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Good news! 23 March 2010

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And lo, Ullr said unto them, the huddled locals, “I give you closures on I-70, eastbound on Vail Pass and westbound in Mt. Vernon Canyon, that my munificence may restore your faith. Where I have withheld my blessing, you may find powder in abundance. Go forth and ski my bounty.”

The people of Summit County saw this, and it was good.

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Ski Resort Living 8 February 2010

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More than once after it became clear I’d be heading Colorado my friends wondered if I’d come home for Christmas or MLK weekend. Or ever. “No,” I told them. “The nature of the job means that I don’t really get to take time off. But I am living in a vacation destination after all–maybe you should come visit me.” And thus far, they’ve fulfilled that end of the bargain. College buddies Weeks, Bell and Cottrell came out this weekend for a quick romp in the snows of Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail, and for the most part they spent their time alternately gaping at the scenery and greeting it head-first: too many faceplants in the powder, I guess. Former roommate Brett will arrive in March for more of the same.

But at the other end of the bargain is a life perpetually confined to this resort world of rental properties and Christmas lights that have yet to come down. I’m beginning to think nothing will dislodge them save a sudden onset of of Mardi Gras cheer, and even then this will remain a place of transients, faces seen once at a bar or on the lift. It’s about this time of year, too, that the niggling differences between this and real life begin to pop up. Just one of the twenty-somethings that staff the reservations call center lacks a college degree; a couple more have completed post-graduate education. And everywhere else the sons and daughters of what are predominately well-to-do families are spending these first 12 or 18 months of their degreed lives removing snow and picking up trash, generally for fewer than $10 an hour.  The economist in me sees an enormous, probably outsized, value placed on the snow which hasn’t exactly arrived in abundance this season. Why else turn down a secure office job to scrape ice off the stairs at 7:45 this morning? What’s the marginal value of those powder days? Tens of thousands of dollars, evidently.

But when you’re here on vacation you miss that; the trip hinges on the snow and the bars and just how quickly and painlessly you can check into your room. Who attends to those matters doesn’t, well, matter. That’s not a plea for recognition but rather an attempt to highlight the key difference between the ski resort and any other player in the service industry. At the moment I can think of no other sport that sustains an entire population on the promise of another day of play. No one sacrifices for golf. Surfing maybe. Has anyone chanced a job offer to spend another day on the racquetball court?

No.

Perhaps the ski industry takes advantage of us. We don’t receive holiday pay. We don’t get vacation. Sometimes we work six day weeks. But in the end, we ski. And every year, that promise draws thousands of folks like us to resorts around the country. So, Ullr, please send snow. We’re paying for it.

NOAA, Government in General, Beaver Creek, Ski Report 7 December 2009

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Cool stuff: More WM here in Colorado. Trevor Harrison’s in Breck and he’s got a blog.

I take back everything nice thing I ever said about weathermen — even those conciliatory words from several days ago. In fact, my faith in government has been shaken to the core. (To those of you who knew I placed little or no faith in government from the start, let’s play the silent game. You start.) Anyway, I submit the evidence:

Hrm!

Agh! Politics! The blog got political! Abandon ship! Erm… anyway, aren’t counterfactuals fun? Especially those that that have been beaten to death in the media already? No doubt you’ve all seen this graph, and if you haven’t, it’s interesting enough in that gnashing-of-teeth-and-renting-of-hair kinda way. Of course government meddling produces scarier stuff, but the next graph’s the real shocker, the most damning piece of evidence I could cobble together. Take a long sad look how our government’s crack team of meteorologists has fared in predicting the weather around here:

No snow makes ski bums everywhere cry.

If that typeface looks a little small, I’ll help make it out for you: about 2″ of snow predicted every three hours for two days of which 0″ has materialized.

Double-timing, no-good scoundrels staff our government. Their mendacity knows no bounds. They probably hate baby animals, too. QED.

I know these things for a fact. The graphs prove it. But seriously, where is the snow?! Sunday, it dumped on Beaver Creek, Vail’s posh(est) resort 45 minutes west on I-70. Now certainly, there’s been talk of the company’s seeding the clouds above the its guests’ pampered heads, bombarding the storm cells with silver ions and an offering of burnt skis — that something, anything might propitiate Ullr and bring his blessing of powder.

But it’s just that, talk. Vail already shoveled its cash into the escalators and heated sidewalks. Oh, and free, warm chocolate chip cookies for everyone, too. Over at the more pedestrian Keystone, however, nary a snowflake landed. Our $4 pitchers of PBR must inspire in Ullr a wrathful heart. Tomorrow we go in search of an appropriate microbrew.

Abbreviated Snow Report:

Beaver Creek: My snide remarks about The Beav’s ritziness aside, it’s the best thing out there right now. World Cup Racing over the weekend meant nothing doing over on the Birds of Prey, BC’s signature area, but I’m guessing it’ll open up soon enough, especially considering all the snow the area’s been getting. The beginner area’s convenient location at the top of mountain has left it with six or so inches in the last two days, as well, with more on the way. And don’t think that it’s just for beginners, either. Sure, Lydia, who hadn’t skied in a decade, found it pretty nice, but so did everyone else in our group. Beaver’s empty on the weekends, is the only place with real snow right now and serves free chocolate chip cookies. What’s not to like?

Vail: Got some snow evidently. Still not a whole lot open, though. Unless you’ve got a pass, forget about it. It’s not worth the $25 you’ll pay to park and then almost $90 you’ll shell out for an early season lift ticket. And if you do have a pass, well, don’t you have some projects you can take care of around the house before the real snow comes?

Breckenridge: Breck opened (some of) Peak 9! And hasn’t gotten any new snow! Agh! Run away! At this point, Breck is strictly for the faint of heart. Nothing here to get the braver blood flowing, although if the current storm leaves anything there, we might get some more interesting terrain open soon.

Keystone: Still the longest runs around here and the crews have done a fine job of blowing snow every night. On the downside, they’re the same several runs that have been operating since Keystone opened, a Mike G. and Sara H. report that the weekend throngs turn the place into an icy mess.  Ski mid-week.

Arapahoe Basin: Currently icy. No new terrain. Still beautiful, but why not drive to Loveland instead?

Bottom Line: Burn some skis for Ullr, and if you absolutely have to hit the slopes, make the trek to Beaver Creek.