Nobody ever said skiing was cheap. Between the travel to the mountains, gear, and lift tickets, it requires a substantial amounts of disposable income to participate in this spectacular sport. Upon arrival at your favorite ski hill, it is easy to identify the obvious signs of wealth. Whether it is a $60,000 Chevrolet Suburban parked next to you or a young couple each with their own carbon DPS Wailers with the latest tech binding, the signs are obvious.
Throughout the hallowed ski day, you will encounter plenty of people in different socioeconomic classes. This is simply a reality of our capitalist society.
Perhaps you glance over at the man at the next pump over at the gas station. This guy is heading to his second job after working 60-hour work week. Meanwhile, you and your friends chat about the latest Candide Thovex edit while you fuel your vehicle with $5000 of skis on the roof rack and fiddle with your puffy Patagonia jackets.
Maybe it is the custodial staff in the lodge. As you buy a $200 lunch for your family of five at the cafeteria, they are scraping by near minimum wage while the cost of living continues to rise.
Accessing many ski resorts requires you to travel through an impoverished mountain town or two. These rural areas offer few steady employment opportunities. You cruise past houses with dilapidated barns or tarps on the roof as you sit in your heated vehicle worrying about whether or not the ski shop gave a satisfactory tune to your skis. Meanwhile, the tenants of those houses are worrying about affording the upcoming mortgage or rent payment.
A ski hill is a place where it can be easy to forget about the dichotomy of wealth in this country. We engage in the sacred sport of skiing which is primarily available to those with a substantial amount of disposable income. On the chairlift, there is a discussion of trips to Japan or Colorado. Many folks spend the weekend at a second, or third, home that they own exclusively for ski season. Meanwhile, it can be easy to forget about the bulk of Americans who simply can’t afford a ski setup, let alone taking time off work, gas, and lift tickets. Skiers are isolated in this bubble of leisure-seeking people.
Is it valid to feel a sense of guilt? Or is it simply an issue of the “haves and have-nots?” As usual, there is likely no simple answer.
On one hand, many people work exceptionally hard for their money. A lot of wealthy folks have a highly desirable employable skill that they have honed for years. Whether it is an incredibly sharp business sense or a medical background that required extensive training. It is easy to think that wealth comes from a hard-working background.
On the other hand, perhaps the fact that wealth often comes from hard work doesn’t matter. Maybe this issue should not be viewed as an “us versus them” situation. The problem may not be that the wealthy work hard and deserve to be wealthy. Rather, the important part is that the economic system may not be fair. As skiers spend thousands of dollars to recreate in the mountains, other Americans struggle to get by and do not have the opportunity to advance themselves. Lower income populations often don’t have the resources to get an education or training in one of the trades. As a result, no amount of hard work is going to boost them into a different socioeconomic class.
There is no need to turn this into a political conversation to discuss the ways to solve this problem. The point is the problem exists.
Yes, there are the “ski bums” who may not be making money hand over fist. These “snow bros/brahs” probably have a taped up pair of ski pants or gloves. The ski bums are often deal hunters and can be seen cruising around on old, beat up skis. These hardcore skiers have figured out ways to live in mountain towns in and make ends meet. While they are typically not swimming in cash, there is a strong possibility they are college educated and come from a reasonably well-off background.
Is it right to feel a sense of guilt at the resort? Does it make you feel a little funny to spend your weekend in the “ski resort bubble?” Or is this just being hypersensitive and overanalyzing a simple fact about American society?
What do you think?