Red seems committed to keeping the local public informed via periodic open meetings. Last night’s meeting was significant for the noticeable lack of pre-publicity (I was told about of it only that morning by resort CEO Howard Katkov) and not coincidentally the lack of any real interest amongst local skiers.
I’ve always been impressed by Howard’s ability to speak to local skiers in a way that gives the impression that he understands and is sympathetic to our needs. His spiel for the last couple of years has been that he’s just a skier, who fell in love with Red, and that he’s reluctantly developing the place in order to save it from otherwise certain ruin.
But at last night’s meeting he seemed only concerned with demonstrating his business acumen, determined to make a pile of money for him and his friends by selling a cartoon version (complete with a disneyfied faux ski bum ghetto) of our way of life to rich urban Americans. I felt shudders of revulsion listening to Howard and Eric (the new GM) frothing over how cool the Red brand is, and how excited they are to be able to exploit it, as they simultaneously try to sanitize and gentrify the culture which created it. I believe the correct term is cultural appropriation.
Howard, Jim, Don, and Eric made their polished and enthusiastic presentations, with far more detail than I needed about their marketing strategy, and details of a bunch of changes to make the place more attractive to their ideal condo buyers.
They said nothing to give the impression that they’d given even a moment’s thought to the reason why most local skiers came and stayed here, and why people have loved skiing at Red over the years, that is the actual quality of the skiing experience. The meeting was 100% how they’re going to get people here and make money. I felt like I was at a shareholders meeting.
After a few soft-ball questions and polished answers, I asked why they keep cutting the budget for summer grooming, which they met with implausible denials, and the usual spin about the challenges of balancing priorities. I am disappointed that the summer grooming plan I was paid to prepare for them was ignored, but it seems self-evident that beyond their obligation to paying customers to properly maintain the existing terrain (which is not being done) that summer grooming is a cost effective way of increasing the skiable terrain (no new lifts are required), improving the accessibility of existing ski terrain, and dramatically enhancing (or at least maintaining if the place gets busy) the actual skiing experience for locals and visitors alike.
There was a time when Howard talked of increasing skier numbers while maintaining skier density through terrain expansion, but not anymore. If they’re successful in bringing all they new visitors expected this winter, we’re all going to be crowded into a diminished skiable area. If the skiing gets bad enough, and the complaints become regular enough, perhaps the skiing will finally become a priority for management. I live in hope.