The Jaded Lo­cal


Powder - - TA­BLE OF CON­TENTS -

In 1970, the late great Hunter S. Thomp­son ran for sher­iff of Pitkin County, Colorado, where Aspen was just start­ing to blow up. Thomp­son ran on a plat­form of tear­ing up all the pave­ment in town, le­gal­iz­ing drugs, and re-nam­ing the com­mu­nity “Fat City” to deter real es­tate hype and close-minded vis­i­tors.

Nearly 50 years later, hype rules and ski towns have paid the price. Thomp­son spent his later years in a drug-ad­dled haze of gin and de­spair, in no small part driven by the pain of watch­ing what had been the coolest moun­tain town in Amer­ica turn into a place owned by Saudi sheiks, twats in leather pants, and other glit­terati who didn’t ski. Af­ter Aspen, ev­ery other great Amer­i­can ski town has fol­lowed suit.

They’re all Aspens now, where lo­cals are squeezed out by empty man­sions that will never house any­one. The ski in­dus­try, once the prov­ince of quirky fam­ily founders and dash­ing Euro­pean pi­o­neers, is now mostly a col­lec­tion of prop­er­ties in the port­fo­lios of cor­po­rate con­glom­er­ates and sleazy hedge funds.

A sim­i­lar fate has be­fallen the ski me­dia, where keen minds with sturdy liv­ers and a pas­sion for deep-snow im­mer­sion are be­ing re­placed by ad plat­forms and data-col­lec­tion ser­vices known to the rest of us as “so­cial me­dia.” In turn, con­sumers of me­dia have be­come ad plat­forms them­selves, blithely turn­ing their lives into an ad­ver­to­rial photo shoot for In­sta­gram and Face­book, as if the Mar­ket­ing has crawled in­side their heads and taken con­trol.

Be­cause it has.

Ac­tual real life, the tex­ture and vi­cis­si­tudes of re­al­ity, has be­come sub­or­di­nate to Mar­ket­ing Re­al­ity, where ev­ery­thing is bet­ter, pret­tier, cooler, and more sat­is­fy­ing. It’s as if ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence is a Tin­der pro­file, Airbnb list­ing, or blue­bird pow­der day.

Sadly, all this hype is killing ski towns and keep­ing us from fo­cus­ing on the stuff we should be do­ing, like ac­tu­ally ski­ing, the Thurs­day night co-ed wrestling league I’m try­ing to start, and not liv­ing in a Subaru. Ev­ery­thing that’s good in these places is the prod­uct of the fierce and weird en­ergy of skiers: peo­ple who own semi-feral huskies, know what a mus­tache is for, live by the rhythms of na­ture and the sea­sons, who will be your friend for life af­ter a sin­gle day’s ad­ven­ture, and who will risk their life to save yours.

While Thomp­son him­self would iron­i­cally be con­sumed by his ul­tra-mar­ketable al­terego, the writer was cer­tainly onto some­thing with his cam­paign for sher­iff.

The suc­cess of feeds like Jerry Of The Day and Kook­slams sug­gests the mech­a­nism to our even­tual free­dom may lie in turn­ing mar­ket­ing against it­self. If you live in, or love, a ski town, it’s time for some Anti-mar­ket­ing. I pro­pose the fol­low­ing so­lu­tions:

1. Re­name ev­ery ski town in the spirit of “Fat City.” Steam­boat would be Flat­boat; Crested Butte be­comes Crusty Butt; Vail is Vile; Squaw can be Squat; Jack­son turns into Jack­ing Hole; and Lit­tle Cot­ton­wood would sim­ply be The Traf­fic Ditch.

2. Leak ru­mors of sav­age bear at­tacks on the groomers and in ex­pen­sive wine bars.

3. Pass reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing real es­tate agents to pro­vide clients with a thick packet of graphic in­for­ma­tion about how to sur­vive bear at­tacks, avalanches, for­est fires, hook­worm, and Mys­te­ri­ous Bac­te­rial In­fec­tions.

4. In­sti­tute manda­tory No-plow Days dur­ing hol­i­days.

5. Fart loudly and fre­quently in crowded pub­lic spa­ces and claim it with a hearty “Wel­come to Jack­ing Hole!”

6. Airbnb list­ings would be re­quired to re­place the words like “lux­ury” or “slope­side” with “moist,” “fun­gal,” or “built by des­per­ate im­mi­grants liv­ing four to a room in a mo­bile home 50 miles down val­ley.”

7. In pub­lic, al­ways make sure to talk about Chair­lift Dis­as­ters and the out-of-con­trol chlamy­dia epi­demic in town.

8. Ban all forms of Pow­der Alerts from ski re­sorts. They will only be al­lowed to re­lease alerts for Crust, Re­frozen Mank, or Flat Light.

9. Never In­sta­gram any­thing nice. Ac­cepted ma­te­rial would be rel­e­gated to squalor and mis­ery, lift lines, bags of dog shit at the trail­head, blown edges, blown knees, and tourists fight­ing for park­ing spots.

In­sti­tut­ing these steps could turn things around pretty quickly. If you took all the mar­ket­ing money spent in ski towns last year and turned it into hous­ing or schools or men­tal health sup­port, it might have been worth some­thing. In­stead, 99 per­cent of it went to ben­e­fit­ting cor­po­ra­tions, creepy for­eign­fi­nanced hedge funds, real es­tate devel­op­ment, and Mark Zucker­berg.

So let’s just kill it, and start the Un­bull­shit­ting. Only then may we be able to ac­tu­ally live in a ski town with­out hav­ing to sleep in a Subaru.

Sadly, all this hype is killing ski towns and keep­ing us from fo­cus­ing on the stuff we should be do­ing, like ac­tu­ally ski­ing, the Thurs­day night co-ed wrestling league I’m try­ing to start, and not liv­ing in a Subaru.

Photo: Bruno Long

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