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Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment Paperback – October 1, 2003
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Clifford sketches the transformation of the ski industry from a quaint and healthy alternative to gambling and drinking in the 19th and early 20th centuries, to a monster industry in the 21st, still healthy but not so quaint, that gives drinking and gambling fierce competition for discretionary dollars in our nation's mountain towns.
As mining and logging was gradually phased out, the focus shifted to recreation, changing charming towns into mere appendages of mega-resorts whose reason for being is the hawking of overpriced real estate, overpriced equipment, overpriced food, overpriced lift tickets-- and in the summer overpriced greens fees and tickets to film and music festivals. In most cases the resorts' gouging rest upon a firm foundation of reasonably priced public land leases, usually involving the US Forest Service, an agency of the Dept of Agriculture.
This last detail presents a problem for Clifford and his publisher, Sierra Club Books, For as logging and mining revenues to the USDA decline, it is hesitant to raise too sharply the rents or regulations on its new, relatively clean tenants, the resort operators. When Clifford makes the case for saving elk or lynx habitat the Forest Service is no doubt sympathetic, but probably a lot more interested in saving its own budget, and all the jobs that it supports. And a ski run, while not ideal, is a much better place for wildlife to thrive than what's left after a mining company extracts ore.
In Colorado there is a pair of sites, both mentioned in DOWNHILL SLIDE: Copper Mtn. Ski Area, and just 5 miles up the road, the mothballed Climax Molybdenum Mine.Read more ›
I have found Mr. Clifford's book invaluable. We have known for quite some time that the sport of skiing
is in trouble and that the recent corporatization of skiing and associated development is causing enormous
stress on ski towns and the environment. Clifford has concisely and coherently expressed the problems, chosen
superb and telling examples and given citizens of ski towns throughout the country a lot to think about.
Although actual ski-run usage (including ski boarders) has been flat for a decade, resorts continue to bombard the US Forest Service with requests for more public land to build ski runs on. Why would they need more runs if the number of skiers is static? To build more condos and "ski villages" around. Clifford says that these companies are theme park/real estate developers masquerading as sports facilities.
The resorts are marketed as year-round recreation sites in order to keep the condos full of consumers for the retail establishments in the artifical "villages". The chapter entitled "Potemkin Villages and Emerald Cities" ought to bring a blush to the faces of those who sneer at Disneyland, but gush over the quaint shops and interesting restaurants at places like Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, or Whistler.
Why should we care that big corporations are peddling phoney "life experiences" in the heart of our public lands? Because Clifford says these bogus communities that are springing up in the most scenic parts of our national forests are environmental disaster sites. The thin mountain air is ill-equipped to cope with large new sources of pollution. Access roads and boundary fences interfere with wildlife. Clifford describes starving elk herds kept from their grazing areas by the fences around ranchettes put up by clebrities attracted to the Aspen lifestyle. Snowmaking equipment gobbles up enourmous quantities of energy and water.Read more ›
However, I would partially agree with some of the other writers who panned this book. Are we skiers really such dupes that we go to a resort and can't seem to keep our wallet in our pocket? To lay the blame for poor spending habits at the feet of the ski industry is a stretch.
Additionally, in specific instances (particularly surrounding the Vail Category III expansion and land trades in Eagle County, with which I am very familiar), Mr. Clifford omitted or failed to emphasize factual information that would have made his argument less cut-and-dried. To be fair, his assessment is generally correct, but in simplifying very complex issues he loses some critical points.
If you enjoy mountain sports, this book is well worth your time. Just keep in mind that it's not a scientific study.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you want to know what happened to your local ski area and the scourge of corporate ownership. Read it and weep!Published on April 13, 2013 by PatinVT
This book never gets old. As we watch the resort industry circle the drain EXACTLY as predicted in Downhill Slide, it makes you wonder how we could all be so stupid. Read morePublished on April 26, 2010 by Chico Reader
I enjoyed reading this book.
One individual has given it the same rating of one star three different times, bringing down the overall score by more than one reviewer... Read more
Although this book can be read like a big negative, it is very insightful. There are likely to be some positive affects of development which the author does not spend time... Read morePublished on May 17, 2007 by N. Nudell
Great read, exceptionaly well resurched, gets a bit slow at the end, keep an open mind as could be a bit one sided makes the corporations seem a little worse than they realy are,... Read morePublished on July 20, 2006 by Huon R. Lemercier
it is clearly evident that clifford did a tremendous amount of research for this book and that makes it a truly interesting read. Read morePublished on March 16, 2004
Clifford is a journalist and he personalizes issues and focuses on details that don't illustrate as much as they trivalize. Read morePublished on April 10, 2003 by Geronimo
This is no question, one of the best books I have ever read. Hal Clifford is a wonderful writer, who goes into grate detail about what really happens behind the corporate curtain... Read morePublished on April 8, 2003 by Paula F. Berg