Skiing, a Christmas Tradition

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I live in a mountain ski town and my front window faces the road that leads to our downhill ski area. Most days I see the traffic heading up to the mountain and it brings me joy. Today the traffic is no different. Cars with skis and boards on top. SUVs loaded with gear and friends. The usual few whoops and hollers from passer bys as I was out front shoveling the driveway. In fact, today seems much busier on the road than most days. But today, my feeling about it is a little different. Today is Christmas.

Skiing in many mountain towns has become a tradition on Christmas. I was grateful for the big Winter storm. Up before dawn, I was able to enjoy the peace of Christmas morning gliding around the neighborhood on my x-country skis on streets that weren’t yet plowed. But as I see the non-stop traffic heading up to the hill I begin to question the value of this tradition.

I’m not a religious person, but like most Americans I celebrate the holiday and observe with respect the meaning that it has for many others. I cherish my own traditions and look forward to the texts and phone calls and time with family and friends. Plenty of people don’t hold the day sacred and would rather recreate. But the people that I know that are skiing today all observe the holiday. They just leave the non-skiers at home and enjoy the rest of the traditions after a day of skiing.

What about the employees? A majority of the employees at a ski resort are low wage earners. Lifts, food and beverage, ticket window, rental shop, most of the mountain is staffed with employees that make at or near minimum wage. Heck, even ski patrol who must be highly skilled riders and highly trained in emergency medicine are usually doing it more for a love of skiing than for any valuable financial consideration.

Most of the small family hills that I’ve looked at are closed today. Those people value skiing just as much, maybe more, than the rest of us. What the small, family oriented ski hills don’t have motivating them is corporate profit. Religious or not, they value the families and the communities they serve more than the opportunity for profit.  

I wonder why we can’t just have a sacred day. Sacred for different reasons to different people. Maybe it’s religious or maybe it’s tradition. Maybe it’s just an excuse to stay home and get paid. When I ask my skiing friends why we can’t just have a day that the lifts don’t turn they reply, “That’s what Summer is for.”

The bottom line is that the value of skiing on Christmas is the almighty dollar. It’s not benefiting the low paid employees of the resorts or all the service industry employees that work today to serve the skiers. Corporate resorts are making big corporate profits from the tradition of skiing on Christmas. What value does it bring to you and your family?

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