Hey, What’s Up?
I know, I know, you thought it was over, that I was gone for good, sunk in some corporate crevasse along with the soul of skiing and the corpse of Powder Magazine. But I’m still here, living in a drafty apartment in the fictional ski town of Mt. Shredly USA, and Living The Dream.
And the mountain lifestyle has been a weird ride in this pandemic, I can assure you. Summer was a parade of douchey van lifers and rich people with new RVs, camping in any available clump of trees adjacent to town and shitting everywhere like untrained dogs. They squeezed out all of the local skids who have to live in their cars because they are homeless for real, and didn’t leave until the smoke from two historically large fires chased them away, finally letting us get back to living the dream in a toxic hellscape.
This winter has been a grind too. My town—during a supposed state-wide lock-down—is packed with second-homeowners and tourists slithering around in new $80,000 SUVs and never meeting your eyes when they drive past. Meanwhile half the locals are relying on meals from a food bank to survive. The social divide in tourist destinations is buck naked right now, and it’s not a pretty sight. But hey, the lifts are spinning!
I’m not really sure what to write here yet. When I did the Jaded Local column for Powder, I was basically writing as if my audience were all crusty ski patrollers at a ski hill with avalanche control. But Mountain Gazette is way more wide-ranging, so I want to tackle more than just skiing’s sordid underbelly for sordid old skiers.
And the stakes have ratcheted up to the point where light-hearted satire seems frivolous. When the Jaded column was initiated by Powder editor Matt Hansen in 2009, the Scary Issues of mountain town living were looming ever larger, but it felt like with some earnest work we could still push back against the Forces of Darkness. Now? Well…
Some of the things I’ve been thinking about lately in this, Year Two of The Corona:
—The Armageddon snowpack across much of the West right now, and how hard it is for people to just “smoke pot and make soup” as one avalanche professional friend currently recommends for all of ColoradBro. There’s deep instability all over the West right now and a lot of people frothing to get after it, and it gives me the creeps. This video from the Utah Avalanche center is almost painful to watch:
-Colorado has less snow but it’s the same story there. Smoke the pot. Make the soup.
—How much I miss drinking beer at the bar with ski patrollers and grumpy lift maintenance workers. Nothing keeps me grounded like unwinding with capable and cranky people. And I’m guessing that starting avalanches and not falling off lift towers all day without being able to drink beer in a warm basement at 4:45 has them in immense psychic pain. You can bet your ass that in the era of the corporate ski resort there sure isn’t any beer in the locker room these days either. Poor bastards.
—The journalism of Jason Blevins at the Colorado Sun. This dude is basically the only real ski journalist in America. It’s a multi-multi-billion-dollar industry and out of all the people spraying ski-media PR, marketing, takes, and self-promotion, he’s one of the very few doing something of actual value. Local papers are fading, the Internet is a howling void, but one reporter is actually writing stories we need to know about mountain towns and a ski business that’s overdue for some reckoning.
—A conversation I had this week with a friend in Jackson Hole, an iconic Jackson skier with actual terrain named after him, who tells me he’s done with skiing, that Jackson is “all trusties and rich fucks now,” and “Everyone figured out we were having a lot of fun. Now it’s fucked.” I’ve been suppressing those feelings for so long it made me wince to hear it from a genuine ski hero.
—Longtime Powder photo editor/art director David Reddick has been digitizing and archiving the original issues of the magazine, starting from #1, on the magazine’s semi-zombie website at Powder.com. He asked me to write forwards for some of the issues, so I’ve been re-reading them. And if you have any interest in skiing, or ski history, or mountain culture, you should too. Let’s just say the ads are almost better than the content, which is awesome on its own. Seeing the pure stupid animal joy of that early work by the magazine’s founders also gives me this weird foreign feeling that I finally identified as... hope.
So I guess I want to know—what’s happening in your town? What should I expose and mock? What matters in mountain towns? What’s actually working? Who needs an interview? Who needs a thorough chastisement?
Anyway, the point is the Jaded is still Local. And he’d like to hear from you. I sincerely hope we get to make some turns or sink some beers together, but in the meantime, hit Mountain Gazette with questions, comments, requests for advice, recipes, objections, or sternly-worded critiques at JadedLocal@mountaingazette.com and I will make fun of them in future columns.
The Jaded Local is Hans Ludwig. His work will appear here and in each and every issue of Mountain Gazette going forward. Subscribe here.