Saturday, January 9, 2010

All work and low snow makes Jack a paranoid ski-area owner ...

Okay, this is getting weird.

Following Durango Mountain Resort's pulling the season pass of a nagging ski-area critic, two more bizarre cases of ski-resort dictatorship have appeared.

The first involves the firing of well-known ski writer Bob Berwyn from Breckenridge's Summit Daily News after he wrote a somewhat humorous column knocking Vail Resorts' PR attempts to exaggerate the amount of snow its Colorado ski resorts had received from early-season storms. (Read Berwyn's offending column here.)

"I sometimes wonder whether the ski industry wouldn't benefit more from being completely transparent about weather and snowfall with its customers," Berwyn concluded in his column. "but when snow=money, perhaps that's expecting too much."

"Apparently, I hit a nerve," Berwyn writes in a post on the High Country News "Goat Blog," "because Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail, called me a few hours after the column was published to complain that I had questioned his personal integrity. I told him that I've lived in the mountains for a long time and that I recognize a snow job when I see one. Katz replied that the column called into question his company's ability to work with me and my newspaper."

Seems Vail Resorts did more than just call that relationship into question. Later that week, Vail Resorts pulled advertising with the newspaper -- which accounts for a quarter of the publication's advertising.

Berwyn was then fired a week later, for reasons "not directly related to the column," his editor informed him -- in an email. The paper also offered Berwyn $3,000 to not talk about the firing, Berwyn says. He declined the hush-money.

The second example of ski-area paranoia happened last week, after long-time local singer Dan Sheridan trotted out a song from his 2003 album "Recycle" for a new year's day performance at a bar in Snowmass owned by Aspen Ski Company. The song, called "Big Money," takes a look at the effects of resort's development on the once-little mountain town of Aspen. The song ends with the chorus, “Down in the graves you can hear the miners sing/ ‘Big money ruins everything.'”

Seems the resort's leaders didn't appreciate the sociological analysis offered by the song, and fired Sheridan last week from his weekly gigs. Read an article about the firing from the Aspen Times here.

As a coda, Sheridan was hired back late last week after he agreed to not sing "Big Money" at Aspen Ski Company-owned venues.

The lessons here? Money talks. And Big Money keeps others from talking.
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