I used to downhill ski frequently. Not like a season pass holder, but 20 times a season or so. I’m in my 60’s now and have not skied for a year. But some of my long time ski buddies came to town, guys I first started skiing with in college, and I told them I would join them on the mountain today. They suggested we meet in the parking lot at Park City resort’s plaza at 7:15 AM and find a place for breakfast. They also needed to rent skis. When I asked why so early they said they were concerned about traffic. I thought, well, they are from California and don’t realize it is not as crowded here in Utah. I suggested I would meet them in the ticket line at 8:45, 15 minutes before the lifts open. Plans made.
It only took me 20 minutes from leaving my house at 8:00 to cover the 20 some miles to the Park City exit off of I-80. It was a beautiful blue sky, cloudless morning. I had heard skiing was ever more crowded but was feeling proud of myself for not bothering to drive up earlier.
However, the two lane, half mile long off ramp was backed up onto the freeway. Oh-oh.
Normally it would take 15 minutes to get to the resort from the freeway. It took me well over an hour. When I finally got near the parking lot there were signs saying the lots were full and to go to the local high school and take a shuttle. I was already late and that would take at least another hour if I could even find and get to the high school through the grid lock. Already stressed out from too long in stop and go traffic, I gave up, did a U-turn, and headed back home. I was bummed to not see my friends. But there was a crawling, sprawling, grid locked sea of humanity between me and them.
Looking around on the quick drive home I contemplated the broad expanses of open space and public land we have in the West. I marveled that even with $200 lift tickets, so many people were going. I shook my head at how eager they were to all be in the same place.
The sky was deep winter blue, the mountains crisply white with fresh snow. I decided to stop on the way down the canyon and see how cross skiing looked at a nearby golf course on public lands that is groomed for skiing. And here was another thing that goes with the crowds. At 10:00 in the morning it was 43 degrees at 6,000 feet in early February. The parking lot was petrified frozen slush but would soon be slush again.
Crowds and global warming were taking me out.
A few years ago on a boys ski trip I talked about how when we Boomers were born there were fewer than 3 billion people on the planet. Now there are over 7 billion and still growing fast. I said I thought that was the biggest problem out there. One of my pals vehemently disagreed. He said, “Mark, people are assets!” Now I think back and wonder if I mis-heard him.