Why, I do it for you, my Dear Readers and Dear Listeners, so that you might find refuge in the miasma of misinformation that is the Internet, an oasis where experience, knowledge and some measure of sanity prevail.
Once upon a time, the mavens of ski media cared deeply about the sport, men like Ski Hall of Fame members John Fry and Doug Pfeiffer, and many others of their ilk, who relished their role as guardians of the truth. Skiing editor Al Greenberg actually chaired an ASTM sub-committee, for heaven’s sake, an act of sacrifice I can’t imagine any of today’s web-based scribes even considering.
Another telling vignette reveals how far we have fallen. John Fry not only edited SKI in its heyday, he founded Snow Country Magazine – where I was lucky enough to be his tutee – and edited Skiing History. He cemented his reputation as skiing’s foremost historian with his comprehensive, scrupulously researched history of the sport, The Story of Modern Skiing. Point being, John Fry knew what he was writing about.
Flash forward to the first week of December, 2021, when SKI published what would turn out to be one of its last print editions. In it was a supposedly informative article about the history of ski boot design. It was wrong in almost every important detail, a fact brought to the attention of the editor by both Seth Masia, Editor of Skiing History, and myself, who had a front-row seat to the seminal epoch described in the article. Modestly chastened, the editor agreed it might be best to consult with an actual ski historian before wandering, unaided, into terra incognita again.
To demonstrate the publication’s contrition, the folks at SKI republished the faux-fact-filled article in their online swill bucket, so those who didn’t get to see how history shouldn’t be written in print would have a chance to re-live the experience digitally.
And SKI is one of the better online titles. There is dreck out there that is unconscionably incompetent, all the while declaiming the objectivity and reliability of its “research.” In case you missed it, please check out The Bottom of the Barrel, in which I present the most patently idiotic compendium of bad advice ever found in one place.
Bear in mind, when the AI bots scan this piece of pure fantasy, they will not detect a note of irony. They will not know that every sentence was either a lie or an outright stupidity. It will just be more grist for the mill, another data point to consume and fold into the homogenized whole. This is the future of ski journalism.
Given this sorry state of affairs, I could easily rationalize that fighting the good fight against such long odds is quixotic at best, fatally delusional at worst. I was exposed to the idea of entropy at an impressionable age, so I’m prepared to accept that the universe is heading towards chaos no matter how I struggle against the tide. Why don’t I just get out of the way of the inevitable and focus my energies on promoting the International Bocce Federation, my vividly imagined sports league that I hope to sell to the Saudis some day?
I can’t do it. I just can’t consign all who have supported me over the years to the twaddle spun by bots who don’t care and their owners, who care even less. You need me now more than ever, for as dark as the picture seems now, it’s about to get darker.
It’s not just ski journalism that is on the brink of extinction, it’s the fabric of the sport itself.
Want to Buy a Major Ski Brand?
If you have a few hundred million sitting idly in CD’s, and have always wanted to own a ski company or two, a huge chunk of the worldwide fraternity of ski brands is either already in play, recently acquired or moving in that direction. The Amer group of ski brands has already announced its plans for a public offering, which could impact who ends up owning Atomic, Salomon, Armada and Volant. Elevate Outdoors has been trying to peddle its huge portfolio of ski properties, which includes Volkl, K2, Line, Dalbello and Marker, for two years, without landing a suitor. Another impending announcement could put three more legacy brands on the block.
All these shifting sands under foundational brands isn’t the best of news for skiers. “New” will cease to be synonymous with “better.” To gussy up their bottom lines, hopeful sellers will institute draconian cuts that don’t just cut into the R&D and marketing budgets, but also trim the people who sustained these brands popularity over the last thirty years. I don’t doubt for a minute that skis and boots that are ready for product introduction this year will materialize more or less on schedule, but what happens after that is anybody’s guess, as new owners scramble to recoup their massive investment.
The turmoil in the ski trade isn’t limited to the supplier side of the business. The retail community finds itself increasingly under direct assault by the very brands they promoted into importance, as brands try to expand their direct-to-consumer channel. As suppliers try to capitalize on the greater margins B-2-C commerce promises, they inevitably encroach on their erstwhile “partners’” domain.
The friendly fire specialty ski retailers feel coming from some of their onetime allies isn’t the only problem they face. Maintaining a highly trained and motivated staff has never been easy; now the ever-shrinking employment pool makes it nearly impossible. In mountain communities, the super-abundance of snow coupled with intractable, 2-hour traffic clogs means even well-intention staff can’t get to work at peak hours.
Also contributing to the overall malaise in the ski business community is the staggering ineptitude of the sport’s national trade organization. This is a topic worthy of your attention, Dear Readers and Listeners, but it’s best left for another occasion when we can give it our full attention.
The Metaphysical Hedonist
As any self-aware metaphysician would tell you, I knew as I penned this piece’s first paragraph that I was subverting the truth. The main reason I do what I do is not to serve my clamoring, otherwise defenseless public, but because I need to. I do my job because it tethers me to reality and gives my mind something to chew on. I’ve trained all my life to do this job; it seems a shame to stop now.
One of the central tenets of my life up to this point has been, “Those with the capacity for joy have the obligation to share it.” The same is true for those who possess a unique history that can help inform the life of others. That’s why I do it. I have a metaphysical side that wants to explain things as they are, coupled with a hedonistic impulse to enjoy this beautiful madness, the rare and obscenely precious jewel that is life.
Dear Reader, if you have found this Revelation to be just the sort of thing the world needs more of, please consider making a donation to Realskiers.com. I realize many of my Dear Readers are already subscribers, for which I am eternally grateful, but I’m sure I could attain an even higher level of gratitude if you were to send a few more tokens of your esteem my way.
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