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Vanity takes an epic, crushing blow at Vail ski pass photo session
Exibit A: At left a normal photo of the author. At right, the dreaded ski pass photo.

Vanity takes an epic, crushing blow at Vail ski pass photo session

By Tom Boyd

January 21, 2009 —  It has long been believed that the Department of Motor Vehicles was far and away the top organization in the category of creating crappy photos of American citizenry.

True, the booking officers at the county jail have always run a close second, but not everyone gets to enjoy that lovely procedure, whereas all driving Americans are forced to periodically submit to the emotionally scarring process of seeing what they look like through the eyes of a DMV camera. Try as we might, even those with the most bountiful collection of physical attributes can find themselves reduced to driveling-troll status by the poor lighting, grainy film, and odd timing of DMV photographers.

And yet in a few short years, Vail Resorts has taken the art of the gnarly mugshot well beyond anything hoped or dreamed by any government photo issuer.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you exhibit A: My ski pass photo from this year (above and at right), as held in comparison to a recent photo taken of me at a wedding with your average point-and-shoot camera.

Laugh if you will at my squinty eyes, excessively bald head, puffy cheeks and peculiar triple-chin which appears but once a year, like magic, at the Vail ticket office. But I can assure you this freak of photographic nature is not mere happenstance – this is the work of a professional well trained in the art of photographic mutilation, acting with surety and intention.

Notice the zombie-gray coloring of the skin, the widening of the nose, and my personal favorite, the chiseling away of the teeth in order to give the viewer the impression that not once throughout childhood did I ever visit a dentist and, in fact, I could possibly be a vampire smiling at the thought of yet another unsuspecting victim. And even the most untrained eye can enjoy the backround where, in the upper-left of the frame there hovers a glowing, pixilated, amorphous blob of fluorescent light.

Quite frankly, it is a masterpiece.

No mere amateur could have produced such a fine shot. Only a professional, one with the ability to explode a skier’s vanity with the kind of precision usually reserved for nuclear scientists splitting atoms, can produce such an image in so short a time, with calm confidence, printing the pass before the photo subject has time, or temerity, to ask for another shot at the photo.

But the final brilliant finish – the final piece of evidence that this is no mere accidental flaw but rather a vast conspiracy to reduce once-proud egos to mere quivering lumps of submission – is the timing.

Timing is everything. Just when the eyes are out of focus, the chin is back, the cheeks are puffed, and the lights are flickering – only in that fleeting millisecond can ski pass photo takers click their mouse in that silent, undetectable way of which the Paparazzi can only dream.

And there, sliding out of the printer, is the annual dose of healthy humility dutifully provided by a $20 webcam and a maestro at the mouse.

Now that Vail Resorts has upgraded their lift-line pass scanners, spending untold money in the process, maybe they will consider giving our vanity a break next year by upgrading their camera equipment? Maybe a little mood lighting? Maybe a bit of a background? My vanity, I think, could use the break :)



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