The essence of RealVail
September 5, 2007 —
My partner Tom Boyd likes to call it the Chairlift Effect Ė and Iíll admit some of the most interesting conversations Iíve ever had have been on a chairlift Ė but to me the essence of RealVail comes down to something more complex and pervasive in todayís society.
I like to call it either the Cubicle Syndrome or the Voyeur Factor.
By way of explanation, a quick story: I once met a couple from Sydney, Australia, while snowcat skiing at Grand Targhee, Wyo. Both software developers with no kids and tons of expendable income, they would scour the web in search of impending winter storms, quickly book a flight and 24 hours later find themselves skiing deep, untrammeled snow in some far-flung location.
Given the expense of flying commercially at such short notice and the distance from Sydney to any of the great skiing destinations in the world, I was truly impressed by their dedication to the sport.
When I told them I lived in Vail and worked at a newspaper, they got very excited and begged me for my inside secrets on hitting the perfect powder day. For me, I explained, itís as simple as getting up in the morning, checking to see if it snowed the night before, quickly calling the snow report to confirm that it dumped more up on the mountain than on the valley floor, then heading up on the hill.
Obviously, in Sydney, they didnít have that luxury. A couple of years later they showed up in Vail, convinced by something they read online that the storm of the century was headed out way. As is often the case, forecasters blew the call and they traveled all that way for marginal conditions.
They remained in good cheer, but their chief complaint to me over beers after a day of making icy turns was how difficult it is to find any real information on current snow and weather conditions in a tiny mountain valley thousands of miles from their home.
The web has undoubtedly revolutionized how we obtain and process information, but I realized that so much of what is out there Ė at least in terms of the ski industry Ė is static and somewhat useless.
A mountain cam can show you that itís snowing but it doesnít really relay how much itís snowed in the past few days, whether temperatures were cold enough to keep the snow light and fluffy, how hard holiday crowds may have already hit that new snow, or whatís coming down the pike as far as future storms.
Nor does a snow report reflect whether north-facing runs are the place to ski (versus iced-over south-facing stuff), what itís like in the trees, what parts of the mountain remain undiscovered and lightly trafficked, what effect wind might have on particular runs, just how to ski the mountain in certain conditions. Basically all the subtle nuances of skiing a particular area that are entirely missed by marketing-oriented snow reports.
So Cubicle Syndrome is when youíre sitting in your office in Sydney or New York City or Los Angeles or Mexico City and you want to escape for a few minutes to Vail or Beaver Creek or other resorts in the Rocky Mountain West. You want to know what the conditions are like, how big the base is and whether it might just be the right weekend to jump on a plane bound for Denver or Eagle.
My frequent blogs, called The O. Report, will essentially constitute a daily ski diary, likely starting in late October at Loveland or Arapahoe Basin and winding down at one of those resorts in late May or June, with many, many ski days at my home mountains of Vail and Beaver Creek sandwiched in between and probably one big trip involving helicopters to someplace remote and radical.
The Voyeur Factor comes in when you live vicariously through these adventures and are perhaps inspired to head to the Central Rockies to make your own craziness. And while The O. Report will always be a first-person chronicle of life in the high country, I will scrupulously try to avoid the ďthere I was, there I wasĒ voice so prevalent in ski mags and travel sections.
Our goal here, through both blogs and articles, is to present unfiltered and honest information about the ski industry that is valuable to skiers, not crow about how lucky we are to every day live a life that many people spend small fortunes to enjoy for just one week.
We know how lucky we are and want to give back by making sure you get the most out of your one week.
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