The $100 question

It is with a heavy heart that I write today. After several of the best years, decades even, of our lives, dirtbag skiers (and I say that with the utmost respect) said goodbye to a dear friend this winter. Yes, I am referring to our longtime thrifty and faithful companion, the double-digit lift ticket. Survived by its close but ailing brethren – sweet hook-ups, free schwag and killer deals – it will be sorely missed by struggling powder junkies and weekend warriors everywhere.

In case you didn’t know, or are lucky enough to have a lifetime ski pass, your own personal chairlift or days to lavishly squander exploring the backcountry (so jealous), the price for a walk-up single-day lift ticket has officially broken the c-note barrier. And then some.

And as mournful as this new “milestone” is to those of us who grow weak in the knees at the thought of squandering a day’s wages on a wicket and a piece of paper, one can’t say it was totally unexpected. For years, the very possibility of skiing at many of that state’s ritzier venues has languished on credit card life support, inching ever closer to the “they’ll-rue-the-day-they-lose-my-business” threshold. In fact, the recent news of a $108 walk-up ticket (at a resort that shall remain nameless because we railed on it last week and it is an easy target, being located along that most wretched stretch of I-70) almost makes one nostalgic for the days of $90 sticker shock. I mean, don’t these people know we’re in a recession?

Sure, friends don’t let friends pay full retail. But I must say, as of late, even the “buddy deals” being offered up to placate us regular joes have left me feeling a bit underappreciated, if not downright destitute. And for the record, $80 is not necessarily a bargain. In fact, for $80, let alone $100, I better be getting top-to-bottom faceshots all day long.

(Allow me to interject some brown-nosing here and say that our local mountain and bread butter-er, Durango Mountain Resort, is among the camp that seems to “get” that most people cannot justify spending a month’s worth of groceries to take the family skiing for a day. Furthermore, not only is DMR more than generous with local’s and season pass deals, but never once have they made me to feel like unwanted Four Corners riff raff.)

I guess the whole reason $100 is so hard to swallow is that, when you think about it, that’s a new pair of shoes. And, like a lot women (and maybe a few dudes who don’t want to admit it), I like to view the world in “shoe units.” When it comes to dropping a hundred bones on a few hours at the area vs. a new pair of shoes that can give you months, even years, of enjoyment, I’m going to think long and hard. But for those who don’t see the world in shoes, let me give $100 another spin: a nice sushi dinner for two, with sake bombs, (and you might even get lucky afterwards); a month of heat; 2-year supply of toilet paper (the fancy two-ply recycled kind); six months of kibble for your faithful four-legged friend (give or take a few months depending on breed); or several rounds of drinks for all your friends, and their friends.

Yes, I understand that running a ski resort is not easy or cheap. There’s lifties to pay, corduroy to groom, tourists to bus and chairs to lift. But even factoring in inflation, the $35 ticket of 1987 should only equate to about $68 today. Which begs the question of where the extra 100 percent mark-up is going at the supposedly high end resorts. Yes, I know skis, not to mention some of the midsections that sport them, have gotten wider, but has the price of hauling bodies uphill gotten that steep?

I think not, which brings me back to the whole dirtbag thing (and by dirtbag, I mean anyone who doesn’t show up in a spankin new Range Rover or pay someone to shlep their gear). See, while you and I may take great pride in the fact that we hike all the way from the free lot and can survive the whole day on a PB&J shoved into the pocket of a ski jacket that cost less than our wedding dress, we’re not always seen in such favorable light by the schwankier resort-geoisie. In fact, I would wager to say those extra hefty price tags are a deliberate effort to keep brownbaggers, duct-tapers, condo-crammers and other assorted threats to the bottom-line out.

Which makes me a little sad, not just for ski bums, but all of ski-kind. Because in my opinion, what’s a mountain experience without a little rust around the edges, so to speak? You know, that hairy, bloodshot, crusty, foul-weathered yet lovable element that keeps it real. Those scroungy, scrappy specimen (and women) who emerge freshly baked from pickups and give “free happy hour” a bad name. I shudder to think where modern ski culture would be without their colorful contributions (“Hot Dog: The Movie” and bota bags immediately come to mind.) You can be sure there would be no vulgar stickers on lift towers; no “Mushroom Bowl” or “Joint Point;” no shot ski; no such thing as backscratchers, spread eagles or iron crosses; and most certainly no naked skiing or après rock bands sporting lingerie.

And then where would that leave us?

Well, I’m not sure, but instead of drinking tall boys with the brobras, you’d probably find yourself sipping pinky drinks in fur boots with a guy named Biff. And worst of all, you’d have sold your soul for $100 for the pleasure.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows