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Mountain News: New technology making us above-average skiers


Compiled by Allen Best

ASPEN, Colo. — Is new technology such as shaped skis the saviour of skiing?

No, says Aspen Times columnist Roger Marolt, a long-time local. Such devices are destroying the sport, he says, because they take the challenge and hence the triumph out of the sport.

"Nothing is off-limits to the novice anymore," he writes. "It’s the inevitable ‘dumbing down’ of our sport: a byproduct of mass marketing to mature (a.k.a. wealthy) skiers (a.k.a. timeshare purchasers). Take shaped skis for example. Well… they just make skiing easier. Now there’s a thrilling concept.

"They practically turn themselves. Are you invigorated yet?"

As Marolt sees it, the decline began in the 1980s when skier numbers began to drop. Rather than lowering prices to keep people in the game, ski industry executives decided it was simpler to fight over existing customers.

"Retirement community amenities and corduroy-smooth runs were the bait," he explains. "Equipment manufacturers followed suit. ‘Easier’ became synonymous with ‘better.’ The result is that now ski resorts are competing with strolls down the Palm Beach Boardwalk as the recreational activity du jour."

In short, Marolt is saying that by making us all above-average skiers, the new technology eliminates any true triumph of excelling, making the sport… boring. Take a cue from the X Games, with its panoply of jumps, bumps, and rails, stairs, walls, and pits, he suggests. Harder means more exciting means more passion, he argues.

Planner accused of impropriety

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — An associate city planner is being accused of selling scarce development rights to a real estate agent more than a decade ago.

Then, as now, there’s a waiting list for such development rights in the Lake Tahoe area. As explained by the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a real estate agent threatened to expose the planner’s use and sale of cocaine unless she went along with the deal. The real estate agent then sold the improperly obtained development rights for $105,000.

Banff mayor defends need-to-reside rule

BANFF, Alberta — Because Banff, the town, is within Banff National Park, the federal government has some considerable say-so in what happens within the town. One provision is that people who own property there must live there. In other words, no vacation or second homes.

A lawsuit is underway in an attempt to displace that notion, but several Banff municipal officials say it’s proper and just. Opponents of this need-to-reside rule say they are fighting for individual freedoms, but Mayor Dennis Shuler says their real motivation is greed.

Another council member, Bob Haney, says the law is vital to keeping Banff a tourist town. "I see no advantage of having the rich being able to come in and buy up housing stock that is needed to house employees who are delivering a service to the visitors of the national park," he told the Banff Crag & Canyon. Expensive mountain retreats can be purchased elsewhere in Canada, among them Whistler and Canmore, as well as the United States, he said.