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Heating up over the outdoors

Bob Berwyn

One of the latest trends in skiing that disturbs me is the concept of trying to take the chill out of the great outdoors with portable gas heaters. The first place I noticed this was at one of the main Copper Mountain plazas a few years ago. You get out of your car, bundled up for wintry weather, but when you reach the perimeter of the ticket kiosk, the snow on the ground somehow mysteriously disappears. You look up, and there, sure enough, are some glowing overhead heaters working hard to radiate a little warmth. By the time you get your pass, you’re sweating up a storm and ready for an ice-cold one.I know other resorts and in-town commercial establishments do the same thing.I guess it doesn’t surprise me to see this at Copper, the resort that introduced the travesty of the Beeline Advantage Pass. Intrawest has done more than any of the other large resort development companies to de-naturize the sport by creating an artificial, pseudo-skiing resort “experience.” Sure, you can still have loads of fun up on the mountain, but first you have to run a gauntlet of tasteless commercial excess that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It starts with the nondescript music that’s piped into every nook and crevice of the base area, including the bathrooms. I’ve actually stopped skiing at Copper unless I’m on assignment, but the atmosphere in the base area reminds me of Vegas, or a mid-sized airport without any class in a city like, say, Toledo.I’m hoping that Intrawest will soon merge with some software company and start developing a virtual ski experience, so their customers can stay at home and surf to some Intrawest ski sites from the comfort of their own couches, but I’m getting way off on a tangent here.The gas-fueled outdoor fireplace at Keystone’s River Run Village is another prime example of senseless waste. Hal Clifford described that scene in his recent ski industry expose, writing about how the use of piped gas leads to a false sense of environmental correctness. We think it’s a clean-burning fuel, but don’t consider the impacts caused by the extraction of that fuel hundreds of miles away, in the ranchblands of the Four Corners area, or in Wyoming.I’m all for atmosphere, but I find it pretty hard to believe that we’re wringing our hands about an energy crisis and global warming, planning to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and considering a deadly war with Iraq, while at the same time burning natural gas to heat the frigid winter air. Maybe it’s just me, but that does not make any sense at all it’s like throwing $20 bills out the window while Thelma and Louising in toward the nearest cliff.The sport of skiing has survived for decades without this wretched excess, and I’m sure we’d do just fine for many more decades to come. I think this is something we need to nip in the bud, but I’m not sure I know exactly how. I do know that I need your help. I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, a strong dose of ridicule combined with a fine touch of moral outrage might be the way to go.We need to start making a bunch of noise about this, so make a mental note every time you see one of those heaters outside and then write some letters or make some phone calls. The more sarcasm the better, and a light-hearted threat to boycott the establishment in question might also be in order.I don’t know about you, but I happen to LIKE the cold that’s one of the reasons I live in the mountains and go skiing. And you know, I can’t imagine that Ullr would be very thrilled about the whole idea either.Bob Berwyn is freelance writer who likes to stand in front of his fridge wearing his ski goggles on hot summer days.


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