January 2000

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Skiing & The Environment

When I finished reading Ken Castle's first installment of "Skiing & The Environment" (November 1999), I came to the undeniable conclusion that environmentalism is synonymous with the spoil system. Ski resorts are being convicted and sentenced before the dawn's first light. I know that ski resorts don't get the support they need from their clients, but that's human nature. It's time to wake up people. If ski resorts are being attacked like a mining company or logging company, what's next? I'll tell you, President Kazinski!

John A. Martelly

Swansea, Mass.

I live in the beautiful Sierra Nevada community of Squaw Valley, Calif., and believe our mountain environment should be protected. But I live to ski. Intrawest is coming to the valley, and I like the idea of how they build balanced communities. I hope I like their results, too.
Chris Colpitts
Tahoe City, Calif.

After reading about various environmental groups' efforts to sabotage Vail's proposed expansion, I was reminded of similar tactics used by animal-rights activists against the fur industry. Not content with targeting producers, they sometimes went after consumers (i.e., spilling fake blood on fur wearers) to make their point. What if activists go after skiers on the slopes? I hope that groups such as Earth First! and The Sierra Club do not envision an end to a worthwhile and rewarding sport.
Peter K. Antipas
Stamford, Conn.

The article about the eco-terrorists and their obsession with ski resorts really struck a nerve with me. Though Ken Castle has a pro-skier stance, he clearly demonstrates that these organizations, having defeated the mining and timber industries, no longer have genuine environmental villains to battle and are now enforcing their views onto millions of outdoor enthusiasts. I wish they'd spread their zeal to the other 190 million acres of national forest land and realize that ski areas¿even with the real estate developments¿are not a bad use of the "less than one-tenth of 1 percent on U.S. Forest Service land, or 190,000 acres."
Mike Trueblood
Denver, Colo.

I commend your efforts to motivate the skiing public to action. As a ski instructor and professional geologist in the mining industry, I have been involved in the continuous battle against both the timber and mining industries. Both have lost the fight. It is only natural for extremist groups to find the next target of National Forest users. Most environmentalists I know consider ski areas to be "clear cuts where they charge admission." The environmental groups that I've dealt with generally believe a negotiated agreement is not acceptable. Their position is the only "right" outcome. Failure to achieve their goals is not acceptable. You will find battles with these groups very costly and time consuming. I've already been villainized for my position as a geologist; I would hate to be villainized for loving to ski. You have my support.
Gregory P. Wittman
Nampa, Idaho

As far as the real estate boom goes, many urbanites are moving into the mountains. You cannot change the fact that as society expands, undeveloped areas will be impacted. That includes the mountains, regardless of what some right-wing or left-wing environmentalists have claimed as their own.
Geof Roberts
Jackson Hole, Wyo.

While your article on the environment rings true for the most part, it misses one important point: Many major ski areas are located in some of the most scenic and valuable public land in the nation. In California, for instance, skiing has been a conduit for the urbanization of Lake Tahoe and its environs. Farther south at Mammoth, the urbanization of skiing is having adverse impacts on what's left of the Eastern Sierra deer migration routes. And now the storybook valley at Kirkwood must be built to the hilt in the name of skig. I am a skier, but I question my own support of an activity that seems to be responsible for the single biggest threat to our mountains¿mountain sub-division.
Gene Robinson
Carson City, Nev.

I was quite disappointed to find out that the U.S. Forest Service is giving way to the environmentalists. They do not represent those of us who enjoy being in the outdoors. Many environmentalists have become, over the past 10 years, fanatics who jump to stop any use of the outdoors for any purpose except what they deem to be appropriate. I'm a skier and believe that skiing brings happiness and enjoyment to a great number of people using the least amount of land. It is a good use of the environment. I believe the actions of these environmentalists is very self serving. They should be given serious prison terms¿or this kind of outside-the-law resistance will only become more common. Civil disobedience does not include burning down someone else's property or staging events that thwart a court's decision.
Walt McKee
La Crescenta, Calif.

Ken Castle articulated the environmental problem so clearly that I would like to get this information into the hands of skiers everywhere¿so they can wake up before it's too late. I am a skier at Mt. Ashland, Ore., and I have been amazed at the skier apathy concerning the mountain's expansion. They don't seem to understand that the real goal of the local Sierra Club is to close Mt. Ashland. What I am going to do is to make copies of Castle's article and distribute them to skiers at our local ski shop.
R. Griffith
Ashland, Ore.

I found it very interesting that at the same time that you published an article fearing the demise of skiing ("The End Of Skiing As We Know It"), you also had articles on $60,000 SUVs and multi-million dollar trophy homes. Nobody needs these amenities to enjoy a day on the slopes. Places such as Vail, Colo., are not going to expand so that there will be more affordable housing¿they are going to build homes that the average skier cannot afford to buy, and build five-star base lodges that the average skier cannot afford to eat in. If skiing dies, it will be by its own hand. Many skiers have become so pampered that the actual skiing is secondary to everything else. We need to return to the roots of skiing, which was enjoying the outdoors in winter, not showing off wealth.
David Chapman
Brighton, Mich.

The Other Side
I would like to see a follow-up article to Kathryn Perrotti's story "Avoiding The Knife" (November 1999). I fell down as a child, but apparently had just "stretched my ligaments." But over the years, my knee would occasionally get puffy, so I would just ice it or heat it to get it back to "normal." Then, 28 years later, after our annual ski trip, I could barely walk. I had surgery this past October, 28 years too late. Looking back on my injury, if arthroscopic surgery had been available to me in 1971, it would have been worth every second of the six months to recover versus a lifetime of instability and the possibility of more surgery, knee replacement or a wheelchair.
Carl Williams
Bedford, Texas

Powder Perfection
Powder Principles" (November 1999) is one of the best instructional primers that SKI has ever written. Steve and Junior Bounous, along with Stu Campbell, packed a lot of useful information into a concise "on the money" article. In addition, Lee Cohen's sequential photographs provided excellent imagery that truly expressed the major points of the article.
Eric Winkelman
Glen Arbor Township, Mich.

Unfortunately, you can't follow him down the mountain in your magazine, but when you ski with Junior Bounous, he has a magical power¿you believe that you really can do whatever he says. Just drop in behind him, suspend your fear, and, before you know it, you're skiing powder with grace and confidence on a hill that's steep and challenging. The best part about it is that the moment doesn't go away. All I need to do is simply close my eyes, picture Junior skiing in front of me, then open my eyes and ski off. It always works.
Stephen Wells
Greenwich, Conn.

Shopping Over Skiing?
It's obvious that most of the readers who rated the resorts in the Top 60 Resort Guide (October 1999) are vacationers¿not skiers. Based on your ratings they seem to go to resorts to eat, sleep and shop. If your respondents didn't rate Taos, N.M., in the Top 30 in the West, then I know they aren't really skiers.
Ralph Frink
Shelton, Conn.

Fighting For The Top
The Resort Guide this year was great, but several things don't make much sense to me. I understand that the findings were based on reader surveys, but how can the 120 acres of Mad River Glen, Vt., have nearly as much quality terrain as the 7,000 acres at Whistler/ Blackcomb, B.C., and more quality terrain than the 2,200 acres of Alta, Utah? And I know that Alta has cheap tickets, but given the ratio of the American dollar against the Canadian dollar at the moment, there are plenty of Canadian resorts that would provide exceptional deals as well.
Ivan Guertin
Calgary, Alb.

A Sport For The Rich
Regarding Andy Bigford's argument that skiing is not too expensive (Ski Life Forum, November 1999), I think his words worked against his position. He emphasizes that the only time you will get a reasonable price is when you shop for bargains, which often translates into last year's goods. Also, the "season pass" is the only way to ski regularly without breaking the bank. But, to have the good fortune to ski at all is indeed "priceless."
Tom Beck
Toronto, Ont.

Wear It If You Can
I enjoyed the "Bob Goes Skiing" (October 1999) fashion spread on regional ski style. However, your depiction of the Mad River Glen skier is not completely correct. The clothes must always include silver duct tape on the gloves, jackets and pants. No duct tape on skiwear at Mad River is like having no lift ticket.
Ryan Conroy
Coto de Caza, Calif.

Music In The Mountains
My gratitude to John Fry. Junk noise posturing as music already saturates the American retail environment from which skiing should be an escape, not a continuation. Several years ago the Aspen Skiing Company responded to complaints by eliminating the music from the area bus system. What used to be a miserable audio experience to and from Snowmass is now a relaxing part of the day. Ousting liftline boom boxes would be a welcome addition to that policy.
C.R. Schofield
Coronado, Calif.

The Club Connection
John Fry's observations about lift ticket prices and their effects on ski growth are right on the mark ("In My View," November 1999). But I think for most of us, the cost of the lift ticket is the least of our ski trip expenses. For those of us who don't live within driving distance of the lifts, the cost of getting there (airfare) and sleeping there (a condo or hotel) determines where and how often we ski. Lodging and transportation make up 80 percent of the cost of a ski trip, and a break on lift ticket prices does little to bring the cost of a trip down. If I didn't travel and ski with a club, I couldn't afford the sport anymore.
Dan Stires
San Antonio, Texas

After reading "Unbeatable Bargains" (November 1999), I found myself wondering why there was no mention of non-profit ski and snowboard clubs. Such clubs provide very inexpensive trips that take advantage of group discounts on airfare, lodging and lift tickets. Most of the bargains listed in the article are easily beaten by ski/snowboard clubs. The internet has made it easier than ever to find clubs designed to fit any skier's needs.
John Kuhn
Chicago,and confidence on a hill that's steep and challenging. The best part about it is that the moment doesn't go away. All I need to do is simply close my eyes, picture Junior skiing in front of me, then open my eyes and ski off. It always works.
Stephen Wells
Greenwich, Conn.

Shopping Over Skiing?
It's obvious that most of the readers who rated the resorts in the Top 60 Resort Guide (October 1999) are vacationers¿not skiers. Based on your ratings they seem to go to resorts to eat, sleep and shop. If your respondents didn't rate Taos, N.M., in the Top 30 in the West, then I know they aren't really skiers.
Ralph Frink
Shelton, Conn.

Fighting For The Top
The Resort Guide this year was great, but several things don't make much sense to me. I understand that the findings were based on reader surveys, but how can the 120 acres of Mad River Glen, Vt., have nearly as much quality terrain as the 7,000 acres at Whistler/ Blackcomb, B.C., and more quality terrain than the 2,200 acres of Alta, Utah? And I know that Alta has cheap tickets, but given the ratio of the American dollar against the Canadian dollar at the moment, there are plenty of Canadian resorts that would provide exceptional deals as well.
Ivan Guertin
Calgary, Alb.

A Sport For The Rich
Regarding Andy Bigford's argument that skiing is not too expensive (Ski Life Forum, November 1999), I think his words worked against his position. He emphasizes that the only time you will get a reasonable price is when you shop for bargains, which often translates into last year's goods. Also, the "season pass" is the only way to ski regularly without breaking the bank. But, to have the good fortune to ski at all is indeed "priceless."
Tom Beck
Toronto, Ont.

Wear It If You Can
I enjoyed the "Bob Goes Skiing" (October 1999) fashion spread on regional ski style. However, your depiction of the Mad River Glen skier is not completely correct. The clothes must always include silver duct tape on the gloves, jackets and pants. No duct tape on skiwear at Mad River is like having no lift ticket.
Ryan Conroy
Coto de Caza, Calif.

Music In The Mountains
My gratitude to John Fry. Junk noise posturing as music already saturates the American retail environment from which skiing should be an escape, not a continuation. Several years ago the Aspen Skiing Company responded to complaints by eliminating the music from the area bus system. What used to be a miserable audio experience to and from Snowmass is now a relaxing part of the day. Ousting liftline boom boxes would be a welcome addition to that policy.
C.R. Schofield
Coronado, Calif.

The Club Connection
John Fry's observations about lift ticket prices and their effects on ski growth are right on the mark ("In My View," November 1999). But I think for most of us, the cost of the lift ticket is the least of our ski trip expenses. For those of us who don't live within driving distance of the lifts, the cost of getting there (airfare) and sleeping there (a condo or hotel) determines where and how often we ski. Lodging and transportation make up 80 percent of the cost of a ski trip, and a break on lift ticket prices does little to bring the cost of a trip down. If I didn't travel and ski with a club, I couldn't afford the sport anymore.
Dan Stires
San Antonio, Texas

After reading "Unbeatable Bargains" (November 1999), I found myself wondering why there was no mention of non-profit ski and snowboard clubs. Such clubs provide very inexpensive trips that take advantage of group discounts on airfare, lodging and lift tickets. Most of the bargains listed in the article are easily beaten by ski/snowboard clubs. The internet has made it easier than ever to find clubs designed to fit any skier's needs.
John Kuhn
Chicago, Ill.

Ed. Note: Thanks for your suggestion. We do recommend joining a ski club in "Frugal Families" in that same issue.

North America Vs. Europe
Ialmost died laughing at Bruce Stoff's excellent and amusing prose in the Ski Life Forum (October 1999) on European vs. North American skiing. I agree with Edie Thys, who, in Europe's defense, claims the food is nice, as are the little restaurants tucked into the mountains. But we do not go skiing to eat. What Bruce forgot to mention is the inherent rudeness of European skiers, the pushing and shoving in the long liftlines, the uncontrolled skiers on the hill and the unhelpful resort employees. Here in Canada and in the U.S., being polite and helpful are priorities, plus the prices are cheaper than in Europe.
Brian Cluer
Whistler, B.C.

Surely there must be a better source for your North American counterpoint than Bruce Stoff. Many could have discussed the factual attributes of American ski areas rather than negating the European perspective of Edie Thys with blatantly inaccurate opinions. Snow: In my 21 ski days a season during just the past three years, conditions have been good to very good. Fog: Not one of my 21 days last season was foggy, but we did ski four days in heavy snowfall. Small accommodations: Compared to what, Holiday Inn suites? All accommodations on my last 15 trips were very comfortable. Food: To do justice to what's available on the ski slopes of Europe would take a lengthy article. The phone system: Ten years ago I would have agreed with Mr. Stoff's description; today he is terribly outdated. And as for checking e-mail while on the mountaintop, that's the last thing I want to do when I'm skiing. It's bad enough that skiers are using cell phones all over the slopes.
Warren Field
Stuttgart, Germany

The Way It Was
Stop, you're going to ruin my mountain. I don't want Sun Peaks to become another Whistler ("Peak Potential," October 1999). When I first skied there, the Sun Burst Express was brand new and the only base facilities were a day lodge and the Burfield Lodge. I would ski nonstop all day without ever standing in a liftline. But during last season's annual trek to the resort, I waited in liftlines for up to 20 minutes. Please tell your readers how cold it gets there; how the afternoon sun turns the snow to mush; how the Crystal Chair often doesn't open because of high winds or thick fog; and how it's much harder to get to than other resorts.
J.P. Leghorn
Lynden, Wash.

Give Bias the Boot
I enjoyed your Buyer's Guide 2000 (September 1999) but it seems that testing in the boot section was a bit biased. It states that each model was not given equal time on the slopes, and the testers were obviously predisposed to like certain brands or aesthetics. Next year you should give equal time to every boot and make sure testers test boots that fit both them and their skiing style. You should also consider a Northeast-conditions test, and definitely include some "cruisers" in your roster of testers. Everyone wants good equipment, but not everyone has the ability to charge mogul fields and drop backcountry cliffs.
Rick London
New York, N.Y.

Powder Hog
Why did Peter Shelton have to write about possibly the best kept secret in the West: Wolf Creek, Colo. ("Opening Day," October 1999)? Those of us who live out here always ski Wolf Creek early in the season to get tuned up. Last year I skied with a friend one day between 10 am and 3 pm, and we got 17,000 vertical feet. No lines or crowds, lots of good snow and quick food. While his column was a good read, I hope that it doesn't attract too many to the area. Let's keep it to ourselves.
Bob Skaggs
Santa Fe, N.M.

For The Record
In "Women's Gear 2000" (October 1999), the Volkl Vectris V10 ski pictured was actually the unisex version. The women's-specific model for that ski is the Volkl V10 20/20. In the November 1999 issue,, the wrong ski was pictured as the Rossignol Rebel in "Cheap Thrills." At Aspen, the proposed new gondola would connect Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands ("Skiing and The Environment") and Williams College is, in fact, located in Williamstown, Mass., not Amherst, Mass., as printed in "From The Top." Lastly, the correct dates for the Value Season package at Angel Fire Resort, N.M., are Jan. 17-27 (not Jan. 7-27, as printed in "Best Bargains"). For more information about the resort and its deals, log onto its website: www.angelfireresort.coml.

Ed. Note: Thanks for your suggestion. We do recommend joining a ski club in "Frugal Families" in that same issue.

North America Vs. Europe
Ialmost died laughing at Bruce Stoff's excellent and amusing prose in the Ski Life Forum (October 1999) on European vs. North American skiing. I agree with Edie Thys, who, in Europe's defense, claims the food is nice, as are the little restaurants tucked into the mountains. But we do not go skiing to eat. What Bruce forgot to mention is the inherent rudeness of European skiers, the pushing and shoving in the long liftlines, the uncontrolled skiers on the hill and the unhelpful resort employees. Here in Canada and in the U.S., being polite and helpful are priorities, plus the prices are cheaper than in Europe.
Brian Cluer
Whistler, B.C.

Surely there must be a better source for your North American counterpoint than Bruce Stoff. Many could have discussed the factual attributes of American ski areas rather than negating the European perspective of Edie Thys with blatantly inaccurate opinions. Snow: In my 21 ski days a season during just the past three years, conditions have been good to very good. Fog: Not one of my 21 days last season was foggy, but we did ski four days in heavy snowfall. Small accommodations: Compared to what, Holiday Inn suites? All accommodations on my last 15 trips were very comfortable. Food: To do justice to what's available on the ski slopes of Europe would take a lengthy article. The phone system: Ten years ago I would have agreed with Mr. Stoff's description; today he is terribly outdated. And as for checking e-mail while on the mountaintop, that's the last thing I want to do when I'm skiing. It's bad enough that skiers are using cell phones all over the slopes.
Warren Field
Stuttgart, Germany

The Way It Was
Stop, you're going to ruin my mountain. I don't want Sun Peaks to become another Whistler ("Peak Potential," October 1999). When I first skied there, the Sun Burst Express was brand new and the only base facilities were a day lodge and the Burfield Lodge. I would ski nonstop all day without ever standing in a liftline. But during last season's annual trek to the resort, I waited in liftlines for up to 20 minutes. Please tell your readers how cold it gets there; how the afternoon sun turns the snow to mush; how the Crystal Chair often doesn't open because of high winds or thick fog; and how it's much harder to get to than other resorts.
J.P. Leghorn
Lynden, Wash.

Give Bias the Boot
I enjoyed your Buyer's Guide 2000 (September 1999) but it seems that testing in the boot section was a bit biased. It states that each model was not given equal time on the slopes, and the testers were obviously predisposed to like certain brands or aesthetics. Next year you should give equal time to every boot and make sure testers test boots that fit both them and their skiing style. You should also consider a Northeast-conditions test, and definitely include some "cruisers" in your roster of testers. Everyone wants good equipment, but not everyone has the ability to charge mogul fields and drop backcountry cliffs.
Rick London
New York, N.Y.

Powder Hog
Why did Peter Shelton have to write about possibly the best kept secret in the West: Wolf Creek, Colo. ("Opening Day," October 1999)? Those of us who live out here always ski Wolf Creek early in the season to get tuned up. Last year I skied with a friend one day between 10 am and 3 pm, and we got 17,000 vertical feet. No lines or crowds, lots of good snow and quick food. While his column was a good read, I hope that it doesn't attract too many to the area. Let's keep it to ourselves.
Bob Skaggs
Santa Fe, N.M.

For The Record
In "Women's Gear 2000" (October 1999), the Volkl Vectris V10 ski pictured was actually the unisex version. The women's-specific model for that ski is the Volkl V10 20/20. In the November 1999 issue, the wrong ski was pictured as the Rossignol Rebel in "Cheap Thrills." At Aspen, the proposed new gondola would connect Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands ("Skiing and The Environment") and Williams College is, in fact, located in Williamstown, Mass., not Amherst, Mass., as printed in "From The Top." Lastly, the correct dates for the Value Season package at Angel Fire Resort, N.M., are Jan. 17-27 (not Jan. 7-27, as printed in "Best Bargains"). For more information about the resort and its deals, log onto its website: www.angelfireresort.commodel for that ski is the Volkl V10 20/20. In the November 1999 issue, the wrong ski was pictured as the Rossignol Rebel in "Cheap Thrills." At Aspen, the proposed new gondola would connect Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands ("Skiing and The Environment") and Williams College is, in fact, located in Williamstown, Mass., not Amherst, Mass., as printed in "From The Top." Lastly, the correct dates for the Value Season package at Angel Fire Resort, N.M., are Jan. 17-27 (not Jan. 7-27, as printed in "Best Bargains"). For more information about the resort and its deals, log onto its website: www.angelfireresort.com