Peter Shelton

Worst Ideas of the Week

Posted in Ski evolution, Watch columns by pshelton on October 28, 2009

1. Get yourself a TV show, or at least get yourself famous, by pretending to—oops OMG, help! help!—accidentally send your six-year-old aloft in a homemade Jiffy-pop balloon.

2. Get Sarah Palin and Fred Thompson to endorse your candidacy for political office.

3. Actually seriously try to follow the tongue-in-cheek directions in Skiing magazine this month on how to make an emergency (tobacco) pipe out of a snowball.

Speaking of smoking, what are ski company executives thinking as they unveil a myriad new ski-related smartphone applications? Ski magazine, in an article on “essential gear,” says “Smartphones are becoming as critical a component of a ski day as snow.”

The head hurts. The heart sinks. The mind reels at the compounding evidence that mankind is going to hell in a hand basket.

No, really. They’re serious. Want to know where you are on the mountain at any given moment? Don’t look around, whip out your iPhone and fire up the global positioning system digital trail map, and it’ll tell you in just a few seconds. Yes, there you are, right there. That dot there on the liquid crystal display. Whew! For a minute there you thought you were lost!

Want to know what the weather is doing? Don’t look to the sky, don’t listen for the wind, just push a few buttons on your Blackberry (the gloves are a bother, aren’t they?) and get the latest from the national weather service! Or the resort’s own web site, updated regularly every morning!

Need to know what the snow is doing under your skis? Why bother relying on your own observations, punch up the avalanche information center nearest you (there are at least four or five of them across the western United States) and find out from the experts just how scary your situation really is!

I’m not making this up. The Ski article actually begins with some Salt Lake City braintrust “standing on a high peak in the Wasatch Range” dialing up the Utah Avalanche Center because he “wondered if the snow conditions had changed since he embarked on a daylong backcountry ski tour.”

The people pushing these wonderful new tools for skiers don’t mention the terrifying enfeeblement of the mind assumed by their technology. They must believe their audience is already a race of Pavlovian mice. “Customers expectations have fundamentally changed,” says Andy Wirth, a senior vice president for Intrawest, the resort giant that operates Whistler, B.C., and Steamboat, Colo., among others. “They want information on the fly, up to the minute, and on site. It’s our job to provide it.”

Crucial information like which base-area restaurant has sent you an e-coupon since you last unzipped for your ringing phone. Or who hit the top speed back there when you and your buddies were tuckin’ that awesome schuss down to the liftline. And who racked up the most vertical feet today, you or that a-hole Alan who’s always bragging about how many verts he scored when you know damn sure he’s lying through his teeth. And who doesn’t want to know exactly how many minutes you spent riding chairlifts on this awesomest day of your life? And then have your phone automatically upload all that stuff to your computer at home! Dude!

“This is how people live their lives today,” quoth the sage, Andy Wirth. “It should be seamless when they come to the mountains.”

Oh, really? Seamless? Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for when I travel, when I vacation. No change at all. No sentient challenges. No eyes wide listening for clues. No living jolt from having to figure out a new place, a new environment, new air, new gravity. Heaven forbid I take on responsibility for my own decisions. No, I don’t want to be without my cyber friends for even one minute. Don’t want to miss anything. Wonder where Marsha and them are at? Whoa! Fuck! Watch out, asshole! You almost ran me over! Shit! Yeah, well, I was just puttin’ mine away. You were fucking fixated on yours! You know you were!

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