Carnes: You get what you pay for |

Carnes: You get what you pay for

“Wow, so Helly Hansen is owned by Vail!”

What? Where’d you hear such a stupid thing?

“The video that’s taking the internet by storm! It’s on YouTube and called ‘How Corporate Consolidation is Killing Ski Towns,’ and people are going crazy over it. It says something about Vail owning Helly Hansen.”

Oh for … look, did you actually watch the entire video or just skim it and then read the thousands of comments?

“Whatever, but people are saying — “

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Quit giving me that silly Tucker Carlson look of perpetual confusion. The video is 99% about Vail Resorts, not Vail, as in the town of Vail. In fact, the video kept repeating “Vail owned” this and “Vail owned” that, not bothering with the corporate name “Vail Resorts,” thus furthering the stereotype and condemnation of anything connected with the word, which paints the entire video with a broad brush of deserved skepticism.

But in spite of what you think you heard, Vail Resorts does not own Helly Hansen, it simply owns retail stores that sell Helly Hansen. You need to have your ears checked and learn to listen before jumping up on the preconceived conclusion bandwagon of capitalist evils.

Vail Resorts does, however, still own a piece of Slifer, Smith and Frampton real estate, but the funny part is the narrator pronounces it “Sliffer, Smith and Frampton,” (at the 12:59 mark) using a short ‘i.’

But the core of the video simply rehashes what we all know and have been saying for decades — the race to the top of the resort industry by focusing on the high yield customer made the sport of skiing too expensive for most, in turn allowing reasonable living conditions for the majority of employees to deteriorate to levels more appropriate for iPhone assemblers outside Shanghai. 

The video, which is very well produced, is summed up in what the creators call “the devil’s bargain:”

  • We can have the nature and the town, but not the income to live there.
  • We can have the town and the income, but not the nature to enjoy.
  • We can have the income and the nature, but not the town (as it once was).

To me, it is nowhere near that simplistic, as all three play integral roles in an area’s survivability, with the percentages applied varying greatly from ski town to ski town.

The most entertaining part of the video is, I suppose somewhat sadly, the comments section, where I even noticed a few local names.

Although the spelling and grammar is atrocious at times, it’s hard not to enjoy the never-ending “Vail bashing” (which of course should be “Vail Resorts” bashing, but I can only control so much) and such gems as, “Vail corp … the herpes of the ski world” and “Vail Resorts is the Amazon of skiing,” which I’m not sure was an insult or a compliment.

But one side of the video’s mouth stresses the astronomical costs of maintaining a ski resort while the other side grumbles about the astronomical costs of the sport itself, so it seems to be straddling a long fence implying the tired repeating mantra of, “Things were better back when … blah-blah-blah.”

Watch it, it’s fun, and although I’ve been bashing Vail Resorts for over two decades on this very page, reality can claim Vail Resorts and others like Alterra have basically saved a potentially dying industry to the detriment of the towns from which they spawned.

Yet no matter how you try to spin it, we’re still here.

Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at

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