Ask Josh - September 2000

Ask Dr. Flake

dear josh,
Where can I find stats on which resorts have the largest number of tourists compared with local skiers?
Liz Van Derlofske
via the Internet

Do you mean a local's definition of local-as in someone born in town (or, more likely, someone who fought tooth and nail to keep Wal-Mart out of town but now shops there regularly after discovering that 30 percent can be saved on drill bits by doing so)-or just someone who holds an in-state discount card? Every ski area measures these things in different ways, so no tidily drawn comparative statistics exist. Just pick a mountain with tons of skier days and a tiny town-like, say, Steamboat-and you'll probably have a pretty big tourist-to-local ratio. But why go looking for tourists? Speaking as a tourist, I like to avoid as many people like me as I can. Don't you?

I've been searching the Internet for a good pair of skis, but after two hours I've found none. Where can I buy skis online?
Joe Miller
Bremerton, Washington

You're correct that you can't find much more than dribs and drabs of ski retail on the web. There are no dedicated ski e-tailers, and none of the major manufacturers sell skis directly. Why not? Basically, the ski industry is a small, closed world where everybody knows everybody else, and manufacturers are wary of annoying the traditional ski shops that sell most of the high-end skis in this country. Hell, you still can't get top-of-the-line skis in a national discount sports chain, and you think you're going to be able to get them on the web? The free-market-loving side of me deplores this state of affairs. But another part of me-the part that has my heart in it-makes me wonder why you'd want to buy skis on the Internet, anyway. I like to visit ski shops. I like to talk to the shop guys who think they ski better than me (while I, meanwhile, am assuming I ski better than they). I like a laying on of hands with my gear before I buy it. The lean curves of an unmounted ski, the glassy sheen of an unscuffed boot, the unlimnable contours of a chunky binding-all are redolent of the ineffable mingling of gear and gravity that makes that downhill swoop so complexly beguiling. Oh, I know its days are numbered, but I treasure the grotesque inefficiencies of the small specialty ski shop. It is not a commercial paragon, but a monument to passion. We shall perhaps one day buy skis as we do VCRs-from whoever can do a high enough volume to slice margins paper thin and still make a profit. But until then I'll let the crass commercialism of the ever-more-efficient world consume itself on the pyre of its own greed and bow instead before the overpriced altar of ski shops founded on their owners' love of snow. (That said, has some killer deals on last season's top-of-the-line Atomics.)

Ever since I first encountered moguls as a kid learning to ski at Cairngorm, Scotland, I've always wondered how the name mogul originated. Any link to the Mogul Empire of Asia?
Martin Bell
Vail, Colorado

This is a treat. If I'm not mistaken, I'm privileged to be responding to THE Martin Bell-the one who, quietly, so as not to attract the notice of more than 12 or 15 Americans, became in the late '80s the best ski racer Britain has ever produced. (And before any of you at home get all snickery and make jokes about skiers in bowlers carrying umbrellas, I defy you to name a male American World Cup top-10 downhiller from that era.) Anyway, Bell, you've asked a fine question, and one I've often pondered yet never, in my supreme laziness, found the time or will to struggle off my soft butt to investigate. But for you, I'll do battle with my etymological ineptitude to find an answer. Turns out, despite a pretty good run of empire building, Mogul dynasty founder Babur never found time to go skiing and was not responsible for naming our lumpen little friends. For that we have the ski-lovin' rennmeisters of Austria to thank. "Mogul" seems too be derived from local Austrian dialect, mügl, which in turn derives from the Austrian mügel, which, directly translated, means mound or hillock.

Do you have a question for know-it-all Josh Lerman? Send it to Ask Josh, Skiing Magazine, 929 Pearl St., Ste. 200, Boulder, CO 80302; or e-mail him at We won't be able to print all questions.

Former Skiing executive editor Josh Lerman is now articles editor at Parenting.