In its single-minded pursuit of ever-increasing profits and greater market share, it seems Vail has finally stirred some resistance from folks not overly concerned with such niceties as the legality of their actions, and who exhibit a downright healthy disdain for the property of large corporations. Well, God bless the Earth Liberation Front! The pious outpourings of shock and anger from the tourism and ski industries are to be expected, but the expressions of disapproval from the mainstream environmental groups seem a bit strained. They need to distance themselves from these acts to maintain their respectability, especially a venerable old dinosaur like the Sierra Club, no matter what spark of joy some of them, as individuals, might feel in their hearts and share in private. Of course, there are political realities at work, and maybe these fires weren't the wisest acts. But then again, who really knows? A little sabotage against the corporate state and in defense of wilderness is a healthy thing. It adds spice to the political stew and lifts the spirits of those of us who value solitude, simplicity and wild places over the noisy clamor of industrial recreation.
Vail Resorts will press forward with its plans to expand into the Two Elk Creek area. And, ironically, this bloated monster crouching in the mountains above Gore Creek and the Eagle River, sucking in money and increasing the wealth of the already wealthy while giving back low-wage jobs, unaffordable housing, pollution and habitat fragmentation, will spin this sabotage to elicit maximum sympathy.
Now, I'm not opposed to skiing. I've spent countless days in the backcountry, sleeping in snow caves or tents, making tracks far from the sounds of civilization. I've skied and enjoyed many of Colorado's small resorts: Eldora, Loveland, Monarch, Purgatory. It's really a matter of scale. The Vails and Aspens of the world are the Wal-Marts and Home Depots of the ski world: Big machines for funneling capital into the hands of a wealthy few in exchange for low-wage jobs, habitat destruction and huge increases in demands on existing infrastructure that lower the quality of life for almost all who live in the community. Meanwhile, the money goes elsewhere, out of the area, out of state, maybe even out of the country. The modern colonialism: Smile while you say "Would you like fries with that?" and make your $7/hour; be grateful for whatever job you have while you're making the treacherous one-hour-each-way-when-the-weather-is-good commute from Leadville to Vail.
The small resorts generally keep more of the wealth within the community, and contribute positively to the lives of residents. It is this type of development that should be encouraged; any further growth of the big gorillas of the industry should be discouraged in every way possible.
I can only imagine that the ghost of Ed Abbey is looking down on this little act of protest from the canyon and rimrock, scorpion- and rattlesnake-infested heaven I hope he's living in, and smiling while he drinks his whiskey and eats his beans around the celestial campfire.
Michael E. Adams