Ask Josh - December 2002

Ask Dr. Flake
Ask Josh

Fifteen bucks for a cheeseburger, fries, drink, and a brownie? What the hell is that? I'm tired of paying out the nose for cafeteria slop at ski resorts. Don't they realize they're pissing off their customers?
Rob Grippo, via the Internet

Well, I'm of two minds on this. The angry Bolshie in me says it's an insult for resorts to sink their fangs into your proletarian stretch-pantsed butt for sub-par fare. But on the other hand, my rational Herbert Hoover side whispers that you willingly paid that $15, and that alone justifies the cost. When you stop paying, they'll lower the price. It's called capitalism, baby. Ski areas depend upon food and beverage to provide about 14 percent of revenue and, with no skier growth in the past couple of years, resorts have been focusing on boosting revenue per skier. Hence the 15 bucks for lunch. The plaintive nature of your complaint, though, shows your anger to be a complex thing. I would contend you are as much hurt as you are pissed off. You wonder how one skier could gouge another. Well, skiing is no longer a hardy fraternity whose members are united by their love for the schneesport. Today there are resort shareholders who may not even (gasp!) ski. The best way to stick it to The Man? Brown bag it.

La Niña, El Niño, La Cucaracha-first I hear it's going to be a big winter in the south, then I hear it's going to go off up north. Is there an El Niño, and what does it mean?
Ann Bovey, via the Internet

First the short answer, then the caveats. Yes, there was an El Niño event this past summer in the eastern equatorial Pacific. All this means is that water temperatures in a pool roughly the size of the lower 48 were one to three degrees warmer. But weather is complicated, and a change in water temperature off the coast of Chile can have an impact on the States. Usually an El Niño is associated with warmer and drier winters in the northern U.S. and cooler and wetter winters in the southern U.S. Last summer's El Niño was labeled "weak to moderate" by forecasters, so its effects this winter can't be counted on to be dramatic. Does a wetter winter in the south mean Taos will get dumped on, or that New Orleans will have torrential rains? Meteorologists have no idea. But here's the cartoon version of what El Niño could do: less snow than usual in the Pacific Northwest; average snow in the Rockies; maybe a little more than usual in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern Colorado; unknown effect in the northeast.