Who is going to ski? - The New York Times

When Tim Pham learned to ski in the 1980s, the sport seemed simpler. He would travel to quiet Northern California resorts like Sugar Bo...

When Tim Pham learned to ski in the 1980s, the sport seemed simpler. He would travel to quiet Northern California resorts like Sugar Bowl, where he would show up at any time of the day, buy a $35 lift pass, and ski without facing queues or the crowd.

“I could just decide I wanted a lesson and go up to the window and ask for one,” said Mr Pham, 50. “There were no reservations needed or long lines.”

He didn’t even have the right equipment. “I skied in jeans and rented skis,” he says. “Boots never fit well, but we didn’t care.” Then it would go to the lodge, where there was live music and local beer on tap for $2.

“I miss those days,” said Mr. Pham, who now lives in San Jose, Calif., and works in corporate wellness.

Now, he says, everything is more complicated.

In 2017, his home mountain, Palisades Tahoe, became part of Alterra Mountain Company, a massive ski conglomerate that owns high-profile properties across the country, including Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. Since 2018, the company has been marketing an Ikon Pass which, at different rates, gives access to its 47 mountain destinations throughout the season.

The result: more skiers.

“Before, I could go to the mountains in the afternoon and ski half the day. Now, if you don’t arrive at the station before 7:30 a.m., you can’t find parking,” Mr Pham said. “Now on weekends and holidays there are queues everywhere. »

And don’t run it on price. “It costs $200 to ski today if you don’t have a season pass. For most people, if you make $20 an hour, that’s 10 hours of work, right? ” he said. “And beer is five times more expensive. Everything is very fancy and you have to queue to get a drink. Who wants to queue when you’ve been skiing all day? »

Mr. Pham does not want to prevent anyone from skiing, but he himself is discouraged. “I think people should be able to access the mountain, especially if they pay for a pass,” he said. “But stations need to step up and make changes. We can’t have those crowds anymore.

Crowds at ski resorts have heated up long-simmering tensions over how diverse the sport should be and what kind of effort should be made to attract a wider range of people to the mountain.

“People say, ‘The mountain is too crowded. We don’t want new people here. Go home, tourists. You’re not a real skier,” said Kirsten Lynch, CEO of Vail Resorts, which has 36 properties in the United States.

His company sold its season pass, the Epic Pass, at a discount this year: the full pass went from $979 to $783, and the local pass went from $729 to $583. Sales increased by 40%.

The mountains are so crowded that #VailFail has become a trending hashtag on Instagram, with skiers posting complaints about understaffed lifts and mountains.

Vail Resorts said during the holidays, the busiest time of year, 90% of lift lines run less than 10 minutes and overall visits to resorts are down year over year. , as shown in January. But across the country, there are definitely more skiers.

“Last season we saw a record number of participants,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, director of marketing and communications for the National Ski Areas Association, a professional group, which estimated that more than one million new skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes.

She said such peaks usually follow snowfall and fresh powder. “However, given that snowfall was slightly below average in a few US ski regions, the 2020-21 jump can be partially attributed to Covid realities,” Ms Isaac said, noting that skiing gives people “a way out”. from their homes, move their bodies and experience nature with a low risk of virus transmission.

Over the past five years, many luxury ski resorts have been consolidated under conglomerates like Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, which in some ways has increased access.

“Before, the cost of going to these resorts was really prohibitive,” said Constance Beverley, CEO of Share Winter Foundation, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for young people who have historically been denied access to skiing and snowboarding. . Now, low-cost airlines and season passes that allow access to multiple resorts have allowed more people to ski recreationally across the country.

But the crowds left some skiers nostalgic.

“I don’t remember ever feeling frustrated before,” said Rebeca Hanrahan, 46, a retired engineer who lives in Edwards, Colorado, not far from Vail, the ski mountain or Beaver Creek. She handled the congestion by skiing early in the morning.

CJ Knight was in college when his family moved to Crested Butte, a town in the Colorado Rockies. With exceptional skiing on his doorstep, he and his buddies were hitting the slopes almost every day and almost no queues. “I would go skiing mid-week after school and get straight on the chairlift,” he said.

Then, in 2018, Vail Resorts purchased its local mountain.

“There are days when I look at the webcam and say, ‘I don’t want to go out at all because the lines are too long,'” said CJ, now 15. a very long form now. (Vail Resorts said visitor volume has not changed since it purchased Crested Butte Mountain Resort.)

Today, CJ goes skiing early in the morning, when it’s really cold, or later in the day, when most people have already hit the apr├Ęs ski scene. He also does cross-country skiing.

“Of course everyone has the right to ski, especially if you’ve bought a pass,” he said. “I just wish we could have some kind of break with visitors, a time when people don’t want to come here.”

As the mountains become increasingly crowded, skiers and resort owners have asked themselves the question: if not everyone can fit in, who should be here?

Industry leaders say they need new skiers for their business to survive.

“The sport is predominantly male and white, and the number of ski visits has been flat for the past 20 years, which means it’s not growing,” said Ms Lynch, of Vail Resorts. “To grow, we need to engage all demographics.”

Rusty Gregory, managing director of Alterra Mountain Company, said: “I think it’s an obligation for us to diversify.” He added that “being good stewards of the earth means opening it up to everyone”.

Skiing has never been accessible to black or brown people, or those who are economically disadvantaged.

“There are so many areas of our recreational lives that have been separated, and downhill skiing is one of them,” said Daniel Krymkowski, a sociology professor at the University of Vermont, who published a delivered last year on the underrepresentation of African Americans in fine arts and outdoor recreation. “This sport took off in our country after the Second World War. It was created for affluent white soldiers who experienced it in France and Europe.

“What’s interesting about ski culture is that in many ways it builds community through exclusion rather than inclusion,” Ms Isaac said. According to data from the National Ski Areas Association, 87.5% of skiers in the 2020-2021 season were white. Black skiers made up 1.5% of the group and Native Americans 0.7%.

Overcrowded resorts only exacerbate those tensions, said Anthony Kwame Harrison, professor of sociology and African studies at Virginia Tech. “I don’t think the majority of skiers are racist,” he said. “But if long-time skiers get frustrated because they see crowded ski areas, when you look at that crowd, who do you immediately identify as the most out of place?”

Ski companies make different calculations on how to accommodate newcomers.

At Vail Resorts, the clearest change is the price of its Epic Pass, which has made access slightly more affordable. The company also focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion within its ranks.

Starting in 2021, Alterra has a newly structured Legal and Social Responsibility division to oversee its DEI efforts, which includes conducting an audit of its corporate culture.

Vail Resorts has partnered with non-profit organizations to attract new skiers, especially children, to try skiing at Vail-owned resorts through an initiative called Epic for Everyone Youth Access Programs.

Alterra, for its part, seems to favor limiting crowds; its Ikon Pass, starting at $729, is considerably more expensive than the Epic Pass. “The higher the price, the theoretically weaker the demand,” Mr. Gregory said. “We want to make sure that we provide an experience for people that they want to come back to.”

The company works with the Share Winter Foundation to attract newcomers to skiing, focusing on days when the mountain is less crowded. “It’s by no means a perfect science,” Mr. Gregory said.

Some skiers approve of this approach. “I would probably go to one of the Ikon mountains if I had the choice. I like how they handle things better,” Ms Hanrahan said. “I live closer to the Vail Resorts, so I don’t really have a choice.”

Others are more skeptical. “Don’t appease and blow smoke and say we’re doing all these outreach programs and bringing kids of color to the mountain,” said Henri Rivers, CEO of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, which has 54 clubs in North America that give black youth access to skiing. “The real change comes when you make management inclusive, when the resort presidents and marketing staff are people of color.”

“These kids need to see like-minded instructors they can bond with,” Rivers said. “They need to see kids of color competing in the Olympics representing snow sports.”

Some skiers, like Micheli Oliver, take matters into their own hands by helping new skiers become regulars on the mountain.

Mrs. Oliver, a 24-year-old Native American photographergrew up in Niwot and Berthoud in northern Colorado and learned to ski as a child.

“There aren’t as many blacks, browns and aboriginals on the trails as I would like,” she said. “I remember when I was little my parents couldn’t afford fancy gear and I had Walmart ski pants. I remember feeling a lot of pressure even then to have looks better and cooler.

She has made it a point to bring her friends and family members to the slopes by offering free lessons and, if possible, equipment.

“We help each other get access to everything we need to ski,” said Ms. Oliver, who splits her time between Wyoming, Colorado and Vermont. She remembers helping a friend feel comfortable with “falling down and getting up and fighting her fears”.

“I was with her when she was a rookie, and now she’s really good and kind of a regular,” she said. “That’s how you can change the ski.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Who is going to ski? - The New York Times
Who is going to ski? - The New York Times
Newsrust - US Top News
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