Ski Blog... Been doing this since 2005!

February 09, 2010

Is Global Warming Going to Destroy the Ski Industry?

I don't like to wade too deep into the "Climate Change" waters, but got a link from a reader to story by a local news station about the ski industry:

Already, the Aspen Global Change Institute forecasts that if global emissions continue to rise, the local ski industry will be little more than a memory by 2100.

Among the group’s sobering findings:

“High greenhouse gas emissions scenarios… are likely to end skiing in Aspen by 2100, and possibly well before then, while low emission path scenarios preserve skiing at mid-to-upper mountain elevations. In either case, snow conditions will deteriorate in the future.”

Skeptics of global warming cite images of major blizzards and snowfalls measured by the foot in Midwestern and mountain regions. Williams says those pictures hinder efforts to convince people that a warmer future really is coming.

“It’s a small but constant change,” he said. “It’s hard for people to embrace that.”...

The Williams-Lazar report offered a glass-half-full scenario for Colorado. While other areas face devastation, change appears to be coming more slowly to places like Aspen.

That doesn’t mean it won’t come, even if freak early or late storms seem to paint a different picture.

“The way I think of it is: Do you want to ski with your grandkids? Or do you want your kids to ski with their grandkids?” Williams said.

“That’s about three generations out. That reverberates with people. They get that.”

Interesting. Scares the hell out of people.

Before I look at the methodology, I just want to point out a few things. First, there is a major correlation between the ENSO (El Nino) ocean temperatures and the snowfall in particular in either the Southwest or in the Northwest. Weather patterns caused by El Nino are well documented and there is a strong correlation.

Yet even in the strongest of El Nino years, climatologists cannot predict even within a narrow range of what the snowfall amounts will be. This is an El Nino year. How many inches approximately will Brian Head receive? Somewhere between 300-500". That is about as good as you will get.

And that is a short time horizon. That is only forward looking, say six months tops. If climatologists cannot tell me even a solid ballpark figure of how many inches of snow a particular resort will receive in a year, even as late as say--October, so I know whether or not to buy a season pass or when the opening day will be this season, how in the holy hell should I believe that they can tell me when opening day will be on average in the year 2100? In 2009, A-basin had their earliest opening EVER. October 9th. Climatologists say they can only make predictions about long term trends using fancy "closed source" computer models that have been ripped to shreds for their coding errors, not make short term predictions about anything useful. Water levels will rise several feet by 2100 and submerge half the coastal cities, but tomorrow there is a 40% chance of light showers. 40%? WTF?

Below the fold, I will get into why I am so disgusted by the scare tactics thrown around by the environmental folks that think putting up windmills is somehow going to help Aspen have good snow in 2100. And I won't even get into the Sierra Club saying that switching from coal to nuclear power is like switching from cigarettes to crack.

The study in question relied exclusively on temperature predictions taken directly from the IPCC's 2001 report. The IPCC's methods and claims are certainly in question with the recent scandals.

The folks at the UK Telegraph are all over the IPCC:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report is supposed to be the world’s most authoritative scientific account of the scale of global warming.

But this paper has discovered a series of new flaws in it including:

  • The publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed to the website of a commercial wave-energy company.
  • Claims based on information in press releases and newsletters.
  • New examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished.
  • More claims which were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.

They are the latest in a series of damaging revelations about the IPCC’s most recent report, published in 2007.

Last month, the panel was forced to issue a humiliating retraction after it emerged statements about the melting of Himalayan glaciers were inaccurate.

Last weekend, this paper revealed that the panel had based claims about disappearing mountain ice on anecdotal evidence in a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.

And on Friday, it emerged that the IPCC’s panel had wrongly reported that more than half of the Netherlands was below sea level because it had failed to check information supplied by a Dutch government agency.

Researchers insist the errors are minor and do not impact on the overall conclusions about climate change.

However, senior scientists are now expressing concern at the way the IPCC compiles its reports and have hit out at the panel’s use of so-called “grey literature” — evidence from sources that have not been subjected to scientific ­scrutiny.

A new poll has revealed that public belief in climate change is weakening.The panel’s controversial chair, Rajendra Pachauri, pictured right, is facing pressure to resign over the affair.

That would be Nobel Prize winning Panel Chair...

But that is not the end of the story:

It can also be revealed that claims made by the IPCC about the effects of global warming, and suggestions about ways it could be avoided, were partly based on information from ten dissertations by Masters students.

One unpublished dissertation was used to support the claim that sea-level rise could impact on people living in the Nile delta and other African coastal areas, although the main focus of the thesis, by a student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, appears to have been the impact of computer software on environmental development.

The IPCC also made use of a report by US conservation group Defenders of Wildlife to state that salmon in US streams have been affected by rising temperatures. The panel has already come under fire for using information in reports by conservation charity the WWF.

This is just not good science. It gets better for the inventor of the Hockey Stick Graph, Michael Mann:

There has also been an acclaimed new paper by Michael Mann, the creator of the iconic "hockey stick" graph, purporting to show that the world has recently become hotter than at any time in recorded history, eliminating all the wealth of evidence to show that temperatures were higher in the Mediaeval Warm Period than today.

After being used obsessively by the IPCC's 2001 report to promote the cause, the "hockey stick" was comprehensively discredited, not least by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian computer analyst, who showed that Mann had built into his computer programme an algorithm (or "al-gore-ithm") which would produce the hockey stick shape even if the data fed in was just "random noise".

Two weeks ago Dr Mann published a new study, claiming to have used 1,209 new historic "temperature proxies" to show that his original graph was essentially correct after all. This was faithfully reported by the media as further confirmation that we live in a time of unprecedented warming. Steve McIntyre immediately got to work and, supported by expert readers on his Climate Audit website, shredded Mann's new version as mercilessly as he had the original.

He again showed how selective Mann had been in his new data, excluding anything which confirmed the Mediaeval Warming and concentrating on that showing temperatures recently rising to record levels.

Finnish experts pointed out that, where Mann placed emphasis on the evidence of sediments from Finnish lakes, there were particular reasons why these should have shown rising temperatures in recent years, such as expanding towns on their shores. McIntyre even discovered a part of Mann's programme akin to a disguised version of his earlier algorithm, which he now calls "Mannomatics".

But Mann's new study will surely be used to push the warmist party line in the run-up to the IPCC international conference in Copenhagen next year to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, temperatures continue to drop. The latest Nasa satellite readings on global temperatures from the University of Alabama, one of four officially recognised sources of temperature data, show that August was the fourth month this year when temperatures fell below their 30-year average, ie since satellite records began. The US National Climatic Data Center showsis showing that last month in the USA was only the 39th warmest since records began 113 years ago.

So where is the concensus?

Posted by Justin at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

December 12, 2008

President Bush and President Elect Obama Call on Congress to Immediately Pass Ski Industry Bailout

Senior Whitehouse leaders have confirmed that President Bush is in talks with Congressional leaders to pass an economic stimulus package that includes money for snowmaking, hotel improvements, and ski subsidies to help bail out an industry stung hard by the recession.

"We cannot allow the Vails of the world to go belly up like American Ski Co did. Too many jobs are at stake and there are important national security interests. If these resorts close, not only will our national pride suffer by losing highly coveted Olympic medals, but all of the supporting industries like the Front Range Marijuana industry will be affected," Obama said in agreement with the bipartisan legislation.

I swear, I kid you not, this is the crap that we are hearing every day. Why not bail out my industry? Why stop at banks and car companies? Give some money to Vail and make season passes cheaper. Prop up my condo prices so that I don't bleed out my ass every year as I watch prices tumble.

I want some hope and change. =)

Posted by Justin at 05:08 PM | Comments (2)

November 08, 2008

Politics and Utah Ski Industry

You have got to be kidding me:

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay-rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon Church for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay marriage.

It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws.

"At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one," said gay rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.

"They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards," he said. "You don't do that and get away with it."

Salt Lake City is the world headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts about 62 percent of Utah residents as members.

The church encouraged its members to work to pass California's Proposition 8 by volunteering their time and money for the campaign. Thousands of Mormons worked as grassroots volunteers and gave tens of millions of dollars to the campaign.

The ballot measure passed Tuesday. It amends the California Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual act, overriding a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.

The backlash against the church - and by extension Utah - has been immediate. Protests erupted outside Mormon temples, Facebook groups formed telling people to boycott Utah, and Web sites such as began popping up, calling for an end to the church's tax-exempt status.

He is calling for skiers to choose any state but Utah and for Hollywood actors and directors to pull out of the Sundance Film Festival. Other bloggers and readers have responded to his call.

"There's a movement afoot and large donors are involved who are very interested in organizing a campaign, because I do not believe in frivolous boycotts," said Aravosis, who has helped organize boycotts against "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger's television show, Microsoft and Ford over gay rights issues.

"The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand," he said. "At this point, honestly, we're going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state."

Seriously? This is supposed to intimidate Mormons HOW? A cursory understanding of the history of the Mormon Church would enlighten him that Mormons tend to be less than threatened by what happens outside of Utah. The boycott might affect some tourist businesses, but the Utah Ski Industry and the Sundance Film Festival are not run by the Mormon Church. So to get back at Mormons, attack Utah. To get back at Mormons, attack the Utah Ski Industry.

Dude, if you want to go after the Mormons, you gotta bring more than just a bunch of pissed of homosexuals to that kind of party. You gotta start by martyring someone. Mormons have been through more than just a boycott or two. I have family members from generations back that pushed handcarts to Salt Lake to flee religious persecution. And to have a bunch of California gays talking about hate and a hate STATE... that my friends would be Missouri. That is a hate state. Tell the gays to leave California for Massachusetts by handcart and when they get there, to talk about hate states.

Please take your dollars and stay away.

Posted by Justin at 04:40 PM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2008

The Economy and Ski Season (h/t Alpengluhen)

Interesting commentary on the Economy and ski industry:

Most of the customers stated that they were thinking of pairing back their season for financial reasons. Destination resorts seemed to be big losers, with the following reasons:

1. Cost of airline tickets has gone up significantly
2. Cost of flying with gear has gone up
3. Most resorts have pushed their pass prices up again
4. Their stock portfolios have sunk radically

Which brought a renewed interest in the local resorts. Several folks were asking if it was worth buying a season pass, and just driving up. How long the snow stays fresh, etc. It's been interesting. Could this year see the rise/return of the local resort vs the destination resort?

I'm conflicted on this one. On one hand, having a larger money flow in for classes would be a nice change (I currently just brake even for teaching, which is why I have two jobs). On the other hand, it will mean larger crowds, and less fresh snow for me. Tough call.

As an aside, most of those mentioning #4 as their primary reason for skipping their trip(s) were shocked to hear our responses. Several of us have been playing the stock market for awhile and have invested heavily. Two of the guys in the shop are working there because they've already made their millions and now want to do something fun and rewarding. It's was fun to break people's perceptions of 20/30 somethings with a ski job not knowing anything about stocks.

I won't get too political but more than one person at Brian Head has mentioned that Barack Obama will be horrible for the ski industry. It is evident that prices are so high that only the affluent can afford to ski. Certainly only the rich can afford condos and second homes at ski resorts.

Barack talks about raising taxes on the "rich" making more than $250k per year. That is going to cause them to cut back on the ski resort homes and on their vacations. We have to keep in mind that skiing is a luxury item and it is the kind of thing that can be eliminated in bad economic times or when taxes/gas prices/airfare/etc. go up.

I am selfish. I own a second home that will not sell at Brian Head. The housing market is in the tank. Stocks are down. The economy is slowing. I am scared that I will not be able to sell my condo after Obama is elected. And he will be elected based on everything we now know.

Posted by Justin at 12:34 PM | Comments (10)

May 06, 2008

MSNBC Global Warming Story - Penguins in Danger at North Pole

Check at about the 46 second mark. Story about vast expanses of water now present at the North Pole.

I feel sorry for those penguins. Not only are their ice shelves collapsing as evidenced by the dramatic photos used in the story, but they must be extremely lonely SINCE PENGUINS DO NOT LIVE AT THE NORTH POLE, THEY LIVE AT THE SOUTH.

The 15 year old Arctic explorer is kinda cute though. Some kind of fur collared coat wearing Hannah Montana. I like the accent. Her "bum gets cold" when going to the bathroom in the Arctic Circle. And she needed to learn to use a gun to protect against Polar Bears. She would be the bell of the ball at a party in Bitter America where we cling to our guns, except that she is an immigrant and most of us cling to anti-immigrant sentiments.

First, this is problematic because I didn't think Brits were allowed to own or shoot guns. Second, SHOOTING AN EFFING POLAR BEAR? AREN'T THEY ALREADY ABOUT TO ALL DIE FROM GLOBAL WARMING? Sounds like she needs to join the NRA and hunt humans like the rich folks that hunted Ice-T. I want a polar bear coat lined with baby seal fur personally or maybe lined with Eight Belles skin. Shooting Polar bears. My word.

Top notch reporting there MSNBC.


MSNBC edited the video just about an hour ago. Nice. Solid touch.

Posted by Justin at 12:24 PM | Comments (3)

December 13, 2007

Mike Huckabee's Iowa Campaign Commercial (Parody and Funny)

Huckabee is running for President as a Republican. It is rumored that he has a direct dial line to God.

Anyway, sorry to get all political, but this is hysterical. I try to keep this blog a-political, but this is a must watch for those of us that like politics.

Posted by Justin at 02:11 PM

December 12, 2007

Arizona Snowbowl Opens Tomorrow

Apparently the Hopi Gods are pleased with the 9th Circuit ruling because they have allowed the Snow Gods to drop some freshness at Snowbowl in time for Christmas. Snowbowl is sporting a 40" or thereabouts base.

Sunrise is also opening this weekend and my buddies Tim and Erich already sent me an invite that I have to decline due to my trip to Denver. Sunrise also has good snow.

This morning, I awoke at 6:00AM so some thick fog. It still has not cleared. The storm dumped on Phoenix for the last week and a half and may help get some water in our depleted reservoirs. But who cares about a drought. All I care about is that it leaves enough snow to get some skiing in. See, I am selfish like that...

UPDATE: I spoke with several religious leaders including Gov. Mike Huckabee who speaks directly to God (the Christian God, not the Mormon God) who thinks this is a ploy by the Navajo and Hopi Gods to defuse your lawsuit by claiming “see, Snowbowl doesn’t need snowmaking”. Joe Shirley is behind these snow storms. James Dobson has come out in support of the recent snow storm and of snowmaking in general, but cautions that if we don't teach intelligent design, I am no longer allowed to say "Pray for Snow". Instead I am only allowed to say "Think Snow". Oprah is holding a rally today about it. =) I love primary season.

UPDATE: I am getting folks that stop by and think I am hating on the Mormons. Nothing further from the truth. I am pointing out that Mike Huckabee and other religious leaders that support his run for the Presidency are saying some pretty funky stuff about the role of religion, God, and government in making decisions going forward. I am stating flat out that I believe that Joe Shirley and Mike Huckabee are akin when they make government and political decisions about religion first. Huckabee and his backers are the ones talking about who believes in the "real" Jesus. I think the whole thing is kinda funny myself. But this is not my political blog. I will save those comments for somewhere else. check and look for Justin B.

Posted by Justin at 09:18 AM | Comments (5)

December 06, 2007

Warren Miller Takes on Global Warming

Got sent a link to a new skiing blog today and was reviewing it. Came across this article from the Pimp Daddy of skiing, Warren Miller.

If you are to believe Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who also received an Academy Award for his documentary about global warming, everyone should immediately sell any ski or snowboard equipment they own and give up their futile search for powder.

To that scenario I say, “Forget it, Al!” All weather is unusual and the snow will show up and everyone will forget all of the doom and gloom of last winter...

After many years of traveling the world, everywhere I’ve filmed the weather was always unusual. Do I think the unusual weather conditions during the last decade are based solely on internal combustion engines?

A resounding, “No!” ...

There are many other factors besides Al Gore that affect the overall temperature of our planet. Of great significance are solar flares and cosmic radiation. One solar flare explosion can be the equivalent of several dozen atomic bomb blasts. When the radiation collides with the earth’s atmosphere, it causes more clouds to form and they lower the overall temperature.

So put all of this information together and chances are you will be making your winter reservations at the same time based on when we had them last year. Scientific evidence relating to potential snow conditions is completely irrelevant to your winter vacation plans.

So get out in the garage and tune up whatever you will be riding on this winter, get your body in shape and try not to get freaked out by Nobel Prize-winner Al Gore. Even though he did invent e-mail and the science of global warming in the office of his air-conditioned, 22-room home, that is fortunately a very long way from any ski resort. Or, at least, it’s a short flight in his private jet.

Warren Miller makes movies too. Probably better documentaries than Al Gore does.

The UK Independent has this article on changes in solar activity that may just hold the key to Global Warming. Color me surprised when they point out that this gigantic ball of molten energy that appears for approximately half of each day and causes the hemispheres of the Earth to experience hot and cold cycles called “seasons” based on the amount of energy the receive from it may actually be more important to the temperature of the globe than the Carbon Dioxide emissions and “greenhouse gases”.

What is problematic is that the Independent's editors think that the prospect of a mini-Ice Age, starvation, and famine provide a "RAY OF HOPE" to combat global warming. I guess that perspective relies on you believing Global Warming is a major problem and not a cyclical event caused by the molten ball of gas we call a "SUN". I am afraid that the cure may be worse than the disease.

Sunspots – dark magnetic blotches on the Sun’s surface – come and go in a roughly 11-year cycle of activity first noticed in 1843. It’s related to the motion of super-hot, electrically charged gas inside the Sun – a kind of internal conveyor belt where vast sub-surface rivers of gas take 40 years to circulate from the equator to the poles and back. Somehow, in a way not very well understood, this circulation produces the sunspot cycle in which every 11 years there is a sunspot maximum followed by a minimum. But recently the Sun’s internal circulation has been failing. In May 2006 this conveyor belt had slowed to a crawl – a record low. Nasa scientist David Hathaway said: “It’s off the bottom of the charts… this has important repercussions for future solar activity.” What’s more, it’s not the only indicator that the Sun is up to something.

...Following the discovery of the cycle, astronomers looked back through previous observations and were able to see it clearly until they reached the 17th century, when it seemed to disappear. It turned out to be a real absence, not one caused by a lack of observations. Astronomers called it the “Maunder Minimum.” It was an astonishing discovery: our Sun can change. Between 1645 and 1715 sunspots were rare. About 50 were observed; there should have been 50,000.

Ever since the sunspot cycle was discovered, researchers have looked for its rhythm superimposed on the Earth’s climate. In some cases it’s there but usually at low levels. But there was something strange about the time when the sunspots disappeared that left scientists to ponder if the sun’s unusual behaviour could have something to do with the fact that the 17th century was also a time when the Earth’s northern hemisphere chilled with devastating consequences.

Scientists call that event the “Little Ice Age” and it affected Europe at just the wrong time. In response to the more benign climate of the earlier Medieval Warm Period, Europe’s population may have doubled. But in the mid-17th century demographic growth stopped and in some areas fell, in part due to the reduced crop yields caused by climate change. Bread prices doubled and then quintupled and hunger weakened the population. The Italian historian Majolino Bisaccioni suggested that the wave of bad weather and revolutions might be due to the influence of the stars. But the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli speculated that fluctuations in the number of sunspots might be to blame, for he had noticed they were absent.

Looking back through sunspot records reveals many periods when the Sun’s activity was high and low and in general they are related to warm and cool climatic periods. As well as the Little Ice Age, there was the weak Sun and the cold Iron Age, the active sun and the warm Bronze Age. Scientists cannot readily explain how the Sun’s activity affects the Earth but it is an observational correlation that the Sun’s moods have a climatic effect on the Earth.

This is hugely problematic. Global Warming is not a problem. We are at the top end of a solar cycle and the direction that things go from here is uncertain. Does the Earth continue to heat like a hockey stick, which is completely unsupported by both historic evidence and by the results of any scientific study? Historic evidence has very dire predictions for the Earth. Historic predictions are that the Earth will experience a cooling period like it has several times over the last several million years. And if it is like the mini-Ice Age, that may mean starvation and famines, not simply rising ocean levels and more storms.

Posted by Justin at 11:46 AM

August 13, 2007

Local Couple Receives Just Punishment

This from the Arizona Republic:

A Mesa couple suspected of molesting a 10-year-old girl has been found dead, the apparent victims of a murder-suicide.

Paul and Myrtis Gauthreaux were found Thursday morning on U.S. 60 in Gila County near Globe in their parked car.

The Gila County Sheriff's Office is investigating...

They were found holding hands and with a suicide note explaining their motive, a Gila County Sheriff's Office spokesman said. The spokesman declined to elaborate on the note's contents.

The couple was being investigated under the "innocent images" program operated by the FBI. The program seeks to investigate cases of child pornography on the Internet.

Fox News is a pretty polarizing subject. I won't go into details about Bill O'Reilly and my thoughts on him, but in this case, he did society a favor:

Paul and Myrtis Gauthreaux were wanted by the FBI for engaging in sexual conduct with minors and appeared on a segment of the show that profiled alleged child pornographers.

After seeing the O’Reilly Factor segment, a relative of the couple called them before notifying the FBI of their whereabouts. When federal investigators arrived at their home, the Gauthreauxs had fled to an undisclosed location. The FBI said Paul Gauthreaux shot his wife dead before turning the gun on himself.

The child victim that the Gauthreauxs photographed in online photos was later identified and found safe.

Enjoy hell guys. Since I am posting Bloodhound Gang lyrics in the Man vs. Wild post, I will add the following for this:

  • But if I go to hell well then I hope I burn well
  • I'll spend my days with J.F.K., Marvin Gaye, Martha Raye, and Lawrence Welk
  • And Kurt Cobain, Kojak, Mark Twain and Jimmy Hendrix' poltergeist
  • And Webster yeah Emmanuel Lewis cuz he's the anti-christ

Posted by Justin at 09:57 PM

August 09, 2007

Ron Paul Sucks

Ron Paul Sucks - This post details why Ron Paul is such an idiot. Check out the reasons in this post.

Posted by Justin at 03:05 PM | Comments (3)

Ron Paul Troll-bots

There are "troll bots" that run around posting comments on blogs about how great Ron Paul is. In case you don't know, he is a Republican (Libertarian) Presidential Candidate.

Note, that this is simply an experiment to see how long it takes before the trollbots show up at my site and start posting comments.

I believe that they simply patrol technorati and so forth and look for XML feeds about Ron Paul, then rush over to post at those sites and say how great he is to try to generate buzz. And as quickly as they showed up on your blog, they are gone again.

So I am posting this in a separate entry from the "Ron Paul Sucks" entry just to see how many of them jump on the link to try to troll my site.

It is summer and I am bored. Troll away boys. Plus it helps my site stats with more visits.

Posted by Justin at 12:06 PM | Comments (16)

July 22, 2007

Global Warming Attacks Artificial Snowmaking

The Times of London offers up this commentary on artificial snowmaking and global warming as well as the need for environmental activism.

As an example of chronic and pig-headed frivolity, the snow machine has a lot to answer for. It is wasteful, energy-inefficient and environmentally indefensible. A single ski resort needs as much electricity as a small village just to keep its snowmaking systems going, and they are insatiable consumers of water. To cover one hectare (or 2.5 acres) of a snow slope, which may last less than a day, a snowmaking system needs 880 gallons of water; to cover all of the slopes in the Alps that have artificial snowmaking facilities, the annual demand has been estimated at 20 billion gallons of water, or enough to satisfy the needs of a city of 1.5 million inhabitants. Because alpine resorts are, despite their icy surroundings, often short of water, these precious supplies must either be stored on site or ferried up by helicopter. The Swiss, veteran users of airborne travel, favour the latter. The French dig reservoirs. The Austrians do both.

It would be hard to conjure up a more potent symbol of environmental perversity than the use of carbon-spewing fossil fuels to help to dispose of millions of gallons of carefully extracted water in order that a few thousand tourists can slide down a slope for an extra week...

For some reason, sport, leisure, wildlife and the general pursuit of happiness remain impenetrable barriers to perfectly sensible attempts to introduce alternative sources of energy and stem the ravages of climate change. In Scotland, the expansion of the wind farm industry has been slowed and often halted by objections that range from complaints that too many pylons spoil the view to suggestions that the occasional absent-minded hawk might collide with a propeller. In Perthshire, where the inhabitants of Dunkeld are proposing an energy-efficient and well-landscaped hydroelectric scheme on the River Braan, the plans have been thrown out by the National Environment Agency because the river is used by a few dozen canoeists every year.

Yet if we take the warnings about climate change with any degree of seriousness, we have to change our terms of reference. Instead of hailing the inventiveness of the ski resort that makes its own snow, we should accept the harsh reality that nature has terminally curtailed the skiing season. Much as we cherish our birds of prey, we should remember that their prospects of survival are threatened not so much by a freak collision as by the three-degree rise in global temperatures that will occur in the next 50 years if we do not manage to wean ourselves off a reliance on oil and gas. Stuff the skiers, sink the canoeists, gag the bird-lovers; this is a battle for survival, not an exercise in self-indulgence.

So let me get this straight... it is environmentally friendly to build hydroelectric dams to create electricity because that replaces the need for a fossil fueled coal plant. I like it. Makes sense. Then why does the Sierra Club want to drain Lake Powell?

There aren’t many silver linings to drought, but severe conditions in the Southwest are doing what the mighty U.S. Bureau of Reclamation won’t do. Since 1996, the Sierra Club and other groups have led a campaign to drain Lake Powell, which (when full) holds 7.8 trillion gallons of Colorado River water behind the agency’s 710-foot-tall Glen Canyon Dam near the Arizona-Utah border. Until recently, environmentalists could only rely on aging photos and lyrical accounts by the likes of Ed Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and explorer John Wesley Powell to convey a sense of the breathtaking arches and alcoves, labyrinthine side canyons, and sheer walls that were relegated to a watery tomb in 1966.

Let me use the article's own words--For some reason, sport, leisure, wildlife and the general pursuit of happiness remain impenetrable barriers to perfectly sensible attempts to introduce alternative sources of energy and stem the ravages of climate change.

Either we are in a war against Climate Change or we aren't. Either we all must make sacrifices for the common good or we shouldn't. So if we destroy a few species of almost extinct animals so that we can develop industries with a smaller carbon footprint, surely the end justifies the means. Concerts with no call to action and no tangible actions that could come from them and where people use plastic cups and create piles of trash while using tons of electricity and jet fuel for private flights don't answer these questions. The Sierra Club against all development so as to say we need to stop eating, decrease the human population and live in the dark so the world can be more natural. The Sierra Club says switching from Coal Power to Nuclear Power is:

Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack.

Too many decisions. And most developing nations simply ignore all of it and focus on growing their economies. Nuclear is taking off in China because it is cheap and doesn't displace millions like 3 gorges. Plus it doesn't pollute their cities that are already so polluted you cannot breathe. No one can agree on how to combat things. Some say ski resorts need to make snow in order to stay viable. Others say snowmaking is exactly the kind of luxury excess that has led us to global warming. Maybe the nutjobs that defaced the H2 should start busting up snowmaking machines next.

Posted by Justin at 11:40 AM

July 19, 2007

Wackos on the Attack

This article from the WAPO paints a side of the Green Movement that may be Earth Friendly, but is far from friendly about other people's choices:

On a narrow, leafy street in Northwest Washington, where Prius hybrid cars and Volvos are the norm, one man bought a flashy gray Hummer that was too massive to fit in his garage.

So he parked the seven-foot-tall behemoth on the street in front of his house and smiled politely when his eco-friendly neighbors looked on in disapproval at his "dream car."

It lasted five days on the street before two masked men took a bat to every window, a knife to each 38-inch tire and scratched into the body: "FOR THE ENVIRON."

Vandalism for the Environment. Perhaps they should simply have spent their time in the middle of the night watching Live Earth reruns.

It is probably not real Earth friendly to drive an H2. But jamming knives into tires and scratching paint isn't too earth friendly either. Now, he gets to simply repaint it and replace the tires. Or maybe he gets the message and sells it to someone else in some other neighborhood.

But what is the message? Is the message that college aged Eco-nut kids know no bounds in making decisions about the property that others are allowed to own? Why not blow up a GM Plant or kill a few executives? Why not send letter bombs to "Industrialists"? Why stop at vandalism instead of taking it to the next level?

This is collectivism and communism in action. The "people" make decisions on what other people can own and not own. There is no respect for property rights. And for whatever reasons that the "people" can justify, they feel it is their responsibility to make decisions for other people.

And now the reasoning is "to save the Earth". What better reason could there be than that? The Earth is too important to sit by and not witch hunt people that aren't friendly enough to it and destroy their property. If you believe strongly enough in your cause, you can justify almost anything.

Posted by Justin at 08:50 AM | Comments (2)

June 13, 2007

20 Years Ago

Probably the most pivotal speeches of our generation.

Posted by Justin at 02:45 PM

May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Remember the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and thank them for their sacrifice. And remember those that fought and died protecting us. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.


MURFREESBORO, TN (h/t wizbangblog)—Heather Southward Golczynski pulled six more letters out of her mailbox Tuesday, sent from across the nation by people touched by her husband's sacrifice and her son's courage.

Her husband, Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus "Marc" Golczynski, was killed in Iraq on March 27. At his funeral in April, Daily News Journal photographer Aaron Thompson captured Marc Golczynski's teary-eyed son, 8-year-old Christian, accepting a U.S. flag from his father's casket.

It was a picture of a moment that moved many Americans and stirred national interest in the Golczynskis' story.

There is nothing more honorable than being in service of others. Our military members don't get paid much (I still remember trying to make ends meet as an E-3). They work long hours. They do dangerous work. And far too often they get called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

When you see them, thank them for their courage and remember those that weren't so lucky.

Posted by Justin at 04:35 PM

April 25, 2007

More Sheryl Crow

Only one square for Sheryl

Damn. Good stuff.

Now she claims it was a joke. Problem is that if her little joke was to get people to pay attention to Global Warming, I can't see how that makes a lot of sense. I am inclined to think that solutions like hers are no more or less practical than solutions to cut consumption proposed by folks flying private jets around the world to tell us how to do it.

Posted by Justin at 01:36 PM

April 23, 2007

Stop Global Warming - Mallrats Style from Sheryl Crow (h/t Say Anything Blog)

I keep promising myself that I won't make fun of celebrities and the crap that they say about Global Warming, but damn... This brain storm from Sheryl Crow:

Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of forest conservation which we heavily rely on for oxygen. I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required. When presenting this idea to my younger brother, who's judgment I trust implicitly, he proposed taking it one step further. I believe his quote was, "how bout just washing the one square out."

Damn, man. The cost of global warming. There is a term for that--stink palming:

You stink-palm him.


Take your hand and you stick it in your ass like this. You've been walking all day and you're also nervous and no doubt you're sweaty as hell.

You should see yourself right now. A man with his hand in his pants.

I probably look like my old man. Now you shake hands with the guy.

"Hey, Mr. Svenning. How've you been?"

What's the point?

Know how long it takes for that smell to come off? Scrub all you like, it'll stick around for at least two days. How does he explain it to his colleagues and family? They'll think he doesn't know how to wipe his ass properly.

Meanwhile, you yourself are left with a hand that smells like sh*t?

Small price to pay for the smiting of one's enemies.

Small price to pay for saving the Earth.

Posted by Justin at 04:59 PM

April 07, 2007

Viewer Mail

I have taken a principled stand against Global Warming Hypocrisy as well as the infringement of Native American Rights upon property owners with the following posts:

Today I rec’d the following e-mail [excerpted for length}:

Without taking up too much of your time, I just wanted to express my sincere regret for your lack of education, and the poor-upbringing your children must be getting from their male role-model if those pictures on the website are in fact them.

As I write this message and look at a picture of a family in front of a trail map sign, I want to specifically state that I do not feel everyone in the US must finish grade school, high school, or go to college to be “educated”. The problem lies when one speaks strongly and they do not have any education about the subject they are speaking to, but ascertain claims as if they were experts.

However, from your telling of the recent Casino situation, global warming, to your details about the Arizona Snowbowl case, its very clear you have never studied anything related to ecological functionality, culture, the history of the US, and specifically Native American History.

Sir, your racism is reminiscent of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. You are one of the micro-reasons racism still exists as your white supremaced attitude leaks through almost every article I’ve read on your blog in the last couple of hours.

I’ll see what my SOAN 630/680 class thinks of this blog in the coming week or two as we may focus a case study on your particular blog as a real world example of neo-colonialism, as well as bounce this off the others at the environmental justice center in Washington that I work with specifically to address such issues as you raise in these articles.

Perhaps we’ll be in contact in the future. Until then I hope your readers distinguish the horrendous hateful tone you express in this blog through the beauty that is skiing, and readers recognize that this perspective is no more than ultra right wing conservative GW Bush type propaganda, hidden under a veil of skiing, creating a neo-colonial platform for white folks to continue to hate Indians so YOU CAN GO SKIING (!?).

Wow. Please read my hate filled racist blog about skiing.

My response:

While you may disagree with my tone, opinion, or writing style, the purpose of my site is to encourage discussion of issues that are important to me and to the sport. And in that respect, I have accomplished my mission. People are reading my site and it is encouraging discussion. While we may disagree on the issues, I appreciate the fact that you believe my opinion is so hateful, racist, neocolonialist or whatever that you would choose to include my writings in your class. I cannot encourage discourse without taking sides and without writing passionately about the issues that I care about. Your note demonstrates that our political system is about making your voice heard, whether that be at the ballot box or in the general discourse. Perhaps you mistake passion with anger, racism, hate, etc., but they are merely rhetorical tools that draw attention to the cause. Without my site, folks would be less informed about the issue. You may not like what I say, but it is precisely the impact of blogging that allows the average citizen to make their voice heard.

I encourage you or your students to post comments in an appropriate manner that attacks my positions without attacking me or my family. I also would appreciate if you make your comments about the issues, not about the upbringing of my children.

Thanks for reading my blog and for your feedback.

This is the response. No debate on the merits of the Snowbowl decision or Global Warming, but rather, to attack me as a Racist, Neocolonialist puppet of the Right Wing Hate-mongers like George W. Bush.

Let's get back to the issues. Like it or hate it, the Snowbowl case is not about Native American history, it is about the San Francisco Peaks and the role of the executive branch of government to administer their lands. Global Warming is about the impact of climate study and the quality of the science on the political system. It is about how we as Americans change our habits or impact our economy to fix a problem that we are not even sure how much is man-made.

Nope, this is really about me and how I raise my kids.

Posted by Justin at 01:54 PM

March 22, 2007

The Larger Impacts of the Snowbowl Ruling

The Snowbowl decision has some wide ranging impacts. This opens an entirely new door to challenge construction projects, roads, permits, and so on. Come up with a religion and find a way to claim that a project substantially burdens you from exercising that religion, and the RFRA affords you the same rights as the gave the tribes--to shut down construction.

I have posted the ruling here in its full text as a .pdf. I won't rehash the entire ruling, but almost the entire thing was based on the Religious Freedom Reform Act of 1993. The conclusion of the ruling is:

In sum, we reverse the district court on two grounds. First, we hold that the Forest Service’s approval of the proposed expansion of the Snowbowl, including the use of treated sewage effluent to make artificial snow, violates RFRA. Second, we hold that the Forest Service’s FEIS does not fulfil its obligations under NEPA because it neither reasonably discusses the risks posed by the possibility of human ingestion of artificial snow made from treated sewage effluent nor articulates why such discussion is unnecessary. We affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Appellants’ remaining four NEPA claims and on their NHPA claim.

Note that the RFRA does not just apply to Native American religions, but to any religion. There is no test on what religions are valid or not. One religion is no more or less valid in the eyes of the government, so our only requirement under the RFRA is to demonstrate that our religion is substantially burdened and the government did not use the least restrictive means and/or did not have a compelling government interest burdening us. This case allows ANY CHURCH OR RELIGION THE SAME RIGHTS AS THE HOPIS AND NAVAJOS have to stop any construction on Federal Land that they deem impacts their religion. And Congress expanded the definition of religion even further to mean just about anything. Quote from the Snowbowl ruling:

Finally, and perhaps most important, Congress expanded the statutory protection for religious exercise in 2000 by amending RFRA’s definition of “exercise of religion.” Under the amended definition — “any exercise of religion, whetheror not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief” — RFRA now protects a broader range of religious conduct than the Supreme Court’s interpretation of “exercise of religion” under the First Amendment.

Did you catch that? "Any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief" is protected by the RFRA. Now, I know folks didn't come here to have Justin lecture on Constitutional Law. So I won't. I will let Justice Kennedy from the 1997 Supreme Court case City of Boerne v. Flores which was a Catholic Church that tried to use the RFRA to overturn a denied building permit. Apparently they believed that the law gave them the right to ignore local building ordances because their worship required a larger church and the City of Boerne imposed a substantial burden without considering the least restrictive means as is required under the RFRA by denying their request to renovate a historical landmark.

Respondent and the United States as amicus contend that RFRA is permissible enforcement legislation under. Although Congress certainly can enact legislation enforcing the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, see, e.g., Cantwell v. Connecticut, its power "to enforce" is only preventive or "remedial," South Carolina v. Katzenbach. The Amendment's design and text are inconsistent with any suggestion that Congress has the power to decree the substance of the Amendment's restrictions on the States. Legislation which alters the Free Exercise Clause's meaning cannot be said to be enforcing the Clause. Congress does not enforce a constitutional right by changing what the right is...

RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress' enforcement power because it contradicts vital principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and the federal state balance. An instructive comparison may be drawn between RFRA and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions of which were upheld in Katzenbach, supra, and subsequent voting rights cases. In contrast to the record of widespread and persisting racial discrimination which confronted Congress and the Judiciary in those cases, RFRA's legislative record lacks examples of any instances of generally applicable laws passed because of religious bigotry in the past 40 years. Rather, the emphasis of the RFRA hearings was on laws like the one at issue that place incidental burdens on religion. It is difficult to maintain that such laws are based on animus or hostility to the burdened religious practices or that they indicate some widespread pattern of religious discrimination in this country. RFRA's most serious shortcoming, however, lies in the fact that it is so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior. It appears, instead, to attempt a substantive change in constitutional protections, proscribing state conduct that the Fourteenth Amendment itself does not prohibit. Its sweeping coverage ensures its intrusion at every level of government, displacing laws and prohibiting official actions of almost every description and regardless of subject matter. Its restrictions apply to every government agency and official and to all statutory or other law, whether adopted before or after its enactment. It has no termination date or termination mechanism. Any law is subject to challenge at any time by any individual who claims a substantial burden on his or her free exercise of religion. Such a claim will often be difficult to contest. See Smith, supra, at 887.

Requiring a State to demonstrate a compelling interest and show that it has adopted the least restrictive means of achieving that interest is the most demanding test known to constitutional law... All told, RFRA is a considerable congressional intrusion into the States' traditional prerogatives and general authority to regulate for the health and welfare of their citizens, and is not designed to identify and counteract state laws likely to be unconstitutional because of their treatment of religion.

The following comments are taken from a debate in which the lawyer for the City of Boerne made the case against the RFRA:

If upheld, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will transform our society from one in which churches are expected to be fair-minded members of their respective communities to one in which churches hold the upper hand, whether the issue is zoning, prison regulation, or taxation. RFRA's disdain for the rule of law and for a responsible role for churches is certain to engender less, rather than more, religious tolerance. It is unfortunate that it was drafted in such legalistic terms and therefore is largely inaccessible to the people, who should understand what has hit them.

If you look at the record of the Constitutional Convention, the one word you will see over and over again is "tyranny." The Framers recognized that tyranny is possible when you have great concentrations of power, and they agreed that the way to avoid tyranny was to divide and decentralize power. They did that in the Constitution of the United States.

The three most important structural safeguards in the Constitution are the separation of the powers of the three federal branches; federalism, which separates the powers of the federal government and the states; and the establishment clause, which separates the powers of church and state. RFRA crosses all three boundaries simultaneously...

To understand RFRA you have to understand its scope. The act applies to every law in the United States, whether it was drafted and enacted by a city, a state, a municipality, or the federal government, and whether or not it is a written law. It also applies whether the law was passed before or after RFRA. In other words, this act intends to be the structural equivalent of the Constitution. No other law in this country has that scope. Congress has never before passed a law that has such scope, and RFRA's scope is the prime indicator that what Congress in fact is trying to do is to displace the judiciary's decision with its own policy determination that a different standard ought to be applied in cases involving religious freedom.

These are not my arguments, but those of the City of Boerne and of Justice Kennedy. But according to several commenters, I am a racist for agreeing with them. We are all racists for not bowing down under the weight of the RFRA. We are racists for not putting religion above all other needs of our society.

This case is not about the Hopis or the Navajos. Again, as I have said, they are simply tools in the grand scheme of things. This is about the Sierra Club and their agenda to stop most projects on Federal Land and in that light, this ruling gave them massive new power. Find a religion that somehow has a practice that might be burdened by the project and fund an RFRA lawsuit in their name to stop it. Make the courts decide if there is a compelling state interest and if the least restrictive means test applies. These are impossible burdens and now this allows almost anyone to tie up almost any project in another massive round of lawsuits. Instead of just preparing Environmental Impact Statements, every project will have to go out to every single religion and ask, "Are we going to burden you? Is there a compelling interest for our project? Is there a least restrictive means to accomplish that?"

Posted by Justin at 10:11 AM

March 19, 2007

The Sierra Club and the Environmental Movement's War on Skiing

Today, a reader called me a racist for being a little sensitive to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Snowbowl.

I am truly saddened by the messages written by Justin, the facilitator of this so called ski-blog. The fact that such racism can be freely exchanged in this manner is so indicative of the institutionalized racism of American society. Unfortunately those that bask in the privledge to ski that can't see how privledged we are to connect with the snow and mountains in this way, when so many other social ills are rampant in many peoples day-to-day lives, are missing the soul of this sport.

Recreation to some, a way of life for some folks like myself, I sincerely hope you can stop and check yourself Justin, at some point, and look to the history of Native Americans, how this country was founded, and what this case truly represents in the grand scheme of things.

This isn't about Snowbowl. Snowbowl is a relatively small resort, but this is a step in a much larger direction.

Colorado Wild's Ski Area Citizens Coalition contains the following messages about expansion:

With skier numbers essentially flat nationwide for the past twenty years, any ski area expansion and concomitant marketing for the limited pool of skiers must steal skiers from other ski areas. This in turn pressures other ski areas to also expand or otherwise “improve” their ski area, in short, the “ski area expansion arms race”. In approving one ski area expansion proposal after another, the Forest Service continues to promote more and more expansions – and their concomitant environmental damage – just so other resorts can regain the “Newer, Bigger, Better” marketing edge. Any look at SKI or other popular skiing magazines illustrates the marketing of expansion terrain.

Ninety percent of ski terrain in the western U.S. is on public lands. On the White River National Forest (home Breckenridge and ski area icons Vail, Aspen, and more) between 1985 and 1999, skier visitation increased 28%, yet skier acreage has more than doubled (a 107% increase). The trend has only grown since then with Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, Breckenridge’s Peak 7, and other expansions planned at Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. The Forest Service refuses to assess the nationwide impact of their policy promoting ski area expansions despite virtually no growth in skier visitation nationwide in two decades.

In an interview with Newsweek reporter Daniel Glick (author of the book Powderburn), former Vail Resorts principal Leon Black described how publicly traded ski resorts must attain a 15% return on investment to satisfy investors. With skier numbers nationwide stagnant for two decades, ski areas must either steal skiers from other ski areas to increase revenue, profit from real estate sales, or horizontally integrate by purchasing successful local businesses. The Peak 8 lift is the epitome of the former fueling the ski area arms race, where one ski area gains a marketing edge advertising newer, bigger, and better, only to be followed by the next resort seeking to gain it back.

Hate for the ski resort owners, but love for the sport. Ski Resorts are destroying the sport by expanding and providing better terrain. It isn't just Colorado Wild, but dozens of other groups that turn out to stop any expansion at all. There is no necessary expansion. Lift 8 at Breck--not needed.

The Denver Channel has info on the 1998 fires at Vail:

A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted four people on eight counts of arson for a series of eco-terrorism fires set at the Vail ski area in 1998...

The Two Elks Lodge and other structures on Vail Mountain were burned to the ground on Oct. 19, 1998. Damage was estimated at $12 million...

A group called the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, claimed responsibility for the fires and said it was done to protect the habit of the lynx. The FBI describes the group as one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist organizations. ELF says harming people is not its intention...

Gerlach and Meyerhoff had both been indicted in Portland, Ore., in December. Gerlach was accused in the toppling of an 80-foot electrical transmission tower in December 1999 and in a fire that year at an Oregon meat company. Meyerhoff was accused of setting fire to a lumber company and a tree farm in the state in 2001.

Overaker was indicted in January on federal charges stemming from fires at two ranger stations, a lumber company office and a meat company in Oregon. She is also accused in the toppling of the transmission tower in 1999.

Rubin was indicted in January in connection with fires at a lumber office in Oregon and wild horse facilities in Wyoming and California.

I am not comparing the Hopis to ELF by any stretch. The Hopis have legitimate concerns about snowmaking on their sacred peaks. Here is the problem though, the Snowbowl snowmaking debate brought out the same kinda nutjobs that set fire to Vail:

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson got a nasty surprise after attending a candidate's forum where his support of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl was a point of contention.

Vandals had littered his car with toilet paper, and placed a urine-filled commode on top.

Donaldson took it as an extreme example of opposition to using reclaimed Flagstaff wastewater to make snow on the nearby mountaintop...

After the event, Donaldson said he was confronted by members of a group opposed to the snowmaking plan, including Kelvin Long and another Save the Peaks member, Klee Benally. Both said they have no idea who might have put the toilet on the mayor's car.

"We don't have control, at least I don't have control, over people's actions and ... a lot of people are upset over this issue. It's not surprising that something like this would happen," Benally said.

We have a legal system for a reason. We don't allow terror, threats, or intimidation. So I am a racist for seeing this entire thing as an assault on skiing and on civil discourse in general. I am a racist for watching folks threaten ski resorts because our sport does not conform to their environmental agenda--no matter how radical their agenda is.

Again, the Hopis were a pawn in this game by the Sierra Club and others. The Hopi tribe did not vandalize the mayor's car. We all can assume that it was some 20something student at NAU who wanted to make a "statement" of protest. This is what ELF and other radical environmental groups justify as being necessary to "save the environment". They could give a damn about Native American Oppression and racism. They will stand behind an obscure religion because they understand the fact that this has far larger implications than just at Snowbowl. This provides them with new ammunition to stop ski area expansion and possibly close resorts down when their permits come up. That is their agenda.

Posted by Justin at 04:25 PM

More on Al Gore and Global Warming - From the WSJ

I hate to rant about Global Warming and the environment, but it has become such a hot topic with the Oscar nominations, Nobel Price Nominations, etc., as well as the constant "skiing is doomed" rhetoric. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting read on Al Gore-mania and the Environmental reality of Gore's own policies as well as the scientific reality of his scare tactics:

The media are finally catching up with Al Gore. Criticism of his anti-global-warming franchise and his personal environmental record has gone beyond ankle-biting bloggers. It's now coming from the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean, his hometown paper that put his birth, as a senator's son, on its front page back in 1948, and where a young Al Gore Jr. worked for five years as a journalist...

The Nashville-based Tennessee Center for Policy Research was skeptical that Mr. Gore had been "walking the walk" on the environment. It obtained public records showing that for years Mr. Gore has burned through more electricity at his Nashville home each month than the average American family uses in a year--and his consumption was increasing. The heated Gore pool house alone ran up more than $500 in natural-gas bills every month.

Mr. Gore's office responded by claiming that the Gores "purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero." But reports that Mr. Gore doesn't purchase carbon offsets with his own resources, and that they are meaningless in terms of global warming.

The offset purchases are actually made for him by Generation Investment Management, a London-based investment firm that Mr. Gore co-founded, and which provides carbon offsets as a fringe benefit to all 23 of its employees, ensuring that they require no real sacrifice on the part of Mr. Gore or his family. Indeed, their impact is also highly limited. The Carbon Neutral Co.--one of the two vendors that sell offsets to Mr. Gore's company, says that offset purchases "will be unable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . . in the short term."

$500 per month just to heat your pool? Ah, but his company provides carbon offsets so Al can sleep well at night and continue flying his private jet around the world to tell us common people what we need to do to save the earth.

I keep pointing these things out because the common theme lately is that Global Warming is going to destroy skiing as we know it. The truth is that skiing truly has become a sport that only the wealthy like the Gore's or Kerry's or Kennedy's or Schwarzenegger's can afford and they continue to fly to resorts in their Gulfstreams and drive their H2's. If the world is at the point that the powerful elite treat the environment this way, destroy our sport by pricing it out of reach, and preach to us about the "Environment" and "Global Warming", maybe the destruction of the sport as we currently know it isn't such a bad thing.

Wind power and green tags and so on have no impact on the habits of those that can afford the higher price tag attached. Paying an extra $5 for a wind powered lift ticket when you are already paying $80 isn't a big deal. Fact is that these "save the Earth" feel good policies are driving prices up further, which prices the middle class out of skiing that much more. And the folks that are purchasing the happy nice nice wind powered green this or are not changing their lifestyles and can readily afford a higher price. There is nothing green about buying your way into environmental compliance by purchasing some fake offset credit.

Now I don't want to say that the money going into wind power isn't a good thing, but how do we know how much of the green tag proceeds fund wind power and how much go to overhead or profits (and even non-profits make a profit for their administrators). It is a big scam that lets the wealthy preach to the rest of us and justify how they live their lives as they price us out of our great sport.

Posted by Justin at 01:33 PM

March 17, 2007

Buying Away Global Warming

The Aspen Times (registration required) had an article about the increasing cost of "being green" that the wealthy are willing to pay. Through Carbon Offset credits and some slick marketing, the wealthy can feel good about doing their part to save the earth, despite flying around in their Gulfstreams and living in virtual palaces:

The notion of living a green life for the sake of staving off the effects global warming seems to be getting hotter by the minute. Especially among those who can afford the steep price tags for the ever-expanding list of environmentally responsible products and services...

When wealthy tree huggers need to get away from it all, they can buy TerraPasses - the carbon credit certificates distributed to Oscar presenters last month - to counterbalance the damage to the environment caused by jetting off to vacation via private plane. Unfortunately, though, one hour in a Gulfstream GV, for example, burns as much fuel as an entire year of driving, so it would take a $600 TerraPass to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from a single 3,000-mile flight.

However, for just $1,500, a moneyed traveler who flies commercial can buy a TerraPass to offset 1 million airline miles, or 450,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Plus TerraPass will throw in a free folding bicycle, which can then be conveniently stored in a private bike room.

Certainly, not every environmentalist chooses to travel by air - some drive instead. Which is why it's fortunate that a TerraPass offsetting the carbon emissions of a Lexus hybrid SUV actually costs the same as the one for the regular Lexus SUV. But the best news for penny-pinching nature lovers? At just around $43,000, the Lexus hybrid SUV is barely $6,000 more than the comparable non-hybrid Lexus SUV.

Wind Credits, Carbon Offset Credits, etc., are the biggest load of BS ever created. They allow the wealthy to use their money to "buy" their way into environmental friendliness as opposed to looking like Big City Liberal hypocrits when they fly their Gulfstreams around the world and drive their posse around in 10 Suburbans.

That is what Al Gore, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, etc., are all about. Nancy Pelosi asked for a mega-military plane to fly back and forth to SF. The A-list celebs that handed out Oscars to Al Gore fly around the world in private jets and talk in their little circles about buying carbon credits to offset their lifestyle, allowing them to not actually conserve themselves, but rather to bribe someone else into doing it. And all the while, they feel good about doing their "part".

It is precisely that part of the American lifestyle that is the problem. We all want to be like the celebs. We want H2's like our favorite athlete. We want to fly around the world like the jetsetters. And as we buy larger and larger houses to keep up with the Jones's, we continue to destroy the environment. Yet Hollywood and the wealthy can afford "energy credits" to offset their destroying of the environment.

Hollywood actors and the self appointed leaders of the environmental movement are far different from the rank and file armpit haired, pothead Rastafarian college kids that sport the nasty BO and wear their hemp clothing. Yet we look to these folks that live in mansions to be our conscience about environmental causes. The Inconvenient Truth is that the rich set the example of buying massive vehicles, flying private jets, and owning mega houses that consume massive electricity to power 100" Plasma TV's and heat their pools and hot tubs. We need real leadership and it is leadership by example, not leadership by purchasing "offset credits".

Posted by Justin at 02:56 PM

February 28, 2007

Global Warming and Godwin's Law

For those of you unfamiliar with Godwin's Law of Internet Discussions, I am posting wiki's summary:

Godwin's Law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a mainstay of Internet culture, an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."[1]

Godwin's Law does not dispute whether any particular reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued,[2] that overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact...

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's Law. Thus Godwin's Law serves to impose an upper bound on thread length in general.

Just a primer for Ellen Goodman's article in the Boston Globe in which she makes the following statement:

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

I add this to Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel's Statement from December on her blog:

If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming. (One good resource if you don't have a lot of time is the Pew Center's Climate Change 101.)

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather.

This is scary stuff. And this is not scientific stuff either. The Scientific community should not run around intimidating scientist that offer alternative viewpoints or compare them to Holocaust deniers.

Global Warming Alarmists want us to believe that Global Warming is caused almost completely by man, is going to lead to massive hurricanes and rising ocean levels, is going to continue exponentially, will destroy the polar icecaps, cannot be reversed, and requires massive changes to our way of life or the entire world is in danger. And if you deny it, you are a Holocaust denier and should be ridiculed or stripped of your scientific credentials. I don't like scare tactics and while the science supports the existance of Global Warming, the rest of the Alarmist's argument is a political statement, not good science.

Again, I will point to things that we can do to save the Earth that do not require Global Warming to doom the planet as a motivating factor. First, we can recycle. Second, we can conserve electricity and gas. We can do tons of things to do that including car pool, turn lights off, use low energy lighting. We can drive cleaner vehicles. We can drive vehicles that fit with the size of our family, not with the size of our genitals.


Posted by Justin at 11:05 AM

January 16, 2007



On April 14, 2004, 3 days after Easter Sunday, Corporal Dunham was manning a checkpoint in Karabilah, Iraq, when an insurgent leapt from his car and began choking Corporal Dunham. A scuffle ensued as two Marines approached to help. Reportedly, the last words from Corporal Dunham were, “No, No. Watch his hand.” Suddenly, the insurgent dropped a grenade. Corporal Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, dropped to the ground, and covered the explosive as best he could.

The blast seriously wounded all 3 Marines. Eight days later, Corporal Jason L. Dunham died at Bethesda Naval Hospital from wounds he received in the incident. He was 22.

Corporal Dunham made the ultimate sacrifice, and in doing so saved the lives of his fellow Marines. Due to his actions on that fateful day, Corporal Dunham will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Imagine caring so much about your fellow man that you are willing to sacrifice your life to save him.

Next time you are buying your latte from the kid with the two lip rings and jet black hair at Starbucks, imagine being his friend and hanging out. Ask yourself, if this kid was my friend and I loaned him $20, would he pay me back? If my car was broken down, could I call him and ask him to give me a lift?

Cpl. Dunham was 22 years old. He wasn't thinking about a Medal of Honor when he saw the grenade, I can promise you. There was nothing in it for him. That is what honor is. It is doing what is valiant without thinking, without weighing the rewards or consequences. It is a Freudian Slip where your thoughts and true nature come out.

Posted by Justin at 11:27 PM

December 25, 2006

Interesting Info on Aspen's Green Program

I wrote briefly about Vail and Aspen using Wind Credits to offset their power usage in September. I got an e-mail from Neal Dikeman from Cleantech Blog about an entry he had posted after visiting Aspen:

Then while taking a brief time out from skiing (I am not actually very good) I went in to drink coffee in the sunny lodge of the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. The first thing you notice walking through the front door (besides the massage chair, which I really needed after a day of skiing) is the plaque which bills the Sundeck as one of the first 10 LEEDs buildings in America. Details of the Sundeck Restaurant project here. The total cost was $9.8 mm, or an eye-popping $425/square foot (I assume driven partly by LEEDs requirements, and partly by the top of a ski resort location!). But the part I liked the most was the re-use of 86% of the materials from the previous Sundeck building. Because at the end of the day, despite all the advances in cleantech - the real answer to our energy issues is still the same - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

Aspen also fuels its snowcats with biodiesel, from Blue Sun Biodiesel. The best part is they actually publish on their website an interesting description of the impact of the biodiesel use: "In the winter of 2002, ASC experimented with an 80% diesel/20% biodiesel blend. Mechanics noticed that the fuel, which makes snowcat exhaust smell like french fries, radically reduced black tailpipe smoke and that the snowcats ran smoother, a result of biodiesel’s higher lubricity, a quality that also extends the life of mechanical components. Based on our testing, ASC has now switched its entire fleet of snowcats to biodiesel. The cost is about 20 cents more per gallon, a small cost to pay for benefits that include hydrocarbon emissions reductions of 20% and CO and particulate reductions of 10%. The one drawback is that biodiesel typically increases NOx emissions by 2%."

I really dig the move to biodiesel, but have a major problem as I wrote about in the previous article with Aspen paying their ticket clerks $9.25 an hour, yet being willing to pay that extra $.20 a gallon for biodiesel. Do the math on $9.25 an hour times 40 hours per week ($370 less taxes) times 4 weeks in a month ($1480 a month). And also keep in mind that most of these jobs are only part-time. It is a mixed bag for me. I am always one to say that before you worry about global issues, have your own house in order. That means pay your workers enough and have affordable housing for them before you save the world. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't minimize your impact on our natural resources. It just means that I am not going to get all ga ga about being environmentally conscious until wages and housing are also addressed. But putting that aside for a moment, it is awesome that Aspen is reusing their old materials and using biodiesel and wind credits.

It is tough for me to be an "environmentalist" or think like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club opposes snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks at Snowbowl because it uses reclaimed water in Flagstaff, yet they also opposed Aspen using water from Snowmass Creek to make snow at Aspen. The environmental movement doesn't want skiing to exist (see AZ Snowbowl) or wants to stop things like snowmaking that allow the industry to exist. They have opposed expansion projects at Snowbasin and most other projects including the new Village at Wolf Creek that Colorado Wild and the Sierra Club oppose. In addition, the Sierra Club opposes nuclear power as an alternative to coal based power, saying, "Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack." But that does not make them wrong about things like reuse and recycling. It does not make biodiesel less of a great idea. It does not make wind power a bad idea either. And Aspen doing these things is good for all of us.

I hope that the ski industry is able to adopt policies that allow for moderate expansion, upgrades, improvements, and growth so that we can get more people to enjoy the sport I love and enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The biggest problem in skiing that I see is that due to the scarcity of resources and the high cost, the sport is unattainable for anyone but the upper middle class and above. Simple supply and demand dictates that if there are more lifts and more areas and more space, prices would be lower resulting in more skier visits. But this goes contrary to the exclusionist image that the industry wants. They want the sport to be more expensive and fewer people to be able to do it. I don't have all the answers, but I know this, the people working at resorts make next to nothing and your average middle class American cannot afford to ski because of the high prices, part of which results from lawsuits like the one at Arizona Snowbowl funded in part by the Sierra Club. Going green is great, but not at the cost of worker wages and housing and not at the cost of making the sport even more exclusionary with higher and higher prices.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 PM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2006

Election Day 2006

I have always said that political talk here should be and will be rare. Today is an exception. No advice on who to vote for, just a call to anyone that reads the site to actually vote.

Tera turned in her ballot early, but I was not smart enough to do so. I was up at 6:00 AM when the polls opened to cast my ballot.

This is a critical election in Arizona with several controversial initiatives on the ballot. My representative is safe, but Arizona is one of the contested Senate seats that Democrats need to take over the Senate, which if predictions about Stevens retiring this year also means take over the Supreme Court. Things like a woman's right to (choose/murder depending on point of view) hinge on the Senate Elections.

I am going to be glued to the news tonight and checking several of my favorite blogs for updates. Elections are like horse races or the lottery. Voting is how you buy your ticket and place your bet. Let's hope my horses come in first tonight. =)

Posted by Justin at 07:44 AM | Comments (3)

September 27, 2006

Picking on Brian Head

The Employment Listings for Brian Head for the Upcoming Season are out. Let's make a bold career move and leave IT to work at the resort:

Position Department Hourly Pay Rate
Ski & Snowboard Instructors Winter Sports School
Strong communication skills & ability to teach others. Patient & friendly personality. Intermediate or above skiing or snowboarding ability required. Ensure guest safety and guarantee a good time on the slopes for your clients. Employment is dependent upon applicant passing an on-slope ability test prior.

I will save time and space by summarizing... lots of jobs for line cooks, lift operators, rental shop folks, daycare providers. And all of them pay $6.50 an hour.

BUT, and that is a big BUT, the resort wants the town of Brian Head to subsidize a $10M expansion project (that will probably never get completed) to allow them to make a bunch of new condos Slopeside by paying for a $1M bridge across the main road.

So what is the resort giving back? I just plain don't understand it. I would like to see audited financials from the resort to see where all the money is going. I mean, if they are struggling to make ends meet AND PAYING THEIR EMPLOYEES POVERTY WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS, then perhaps it is not a good investment to spend any more money on the resort at all. If, on the other hand, the owners are doing well AND PAYING POVERTY WAGES, I sure don't see why the town should spend money on improvements. The resort, flat out, is not a good neighbor if they are paying these kind of wages. Why create more $6.50 an hour jobs at a resort where no one can afford to live all so that we can build huge slopeside condos for folks in Vegas to come and spend their Vegas money while our locals make $6.50 an hour. Let the folks from Vegas pay for it in their new Condo prices.

An important part of a resort town is to have locals. The industry has effectively priced locals out of living near the mountain or near their job. The smallest studio condo at Brian Head is $100k. A mortgage on that at say 7% would yield a payment of $700 per month plus Homeowners dues of another $200 give or take. Add in utilities and that is right at $1,000. Let's say that a person makes $6.50 an hour and is lucky enough to work 40 hours a week. That works out to $260 per week before taxes or $1040 per month.

Notice why there are so few locals or the locals we do have don't actually get to enjoy living at a resort because they are working three jobs. The only folks that actually live in Brian Head are either retired, own a business, or are Realtors.

And the resort wants the town to subsidize their industry? Yeah, right. Pony up, Brian Head Resort.

Posted by Justin at 11:11 PM

September 03, 2006

But Foreign Labor is Only Used to Keep Aspen Affordable, Not to Increase Profits

Aspen keeps their costs low so that they can pass along the savings to low income folks through low lift ticket prices:

The super-early price reflects the discount available to employees of Aspen Chamber Resort Association-member businesses. Without the ACRA discount, the "early-bird" price is $1,649.

The cost of the Premier Pass - the one that's good for unlimited skiing on all four local mountains - is going up $50 from last year's super-early, ACRA-member deal. And last season's price for the Premier Pass was up $50 from the prior season. The cost of the pass has gone up in each of the past four seasons.

The price of the two-day and one-day passes are increasing, too, as is the cost of a Classic Pass.

The single-day, walk-up lift ticket rate will peak at $82 this season, up from $78 last winter. The daily rate generally gets a great deal of attention, in comparisons among various ski resorts, but Aspen Skiing Co. executives have long said that comparatively few people actually buy single-day tickets, opting instead for multiday deals that bring the price down.

The Skico unveiled this season's lift ticket and pass prices on Tuesday.

Pass prices generally go up annually, but the Skico pays particular attention to the price of the Premier Pass with the early-bird and ACRA discounts. That's the one most locals purchase, according to David Perry, company senior vice president.

"We give it the most scrutiny, I think, and try to keep it reasonable for locals," he said.

So if you work at Aspen making $10 an hour (the prevailing wage) for 40 hours per week during the five month season, you would earn approximately ($400 per week x 20 weeks) $8,000. If you don't work at the resort and are just another local, you can simply shell out $1600 for a season ski pass, which works out to 20% of your income for the 5 month ski season. Basically, you either work at the resort, mooch someone elses pass, or better have some serious savings or rich relatives if you want to be a ski bum.

Posted by Justin at 08:42 PM

More on Wages for Employees at Aspen Skiing Company

Again, it is evil and wrong to shop at Walmart, but totally OK to vacation at Aspen. It seems that Aspen cannot hire enough college kids from the US, so this last year they relied on over 350 Foreign Workers, here on temporary work visas.

Like ski bums of bygone days, they are often college students who come into town for a little work, and maybe a little partying, for a season. But these workers are often from the Southern Hemisphere - Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa - whose summer breaks coincide with Colorado's ski season.

For summer resorts, it's more likely workers from the Czech Republic or Romania serving up coffee or cleaning sheets. The Aspen Daily News reports on this foreign army of workers in its Mountain Business Journal. "If you got rid of the foreign workforce in Aspen, there wouldn't be anybody working there," said Norman, Okla., immigration attorney Jon Velie, who helps a number of clients obtain visas to work in Aspen. "There's a handful of Americans, just not enough to fulfill the need."

Aspen Skiing Co. hired nearly 350 foreign workers last season - that's about one of every 10 SkiCo employees - who came in on H-2B short-term worker visas and J-1 foreign exchange visas. "We've tried to (fill those jobs domestically)," said Jim Laing, SkiCo's vice president for human resources. "We've not been able to. And we've been able to substantiate that with the U.S. government. ... We have to substantiate the need. We actually run ads domestically, with all the applications being sent to the Department of Labor to show that we don't have enough applicants to supply the demand that's out there."

Other ski areas across the state hire hundreds more. Each year, the federal government hands out 66,000 H-2B visas, divided equally between winter and summer seasonal employment. Employers gobbled up those visas so quickly, last year the government exempted thousands more workers who had held the visa for more than three years.

Aspen Skiing Company has lots of pet "PC" projects that do not include living wages for their employees.

ASPEN (AP) - The Aspen Skiing Co. is supporting a lawsuit seeking to require the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The Supreme Court agreed in June to take up the case brought by a dozen states and others including the Sierra Club. Aspen Skiing Co. filed a friend of the court brief supporting the petitioners Thursday.

And then there is this about Vail following Aspen's lead in buying "wind credits":

Vail Resorts Inc. will buy enough renewable energy to cover electricity use for all of its ski areas, hotels and headquarters, making it the nation's second-largest corporate user of wind power behind Whole Foods. The "green" energy will cover power use at its five ski resorts, its lodging properties, including RockResorts and Grand Teton Lodge Co., all 125 retail locations operated through Specialty Sports Venture and its new corporate headquarters.

"Companies need to start diversifying their energy sources," said Vail CEO Rob Katz, who made the announcement at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "We view sustainability as integral to our company's future success." Vail, which recently moved its headquarters to Broomfield from Avon, will buy about 152,000 megawatt hours of wind-power credits from Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy.

Vail will not actually be powered by wind. Instead, the credits will pump more wind energy into the nation's electric grid, reducing the amount of coal and natural gas used. The publicly traded company would not disclose the cost.

Here are the jobs posted for Aspen Skiing Company at their website:

  • Child Care Attendant: Starting wage - $9.27/hr
  • Lift Attendants: Starting wage - $9.25/hr plus a possible $1500.00 end of season retention bonus if you finish out the season.
  • Guest Services Hosts/Hostesses: Starting wage - $9.50/hr
  • Retail/Rental Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Ticket Seller Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Mountain Photo Sales Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Cafeteria Server or Waiter/Waitress (Informal): Starting wage - $9.21/ hr (Does not guarantee 40/hrs./wk.)

So guess what, when you pay $9.25 an hour to folks to live in a town where they cannot afford to rent an apartment, the only takers you get are immigrants. In some elitist circles, we call this movement of jobs from highly (or lowly) paid US workers to cheap foreign labor "OUTSOURCING". Gone are the days of ski bums. Wages are so low, even the ski bums won't take them. Yet the folks at Aspen can still get all kinds of Liberal Kudos for being environmentally friendly. Because Spotted Owls and Global Warming and Al Gore have families to feed unlike the underclass of marginally employed workers that serve us our coffee at the resorts. But Aspen supports wind energy and reducing greenhouse emissions. Sure, they have to import workers because pay is so low, but they pay lawyers to file briefs against the Bush Administration's environmental policies.

Posted by Justin at 08:13 PM

September 01, 2006

Wages, Housing, and the Ski Industry

The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps numbers on things like the wages and salaries of Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and other recreational workers.

Employment estimate and mean wage estimates for this occupation:

Employment (1) Employment
RSE (3)
Mean hourly
Mean annual
wage (2)
Wage RSE (3)
107,620 2.5 % $8.67 $18,020 0.7 %

Percentile wage estimates for this occupation:

Percentile 10% 25% 50%
75% 90%
Hourly Wage $6.11 $7.03 $8.13 $9.83 $11.92
Annual Wage $12,720 $14,610 $16,910 $20,450 $24,790

This is really saying something about the industry. First, most of the positions have no benefits. Second, the pay is absolutely astonishing. Only 10% of workers in the broad job category make more than $12 per hour. 90% make less than $12 per hour.

I bring this up because we have our annual debate on our road trips about the role of Walmart in America. It is a favorite topic because we usually argue politics on our journeys. I am disgusted by the way the ski industry treats their employees. First, there is almost no affordable housing. This study is from Mammoth Mountain:

At Mammoth Mountain’s prevailing entry-level wage ($8.40 an hour), an employee working full-time would earn $1,344 a month, and could afford to pay $403 for housing; this is in the very low-income (VLI) range. However, due to the seasonal nature of the business, it is not always certain that an employee will accrue forty hours a week, or work five days. Therefore, a seasonal employee’s earnings are likely to be less than $1,300 a month. Furthermore, only one-fifth of Mammoth Mountain’s 2,500 employees work year-round.

Increasingly, jobs in the service sector are being filled by immigrants, both documented and undocumented. However, they seldom live in employee housing, and instead must commute great distances. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has about 500 employee apartments; according to Duhigg, a three-bedroom apartment goes for $650.

The impacts of rising housing costs in the face of wage stagnation cause “down valley” syndrome: workers can no longer afford to live in the communities in which they work, and are forced to commute long distances. Jeff Berman of Ski Areas Citizens Coalition says, “Many of these immigrants have to live over an hour away from where they work…. Subsidized housing is reserved for college students taking a winter off.” Affordable housing in Mono County can be found in outlying areas such as Antelope and Chalfant Valleys, where it is possible to purchase a lot, drill a well, and install a manufactured home for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a single-family home or condominium in Mammoth Lakes or other village areas. Others choose to live in Bishop and drive over forty miles each way up US 395 over the Sherman Summit (elev. 7000), making for a harrowing and lengthy commute in inclement weather.

A couple of my good friends absolutely, steadfastly refuse to so much as set foot into a Walmart, yet will participate in travelling to ski resorts where the employees are treated far worse than Walmart could ever imagine by companies like Mammoth Mountain:

Mammoth Mountain, CA. December 21, 2005 - Dave McCoy, Founder and controlling shareholder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area ("Mammoth Mountain") announced today that an affiliate of Starwood Capital Group Global, L.L.C. (Starwood Capital) has completed the purchase of the majority interest in Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for $365 million. Rusty Gregory, who has worked for McCoy for 29 years, will continue as chairman and chief executive officer and will hold a 12.5 per cent interest in the company. Intrawest Corporation (NYSE: IDR; TSX: ITW) ("Intrawest") will retain a 15 per cent interest in Mammoth Mountain.

I don't want to beat up on this point, but it is important that we recognize that the folks that work at our resorts make next to nothing and can barely afford to rent an apartment. I know it is cool to hate Walmart now days, but we are talking about an almost $400M business that pays their people $8 an hour to work at the resort, and my friends have no problem skiing there, but think they are making a social statement by boycotting Walmart.

I believe that wages are dictated by the working environment and by the market. If kids weren't lining up to work low wage jobs at the mountain so that they could ski everyday, resorts would have to pay more money. Instead, many of these resorts set wages at well below poverty level and still find plenty of takers.

The entire industry is catering to the wealthy. That is why a set of skis and bindings can run $1200 easily. Snowboards run as much as an average lift worker spends makes in two weeks. Worker's wages are at rock bottom and housing is sky high. And ironically, big corporations are getting wealthy off of the industry.

You hear about Vail supporting renewable energy and everyone trying to be "environmentally friendly". How about paying your workers enough to eat or buy a car or pay car insurance and health insurance and rent and food all at the same time. Maybe enough to afford new gear occasionally. You hear PC buzzwords and see nice donations from folks like Burton and flowery stories about how committed these folks are to helping the poor and homeless and saving owls and protecting the forest. But then you see how they treat their workers.

I am a free market capitalist and I am totally down with this behavior, but just don't crusade against corporations when you make your living off an industry that is about as capitalistic and borderline wrong as there is. Don't bash Walmart when Intrawest, American, and others pay worse wages. Hey, Jake, why don't you donate some money towards affordable housing for ski area employees or for crusading against the resort industry that makes them endentured servants working for a season pass.

Posted by Justin at 04:37 PM | Comments (2)

June 02, 2006

Canadian Healthcare Update

Adam at Highly Obsessed has been having some knee troubles. I have covered the process of getting an MRI in Canada and the umpteen month wait list, but it turns out that he could drive to Buffalo and get his MRI the next day for $450. Well, he got the MRI and went in to the Ortho in Canada for the results. NOT GOOD!

The folks in Buffalo think I tore my ACL. The surgeon is apt to believe them (and rightly so. Also, I don't think I've mentioned this, but this surgeon is a great guy, very smart, and coincidentially operated on my mother several years ago when she shattered her wrist while in-line skating. But that's another story altogether).

There is a chance, depending on the type of tear, that it will heal on its own. But regardless, the surgeon recommended getting scoped. That way, they can at least have a look at where I tore the ACL/the severity of the tear. If I don't need anything done, then no procedure is performed and away I go. If I do do need some work done, they will perform it then.

So of course, this being Ontario and all, when will I get the surgery? Six to eight months from now.

Six to Eight months. It is free, but by then, the problem could already be partially healed and need further treatment. His Doctor told him basically, just go about your business. Not a lot you can do but wait six to eight months.

But healthcare in Canada is FAR FROM FREE. You see, Canadians pay huge amounts for their healthcare in the way of taxes. And for their hard earned tax dollars, this is what they get. They get universal healthcare, it is just universally frustrating to wait months for routine proceedures.

We take a lot of things for granted in this country, and if you have no healthcare coverage at all, a six month wait for free care is a good deal. But for the 10-15% of our population or so that does not have any health coverage, this may be a good deal, but for the other 85%, I think I would rather pay my copays and my $350 a month premium contributions to my work's plan, and get in right away and get quality healthcare.

There is an old saying: you can have quality, speed, or low cost service, but never all three. When it comes to my health, waiting months for an MRI or Arthroscopic surgery is not an option. I don't mind paying more to get my care quickly and at the highest quality.

Posted by Justin at 12:25 PM

May 07, 2006

Willisms Invitation to the "Pundit Roundtable"

I don't mix business with pleasure, unless it is creating a business around blogging about skiing. I don't bring up religion. Spend too much time talking about my condo and Phoenix Sports. So sue me. And if you are grossed out by politics, be forewarned--I am linking to my favorite blog on Economics and Politics on the Internet since they asked me to participate in their Pundit's Roundtable.

The questions posed:

  • Topic 1: What do you think are the biggest failings of the Bush administration? Is there time enough to correct them before President Bush leaves office?
  • Topic 2: Porter Goss, Andrew Card and Scott McClellan are gone, and Karl Rove has been demoted. Are recent personnel changes going to reinvigorate the Bush administration, or is this merely a rearrangement of the deck chairs?
  • Topic 3: Who is the most overrated artist, thinker or personality of all time?


I will only touch on one part of my answer since it is so a-political, but does involve a little bit of religion. And this is only the second half of my answer.

3. I will add a simple tidbit on personalities and other overrated people—Tom Cruise. How the hell did this guy go from Risky Business to being the world’s preeminent expert on Mental Disorders and Psychiatric treatment simply by joining a cult and reading some science fiction? Put on your sunglasses, slide across the wood floor in your socks, and shut the hell up. MI-3 should have been about the Impossible Mission of him coming out of the closet and fathering a child. I believe that about as much as Michael Jackson and Debbie Roe.

Like Will Franklin or hate him, he is meticulous about his research and extremely intelligent. We almost came to FLAMING BLOG BLOWS over Vince Young last year, but other than that, I just love reading his posts. And he has some great commentators. So stop by and Flame about hating Bush, or about loving Bush, or about the Economy, or about the merits of Vince Young. But the site is a great read

Posted by Justin at 12:36 PM