kray on skiing in Bryce Canyon National Park, a feat that's rare for two reasons: One, it rarely snows enough in southern Utah for the skiing to be any good and two, it's actually against the law to downhill ski or snowboard off the rim in Bryce Canyon National Park

Ha.  I find it a little silly that this particular national park does not allow skiing (the official reason is "Our cliffs are very steep here"), so I can kind of see the appeal of an adventure that skirts the law, especially with photos like the one on the cover:

The best part of the article seems to be the bit about some skiers who got nabbed:

Kray's story talks about how a photographer and some skiers got approached by a ranger in Bryce Canyon. "They did get caught, but they didn't get a ticket," Powder editor Derek Taylor told ESPN. "They apparently told the ranger that they didn't see any signage indicating they couldn't ski there."

Excellent.  The old "I didn't see any sign" defense (sorry officer, I didn't see any sign that said I couldn't BASE jump off the Statue of Liberty, so I just assumed it'd be okay).  This, of course, is second only to Dave Chappelle's "I didn't know I couldn't do that" Defense.  But regardless of how you get out of the mess you've gotten yourself into, at least you'll have a good story to tell.

And really, isn't that the whole point of an adventure?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I’m a big fan of sports.  When I was a kid, I played basketball, football, baseball, and lacrosse – in leagues and in the neighborhood.  I love competition, I love athletics, and I love the camaraderie of team sports.  Everyone wins together, or everyone loses together.  As I get older, though, it seems like team sports are fading away.  I don’t know why, but I can never seem to find 17 other guys to go play baseball with me.  So people my age seem to pick up individual sports: Triathlon, Golf, Skiing.  By making this switch, we’re mostly picking up sports that are more convenient for us.  But there’s a subtle change in the nature of the “competition”.

When I was playing football in the neighborhood, the competition was between our team and their team.  More specifically, it was between me (the receiver) and that guy covering me.  I would win and he would lose (touchdown), or I would lose and he would win (interception), or something else would happen on the field.  It was pretty much a zero sum game, though.  Everything that was good for my team was bad for his team.  But the in the sports we are choosing these days, it’s completely different.  It’s us versus the course, us versus the mountain, us versus ourselves. We’re all on the same field and we’re all playing it our own way.

I kind of like it like that.  Without the immediate pressure of competition from the outside, I’m forced to try to get better at the sports I do all by myself.  I go to the putting green and practice my chipping before I play golf.  I try to beat my personal best time on my road bike route.  I’m taking steps to personally better myself without having to feel the competition from outside sources.  If I need an extra boost, however, there are some easy ways to light the competitive fire.

Some people bring the winner-take-all mentality into their individual sports.  They enter bike races, golf tournaments, and bump contests.  They keep meticulous count of their calorie intake, their training schedules, and their workout regimens.  They count their vertical feet skied, power generated on bikes, and greens in regulation on the golf course.  For them, not only must you achieve success, you must also quantify your improvement (and later, post it on the internet).

I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point.  I like stats as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I’ll be getting these goggles any time soon. But there is something to be said for a little goal setting in personal development.  For example, I’ve never ridden my road bike as much as when I was training for the 100 mile Tour de Cure this past June.  Even though I didn’t get to finish (horrible mechanical problems), I was definitely a stronger rider because of the training.  And if you’re not training for something, simply riding with other people seems to kick in a little something extra.  Ace goes out on group rides with a bunch of local women, and she’s always pushing herself to be faster on the climbs, quicker in the sprints, and stronger on the downhills.  Just skiing (or mountain biking) with friends gives you a chance to size up the people you’re riding with and dazzle them with your sweet skills.  Because, even though this is between you and the mountain, it never hurts to show the mountain who its real competition is.   

Monday, October 4, 2010

Whiteface Mountain Biking

Went up to Whiteface Mountain Bike Park last weekend before hitting the Octoberfest.  Downhill Mike runs a pretty awesome operation, and if you are ever thinking about giving DH mountain biking a try, you should definitely hit it up.  Mostly staying on the lower mountain, using the shuttle bus, we rocked 12, 13, 6, 7, and 2.  We also took a little jaunt down to the Flume Trails for a little bit of Cross Country action (as we were all on XC bikes).  I think if we do it next year (which we already talked about), we'll rent the big, beefy DH bikes, throw on all the pads, and take the party right up the Gondola.  Here's a couple of pics and a short video.  I might put together an edit with my other footage if I have time.

Season Passes

Ah, the season pass.  The way to claim a mountain for your own.  To remind all those with day passes that you are the man at this mountain, and this mountain is you.  Really, if you just pull into a random mountain's parking lot, the best way to spot an adventurous local is the 2-3 year old, fairly high end skis (that look like they've been skied hard), duct tape on some portion of gloves, and of course, the season pass.
Buying a season pass is like buying a vacation home.  You're making a commitment to one place for the vast majority of your days off.  There are people who like to experience different mountains every weekend.  The season pass is not for those people (just as people who like to vacation in different areas wouldn't want to be tied down to one house).  By purchasing the pass, you're also setting yourself up for a season full of undiscovered options.  Maine just got a huge snowstorm, but if it's free to stay here.  It's dumping at Jay, but I'd have to drive right by my home mountain to get to it . . . Might as well just stick around.

But there are advantages to the season pass too.  You get an intimate knowledge of the mountain (whether you like it or not).  You know where to go to avoid the crowds, where to catch the sun when the rest of the mountain is covered in flat light, and where to get the cheapest happy hour beers.  You get to know the people around you - the lift ops, the food service guys, patrol - and you get to ski with your buddies.  However, there have been some recent trends in season pass offerings that are slightly disturbing, so here's a quick rundown.

The Epic Pass - Vail, Breck, Beaver Creek, A Basin, Keystone, Heavenly 
What looks like a sick deal ($619 for all six mountains!?!?!), is getting some internet heat for its "Big Brother" RFID program that tracks skier movement through the resort.  I gotta say, I'm one of those guys who lets Google see all of my searches, lets Facebook see all of my interests, and lets tons (read: tens) of people know what I'm thinking every week on this blog.  So if a mountain wants to track my vertical footage, I don't really care.  What scares me is the chance that they might use the RFID technology to catch people in illegal glades or when they're going too fast.  And really, if I want people to know where I skied, I'll post it myself like this guy does.  The fact that they fired a ski instructor for selling a RFID blocking encasement unit seems a little seedy as well (or it just proves that Ski Instructors - even those with 18 years experience - are expendable).

The Ski and Ride NY Gold Pass
 This looks like a pretty sweet option for singles, people with kids, or with skiing friends and questionable schedules.  The Ski and Ride NY pass gets the holder unlimited skiing at pretty much any NY ski resort.  That means, not only do you get the big ones (Whiteface, Gore, Hunter, Belleayre, etc.) but you get the small ones, too (Big Tupper, Willard, Titus, Hickory, West, etc.).  Not only that, the pass is fully transferable.  Meaning that you can give it to your buddy who wants to go up for a powder day, to your wife while you stay home with the kid, or to your retired mom who wants to go midweek.  Awesome.  Really, if you can afford the price (a pretty damn reasonable $1,100), it looks like it might be the way to go.  Off the top of my head, I can think of only two problems.  One is that, since the ticket is transferable, it doesn't look like a normal season pass.  They don't accept it at the lift, so you have to wait in line at the booth, where they'll give you a day ticket.  Then, season pass holders will look down on you for having the gall to have a day pass flapping around on your zipper.  The second problem (and I don't know how serious this might be), is that people might go to the window, get their pass for the day, and turn around and try to sell it in the parking lot.  There might even be a StubHub type site set up to help people find Gold Pass holders (note to self: start ingenious website) who will let their unused days go for real cheap.

Monarch Mountain
Now here's a season pass.  Not only do you get the nice unlimited season pass with your picture on it, but you get to ski other places as well:
2010 - 2011 Monarch Season Passes are now on sale! This is clearly the most unique, versatile, and economic season pass on the market.  In addition to our partner resorts of Loveland, Sunlight, Powderhorn, Silverton, Durango, Angel Fire, Pajarito, Sipapu, Alta, and Grand Targhee, we have now added free or discounted skiing and riding at Michigan's Indianhead, Arizona Snowbowl, Revelstoke, British Columbia, Sol Vista, Red River & Taos, New Mexico, and China Peak, CA! 
NICE.  A couple of the partner mountains give half priced skiing deals (or free skiing with lodging deals), but a bunch of them offer 3 free days at the other resort.  That's 3 free days of powder hunting if Monarch isn't getting a lot of snow (although a 350" average sounds pretty sweet).  The best part, though, is the price: $329.  Or, if you prefer, the price of 4 day tickets at Stowe.  If only a resort would offer a similar deal somewhere around here.