Why Casinos Don't Belong in Ski Country

This season, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant opened a $61 million casino, connected via gondola to the ski resort’s base area. Sure, gambling and skiing are fine on their own. But do these two great tastes taste great together?

Skiing should already get your heart pumping; it doesn’t need the added distraction of gambling, YouTube, or fruity coffee drinks to enhance it. Be happy that in this age of multitasking, skiing is without excessive distractions. Adding flashing lights, noise, and geriatrics dumping their Social Security checks into slot machines isn’t going to make it better.

Opening up ski resorts to casinos would only serve to ruin the simplicity that so many skiers love. Have you ever been anywhere outside of the Vegas strip that has gambling? There are slot machines in grocery stores. It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

Studies have shown a “substitution effect” on local businesses, casinos actually drawing money away from established restaurants and other social outlets. Gilpin County, Colorado, saw 36 percent of its retail business go under after opening its doors to casinos. In New York, one study showed that a gambling expansion would actually cost western New Yorkers more than 1,200 jobs. Sure, 25 percent of American adults plan on visiting a casino this year. But that means that 75 percent do not. And of that 25 percent who do hit the craps table, fewer than half of them plan on going more than once. The ski industry doesn’t need one-hit wonders for customers. It needs repeat business, something that casinos clearly aren’t delivering.

The truth is that gambling has been a part of skiing for a good 7,000 years—ever since the western Chinese first decided to slide down a mountain with a couple boards strapped to their feet. I grew up daring my friends to jump off rocks or racing them to the bottom of the hill. It’s all about risk. Clinking quarters, haggard cocktail waitresses, and Pai Gow won’t save your local mountain. Funnily enough, only skiing will. —Wes Berkshire