Opinion » Alta States

Radical dreams for the New Year – re-inventing the resort experience



"The real magic of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

– Marcel Proust

Sigh. Another year. Another short paddle down the mighty Chronos River. Some of us grew from the experience. Some of us just got older. But no one remained the same.

Know what I mean? Time is like that. One moment you're young (and talented and successful and sexy) and the next, well... let's just say you're not so young anymore.

But enough lugubrious musings. In honour of this being the first Alta States of the New Year, I've decided to step out a little. My story this week is set in the future — 2022 to be precise — and it's a tale about a reluctant ski entrepreneur who travelled back to the past to create a fulfilling future. Read on:

They said it couldn't be done. That I was crazy to even envision such a project. But I was convinced it would work. Call me contrary. Or cussed. Or stiff-necked even. Whatever. I've never taken kindly to being told I can't do something. So I decided to let the experts' mewling and idea bashing simply wash over me like a spring shower before a sunny day. In other words, I ignored them.

You see, I was convinced that the ski resort business had lost its way. Seemed to me that we'd gotten carried away with "technology" and forgotten all about "experience." It's like my old friend Eldon Beck used to say: "What we're seeing in modern culture is how much our high-tech 'stuff' is drawing people away from nature."

And that's exactly what I objected to. The old boys in the business all seemed to have their heads stuck up each other's butts. Their pro-stuff argument just didn't make sense to me. The only thing that their fancy high-tech lifts and million-dollar grooming machines and stupidly-expensive snow-making systems had succeeded in doing was to draw people away from the simple, magical, wonderful sensation of sliding over snow in winter time. And I meant to put that right.

Besides, the world had changed dramatically. The Great Recession of '08 seemed to have recalibrated a lot of people's souls. Suddenly they started looking for authenticity in their experiences. They wanted activities they could share with family members. They wanted to reconnect — in an honest way — with their natural environment.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. While the media seemed enthralled with the fattening of the population, a counter trend was all but ignored in those years. You see, at the other end of the lifestyle spectrum, people were getting way fitter. I mean if 7,000 cyclists can pedal their bikes from Vancouver to Whistler during a one-day Fondo event, surely we're seeing something of a fitness revolution here. And that, I was also convinced, would change the way people would seek to interact with their favourite mountain terrain. More variety, more self-propelled options, less on-hill management: This, I thought, is what these new outgoing, active participants would want.