While I earned my keep as an equipment maven during my tenure at Snow Country Magazine, towards the end of the relationship they let me try my hand at resort reviews. I’ll never forget the opening paragraph of my first submission because it was unambiguously rejected by my editor, Kathleen James, who currently edits Skiing History, for whom it has also been my privilege to write.
Ms. James was right; my opening was pedestrian, but I mention it now as in it I derided the in-room brochures that laid out the buffet of possible diversions available in and around Jackson, Wyoming. One might fly fish, for example, or take a hot-air balloon excursion, or watch an elk herd as it nibbled at bales of hay.
I remember my brain shutting down due to the of stress of processing why on God’s green earth anyone would pass up another opportunity to ski all that is Jackson Hole in order to watch wapiti graze on whatever, be it native grasses or imported rye, who cares? Like any normal, addicted skier, the elk might as well be snacking on sea anemones for all I cared; I just traversed half a continent to ski Jackson and any other suggestions can take a hike up the nearest Teton.
How the world has changed. A skier who I thought lived only is some marketer’s overcooked imagination has become an identifiable type. This may sound like a massively unimportant development, but I think it merits your attention. Take a deep breath, because we’re about to dive into a multi-faceted rumination about skiing in our time.
What’s in A Name?
The distinction may be lost on you now, but in a few paragraphs you’ll see why Rossignol adopted the term “All-Resort” instead of the customary “All-Mountain” to capture the character of this new paradigm. The All-Resort vacationer considers skiing to be the centerpiece of his/her winter get-away, but it’s not the entire meal. The menu of the resort’s delights isn’t the trail map but the resort’s proprietary app, which promotes all the other non-ski activities as skiing’s equals. The engine that drives the entire visit isn’t the ski addiction that fueled earlier generations, but Instagram. Whatever is worth doing merits documentation; a moment without immortalized recognition doesn’t rise to the level of the real.
I want to burst into a screed on why people need to experience life unmediated by the urge to record it. Skiing at a high level requires the skier to be present, to immerse in the now, not stand back at arm’s length and capture a sliver in time as if the time-stamped fragment were more precious than the constantly changing now of living.
Sorry, had to get that off my chest. I’ll try to restrain my metaphysical impulses henceforth.
As alluded to above, the normal moniker for an all-terrain ski/skier is “All-Mountain.” But the All-Resort skier isn’t equally interested in all aspects of the mountain. Although many probably claim that they “ski the blacks,” they won’t wander past the choppy border of a groomed run, much less venture to the unmanicured backside. During a five-day visit, their passes might only be good for three days of skiing, so why squander one on a flat-light snow day? That’s a perfect time to feed the elk! Or bobsled. Or fly fish. Or sleigh ride. Anything but ski.
I wonder if the prevalence of Epic and Ikon passes has contributed to a change in resort visitation patterns, due to the limited days they’re good for at any given resort. I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Epic and Ikon passes have affected where and for how long skiers take their winter vacations, but many of these pass holders are addicts who already have a locker-full of skis and are unlikely candidates for an All-Resort ski as conceived by Rossi.
Roughly twenty years ago, I co-created a retail sales training program called Desperate Measures. One of our precepts was that skiers could be categorized as Tourists, Players or Zealots. Within this system, the All-Resort skier is a Tourist, a label that carries with it a bundle of predictable behaviors. Tourists value safety, simplicity and convenience. While Players are invested in getting better, and Zealots are obsessed with their special interest, Tourists aren’t as interested in improving technique as they are enjoying the outdoors and coming back in one piece.
The “All-Resort” Ski
So now that we have some idea of who the All-Resort skier is, and his/her concomitant bundle of expectations, what sort of ski is required? It can’t be too demanding, as this skier has little time to get in shape, much less train. The ski will have to mask a multitude of sins, for this skier has managed to avoid lessons so far and would rather have a ski that would paper over their ineptitude than expose it.
In terms of terrain preference, the usual metric for sorting skis into categories, the male All-Resort skier will tend to overstate the scope of his abilities, but a cagey interview will usually reveal this fellow never ski bumps, and rarely ventures into the trees or powder. The closest he’ll come to off-trail conditions is the slop that groomed runs devolve into in the spring. In Realskiers’ lingo, the All-Resort skier should be on a Finesse Frontside model.
Which is exactly how Rossi has built the majority of its new Experience series. While there’s Titanal in a couple of models, there’s no Experience in the important All-Mountain West genre, as was the case for the first couple of generations of the EXP family. The overall impression of the new EXP series is that they’re built for comfort, not for speed, which is a perfect fit for the All-Resort skier.
By the way, dyed-in the-wool experts still have plenty of options in the Rossi line. If they’re skiing on-piste, there are scads of models in Rossi’s Hero collection of race skis, and if they’d rather be off-trail, the Blackops HolyShred and Sender Ti are both excellent.
If I don’t sound overly enthused by the appearance of the All-Resort Skier, bear in mind I’ve been closely observing the ski market for over 40 years and this isn’t the first time a brand has hypothesized a new skier in order to promote a new ski line. But lest you think I’m vexed by how Rossignol has transformed its Experience collection, I actually suspect Rossi’s analysis is correct. The undercurrent of concern you may detect in this Revelation doesn’t derive from my reflexively surly disposition about all current events; I’m actually trying to curb my curmudgeonly instincts, despite all evidence to the contrary.
What you’re sensing is my disquiet over skiers who are immune to our sport’s addictive qualities, mingled with dismay over what they’re not extracting from the ski experience. Maybe it’s because I grew up on skis in a skiing family, but I never felt like a “resort visitor;” I was a skier, period. Skiing was never just a diversion, and I didn’t think of the mountain as an amusement park that only featured one kind of ride.
If you think I’m wandering off course, please take five minutes of your life and read a chapter from Snowbird Secrets; any chapter, it doesn’t matter which one. (You’ll find a few in the Revelations library.) What I want you to take away from that five-minute investment is that skiing can be a portal to that which is most spiritual in man and his relationship with nature. You can’t discover all that skiing can teach if you always ski in fair weather, on artificially flattened slopes, rinsed of daring and real challenge.
I totally understand that different skiers have different motivations – that was one of the main tenets of Desperate Measures – and that Tourists, Players and Zealots may share the same mountain, but don’t experience it the same way. The community I live and play with are Zealots, and one of the codes we live by is that whenever you have a chance to ski, you take it. And if you still have any energy left after a day of dueling with gravity, there’s the après-ski scene, which should return in full force this coming winter.
And please don’t worry about the elk. They’ll be fine, whether you Instagram them or not.