John's Report - March 29, 2008

A Good Day for the Aged & the End of a Rant

After living an active life, around fifty, joints start to wear out. The choice is to pamper the joints & rot or continue with life & hurt. Pain is OK, but there's no need to seek it out. Today was a relatively pain free day. The conditions were hard but not brutal & most runs could be skied with forgiving turns. In fact, I bombed most of the runs I skied, which helped to avoid ski chatter. The only horrible conditions encountered were on Concussion. The rest of the south facing slopes were OK, and often good.

For me, today was a very happy day. Not only could my knees handle everything the mountain offered, but I experienced a retro event. This afternoon’s Griz band was a group consisting of under 30s called “Sleeping with Tuesday”. It played (really well) 60s & 70s (sometimes obscure) rock classics. Surprisingly, they were out, of all places, Elkford. They cleared the place of the kids, leaving about 50 people behind who really know what psychedelic meant. Ancient memories returned & we partied like 18 year olds. Sleeping with Tuesday played an extra 1½ hours & were rewarded with a pile of cash collected from grateful old people (who can now afford to show financial appreciation).

The best skiing I experienced was on the Big Three - Decline, Sky Dive & Stag’s Leap. While there were definitely moguls, they were soft, carvable & compliant. I circuited those runs most of the day. Each time I noticed there was a lone trail-worker on the ‘Dipsy-Do’ leading into Decline; just above Currie Creek. On each run, the blind dive over the cliff became a little better. On my third run, the drop was a simple compression, without back-flip corrections.

Which leads me to the tail-end of my Rant. Far.Redtree.Com is not my website, it belongs to Craig Morris. The views expressed in the Rant of last Sunday were my own. Craig doesn’t share all my views. In particular, he points out that last year FAR did amazing work at alder clearing & glading. On reflection, I must agree. Anything said about RCR doesn’t apply to the local FAR staff. Those who I know are good people who truly care about our sport and us, such as that lone trail worker who made today’s entrance into the Big Three a relative joy.

I recognize that FAR is a commercial operation (& have no problem with investors making a profit). However, I believe a ski resort is more than a business. It’s a community. What makes a good resort is the atmosphere generated by the regulars. These are the people who bring others in year after year. The bottom-line is the ski business is very much a "word of mouth" proposition. If people are unhappy they will seek alternatives & both FAR & Fernie will suffer (the lean years of the 90's were an economic famine in the Elk Valley). With these comments, my hope is RCR will realize the importance of keeping the customer happy.

Having said that, here are some of your comments in response to the Rant (edited for clarity but otherwise your comments, not mine):

- ‘The price increases have been astounding - I trust they'll notice how much I saved by skiing at FAR 75% less this year.’

- ‘I love the feeling of the hill and the bulk of the town but I am continually disappointed at the local anti-feeling of what they have at their doorstep. If you move to Golden, Whistler or Blairmore you may realize what you are leaving behind. It doesn't excuse all of what is being done but instead of the townies complaining perhaps they should be working together to help find solutions.’

- ‘I agree the rates at FAR are too pricey for the value provided. Another comparison that helps to make the point...Whitefish day passes are about $20 less than at FAR, and in the past couple of years they have improved the lifts and the services. A HUGE new lodge opened this year, adding to the already wide choice of restaurant/bar services available within boot-walking distance. Compared to FAR, the Fish is a great deal.’

- ‘RCR's treatment of snow sport enthusiasts in recent years is essentially driving people away from the sport, be it skiing or snowboarding. How can young people afford and RCR justify an $80/ski day? This year Castle was my "home" hill and I bought a season pass over Fernie for every reason you listed ... There are around 30 people in my ski group (789's) and everyone of us loves Fernie but hates the way RCR treat people and have essentially boycotted all their hills this year.’

- ‘The run closures this year were brutal. I understand they need to do avalanche control but come on. Hire some people and get it done.’ (My (John’s) comment: I don’t agree with this - snow conditions constantly change and are dependant on the weather; not blasting)

- ‘I once complained to RCR about their prices and was told their prices are lower than Whistler. I can’t believe they compare their product to Whistler.’

- ‘I live in Calgary now (former ski bum of Fernie and am lucky to have known Fernie Snow Valley). I agree with the power of the consumer and if I didn't have any history and a couple of friends left there it would be easy to avoid Fernie all together.’

- ‘When I started skiing as a university student in the early 70s, 10 hours of minimum wages would buy: gas, two nights in a Motel (4 people per room), two days of lift tickets all the draft beer I could drink, a couple of breakfasts & burgers. Now 10 hours of minimum wage buys one lift ticket. I don’t know where the replacement skiers/boarders will come from. I honestly think, overall, the ski industry is pricing itself out of business.’

- ‘I am a Brit who works in Switzerland and who over 10 years ago purchased land at FAR. My family have enjoyed skiing here and the attraction in the early days apart from the great snow and skiing was the relatively low cost compared to European skiing. This has changed quite fundamentally since then without any substantial improvement of the resort. It might be of interest to you and others that now Fernie is charging more for its ski pass than the very top Swiss resorts such as Zermatt + Cervinia and Verbier. It seems suicidal for a resort to charge over the odds as this will inevitably lead to less skiers and a death spiral to bankruptcy’.

- ‘I’ve decided this was the last year for a super-pass at RCR. That’s voting on my feet, as you put it. I will ski Castle more, Revelstoke a bit, and backcountry ski a lot.’

- ‘I think FAR and RCR in general are really suffering from soaring costs - although you refer to 2% annual inflation, that's a ridiculous government number. True inflation has to be 7, 8, 9 per cent. Don't get me wrong - I'm not refuting your rant and I agree with it. It's just that I'm really concerned about the long term prospects for ski hills if costs keep escalating this way.’

- ‘I used to own property in Sparwood and I was a Fernie regular. 2 years ago I was so fed up with rising ticket/pass prices and the COMPLETE lack of customer appreciation that I decided I sell my place in Sparwood and headed for Whitefish. I have been completely happy with my decision. Fernie definitely has better terrain, however Whitefish's lift system and family atmosphere outweigh the terrain in Fernie, not to mention it is $500 for a season pass and lift tickets can be purchased at Costco for $45. I hope Fernieans realize that along with Castle another choice is close by. It is less than 2 hours from Fernie to the parking lot at the ski hill in Whitefish.’

-‘I love living here, I love the town, I love the people, I love the environment, but I hate the monopoly.’

- ‘I've had it RCR and I can appreciate your frustration. Your rant ... love it!!!’

And the final reader comment:

- ‘John I'm a FAR season pass holder living in London Ont. I got 21 days this year. People don't go to Sunshine because its generally tedious. Kicking Horse is a great drop with a LONG ski-out. I don't know Castle. Pub food & beer can be had anywhere. You live in skiing Nirvana despite its flaws. The glass is more than half full. Enjoy.’

And with that, the Rant ends. Anyone else who feels they have something to say should direct their comments to RCR (although I will always appreciate a copy). Thanks to all for the comments.


PS - Just learned Castle got 60 cm midmountain (& 15 cms at the base) by about 2 pm today. They have a special. One dollar off for each cm at the base. Who knows, it keeps snowing, they may have to pay you to ski!

Although I will continue to bemoan the lack of spring skiing this year - the fact is there were few people on the Hill this Saturday

Liftline, generally sheltered from the sun, was in good shape.

The Decline/Sky Dive Split with Bear Den in the Background

As Dan demonstrates, while not powder skiing, it snowed about an inch on Saturday afternoon & there was snow to be kicked up.

Lower Decline

Snow Fall on Sky Dive

The huge cornice above White Pass. The 123s were a good run today.

Stag's Leap

The Big Three seen from the base, with a beer in hand.

Sleeping with Tuesday - an old folks' band ...

... and some of the old folks enjoying the band ...

& the liquor.