Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
With all the snow that’s inundated the High Country, you’d think that skiers and snowboarders would be a happy bunch. But if you believe what you read in the papers or what you hear in the lift lines, then you’d have to believe that there is some great unhappiness spreading across the land, staining the wintry landscape with bitter tears.In Summit County, complaints revolved around the fact that Keystone visitors faced lift lines (Gasp! Who would have thought?) during opening weekend. Sure enough, the Buddy Pass crowds turned out en masse to sample the November powder. And after a couple of years with sub-par early season conditions, who could blame them?And yes, it’s true that only a few lifts were open on Saturday and Sunday, and that the wait in some cases exceeded 20 minutes. It’s also true that the Peru Express chair stopped at least three times between 8:45 and 9 a.m., frustrating the multitudes waiting in the maze. A little later in the day, I witnessed an unusual sight. Skiers and snowboarders were hiking back UP from the base of the Montezuma chair, a high-speed quad, to avoid the line.In a letter to a local newspaper, one area resident accused the resort of skimping on skier services in an effort to bolster the corporate bottom line. In the same paper, an unsigned, "thumbs-down" pseudo-editorial, written by someone who has probably never bumped chairs or tried to hire and train a lift crew for a living, also took the resort to task for opening-day problems. The general tone of the comments insinuated that the resort should have been better prepared for the onslaught, ready to open more lifts and more terrain.It’s interesting to me that the same paper didn’t have much to say about the fact that VR’s recent corporate "restructuring" literally tore the heart out of Keystone’s operations department, canning nearly everyone who knows anything about how to run the mountain day to day.That’s not to say the resort doesn’t have any good people left to the contrary, patrollers and others worked hard all weekend to keep the mountain running smoothly and to open as much terrain as possible. But for all we know, the office-bound corporate bean counters in Avon and Breckenridge are now deciding which lifts should be opened, and when. Is that any way to run a ski area?At the same time, the word is that some folks in the Vail Valley were disappointed that the mountain didn’t rush to open at least a few runs, helping to jumpstart the season and boost local businesses.So let me see if I got this right. On one side of the pass, people are unhappy because Keystone opened and wasn’t set up to handle the big crowds. On the other side, they’re grousing because Vail did NOT open, choosing instead to prepare more lifts and more terrain. If you’re Vail Resorts, I guess you just can’t win for losing around here.My suggestion: Lighten up people! Back off, let the resorts run the lifts and enjoy the powder. So far, there’s plenty of it and if the trend continues, we should be in it neck-deep pretty soon. For once, I’d really like to see the focus where it belongs on the skiing, rather than on resort-town politics.So, instead of bickering about opening dates, how about sitting down with a map of Colorado and making a plan to explore one of the state’s smaller ski areas that you’ve never visited? Or how about getting involved with the Snowboard Outreach Society, or as a race volunteer? The point is, there are plenty of positive outlets we can direct all that energy toward, helping to improve the overall state of our sport. If we do, we’ll please Ullr to no end. In turn, he’ll grace us with continued powder dumps, right through April. And that’s what we all want!Bob Berwyn is a freelance writer in Silverthorne who reports on skiing and the environment for local, regional and national publications.