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The Ski Oligarchy

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Ethan Indigo Smith       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   5 comments

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The Ski Oligarchy

I used to live the dream. I had a house with good friends directly below the best if not one of the best lines in Tahoe accessible by lift, that was still a good hike nonetheless. And then the corporations moved in and everything started changing. Squaw Valley USA transformed from a family owned resort presenting itself as a corporation into a corporation presenting itself as family owned. KSL is not the only corporation to come into town and set up. Vail now owns Heavenly, North Star and Kirkwood in Tahoe as well as The Canyons, Park City in Utah and Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado.

Vail seemed to me to be the stalest resort I have ever been to. Vail and presumably their business model, was stifling, lacking vibrancy whatsoever. I realized that all the corporate developers moving into Tahoe were all heading toward this corporatized ski oligarchy design, where the company owns everything down to the village sandwich shop. The state of Colorado had to actually initiate preventative measures against Vail buying more ski resorts. In 2001 Vail purchased Rock resorts formerly owned by the Rockefeller family.

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KSL bought Squaw and kicked out every storefront they could in order to move in more stale franchised corporate stores rather for more exorbitant rent of course or their own restaurant where once was an independent business. Then Alpine Meadows was adopted. The ski industry is of course reflective of industry in total and includes such nefarious and contentious practices as real estate, land development and water rights, let alone pollution and overdevelopment of mountain environments.

From what I understand it's typical for Vail to short checks, be late with paychecks and turn hours into phantoms. From what is evident ski resorts hire more and more seasonal employees from abroad, who end up living in poor conditions and making more profits for the corporations that hired them compared with than workers from the United States. Rumor has it that Vail insists employees use ski lingo when interacting with clients, I mean snowsliders. From what I understand when a client asks an employee how they're doing the employee is to respond, 'living the dream,' with a smile. Even though travel is always a learning experience and adventure, working five days a week for minimum wage and a ski pass restricted during holidays, eating ramen with your ten roommates, is not exactly living the dream. This is the life of a seasonal worker.

If we do not do something we will have CEO's of ski resorts constantly lying about how much snow has fallen, lying to employees about how they will be living and even writing letters impersonating people to boost their profile. Investigation has it that Andy Wirth at Squaw Valley did just that.

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I don't live the dream anymore, that is I don't live their dream, because underneath my obsession for snowsliding is a disdain for corporatizing oligarchies of which now there is no denying that the ski industry is just another link to get money. I am living my dream, not theirs.


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Ethan Indigo Smith is the son of a farmer and nurse who was later adopted by artists. Ethan was raised in Maine, Manhattan, and Mendocino, California. Ethan is a proud dropout. Ethan has traveled the world and has been employed briefly as (more...)

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