Freesteel Blog » Snowboard no-board and back to rain

Snowboard no-board and back to rain

Sunday, December 30th, 2012 at 11:59 am Written by:

The snowboarding was not a great success. The lower slopes were sheet ice (the colour of white bed sheets) and the blue runs were narrow trails no wider than three snowboard lengths, so we blocked them up effectively with our long incompetent side-scraping when we weren’t catching the edges and pulverizing our buttocks on the rock hard surface.

It took most of the morning to persuade Becka to try the chair lift. When she attempted to walk on to the Bijolin lift, the man made her put one foot back on and phoned ahead to the guy at the top to slow the chair down to help her get off. After that successful experience, this was the only lift we could do for the next twelve runs. The top of the run was good and out in the open with powder snow, but the lower half was miserable. There were two lifts that just did the top section. One was a chair of the kind that’s attached to the wire and doesn’t slow down when it comes round, and the other was a drag lift.

Now the trick with the drag lift on a snow board is you have to point the board lengthways as hold the button between your thighs sideways. Becka kept falling off until the mean young lady told her she wasn’t allowed another go and sent her away even though there wasn’t a queue. So we were back on Bijolin the rest of the day until my lift pass broke due to getting folded and we had to scrape all the way back down to town to get it replaced.

The lift pass is an RFID card that you put in your pocket on your left hand side so the gate lets you through whenever you go near. But it doesn’t work if you have anything else in that pocket, like keys, camera, phone, ibuprofin pills in a silver foil blister pack. And it rejects you if you fall off the lift and you go round again too soon.

I imagine they could email you a list of all the lifts and times you took them at the end of the day if they wanted to. There is some computer that has all the data as to the directions people tend to ski, is capable of modelling how the pattern changes when a lift or ski run closes down, knows by process of elimination the lift pass holders you are skiing with, and is able to grade what level of skier you are by the minimum time at which you are able to appear at the bottom of the run in relation to all the other skiers on the day.

The lift pass is per day for the whole resort. Of course, if they wanted to, they could take your credit card and bill you per lift having announced the price on a digital board at the gate. The price would go up at peak times when there is a long queue forming in order to spread the demand, because economic logic implies that you should pay more for a long wait and a rubbish packed-out ride. Ride prices are different to physical products which can be stockpiled, where you pay for quality. If the situation lasted long enough the price signal would incentivize a consortium of investors to install another lift in parallel to the popular lift and compete for the business. Naturally these investors would want to disclose as little as possible about their exact business plans in case it depended on a cheap supplier of a second hand lift that they didn’t want a competitor to find out about and potentially gazump them over, so you could never be sure that a second consortium wouldn’t also be building their own ride which targeted the same demand that they were not aware was going to be diluted. Often to make this privatization process possible, the government passes a law to forbid the original supplier from dropping its prices and competing “unfairly” with the new enterprise whose activities are, of course, always fair. Once the oversupply on this route is recognized, desperate measures need to take place. This includes cutting a deal with the operator of a lower lift to uproot several pylons and divert the skiers to the bottom of the one owned by the businessman who was sharp enough to make the deal. He can raise his prices, because people will pay for convenience. If they want the same service cheaper, they can always pole their way up the gravel slope through the trees to the platform of the other lift. If that lift wants to survive in this cut-throat business world they’ll need to build at least a crappy drag lift down from their starting point to a piste where they can attract the business across with a few banners in the trees advertising their better prices.

But who owns the snow slopes and runs the piste-bashers? It’s too technical to raise revenue for runs down those, so they’ll be managed as a common state asset, like highways and roads, even though this is what folks have actually come here for, not to ride on the lifts. Do you really want to know that that going down the hard black run full of lumps and moghills will cost you £3, but while the pointless blue run is £1.97? It interferes with your choices. It’s difficult to put a price on pleasure at the time, such as it is. It’s like being charged for the spoonful of dessert rather than the full dinner.

At the end of the day, some of the lifts will close before others depending on how much revenue they are making in the dying light. They’re not going to care that they’ve now broken the critical link you depended on to get back to your chalet. In fact they have created economic value because you now need to pay for a 3 hour taxi to take you down the valley and up the other side, and you may as well buy dinner in a restaurant beforehand to cheer yourself up now.

Anyways, I think there is enough here for a economic war game (similar to a military war game) to set team of business students onto with their cashflow spreadsheets and business models as part of their education, to make them understand the inherent waste and chaos of the free market system when it is divided down to certain levels of granularity where it is obvious that even the most rudimentary central planning is far superior. The entire resort must operate as a single team, like the rail network or the electricity system. Trust no economist who is incapable of understanding why privatizing individual ski lifts — though clearly possible and increases consumer choice on a matter that is completely elastic (unlike train fares where I am not going to go to Basingstoke no matter how cheap the fare) — will cause a decline.

You get a lot of time to think when you are doing something you are not good at. We were back to the skis on the last day, though my ankle bones that felt like nails had been driven through the ski boots. There was fog and blizzards on the high runs across the Vanoise Express in Les Arcs. And later in the day the low runs were being rained on. We got even more wet than the day before. Soggy gloves felt like dishrags pulling them on and off. One last run up Bijolin lift had us stuck for 20 minutes in the freezing wind before they got it moving again into a wall of fog. Becka thought we were going to get rescued and escorted down off the mountain. Don’t be silly. This is France. You can look after yourself or you wouldn’t have got here.

We drove back to Cambridge the next day and dropped Wook and Tess off in their very drippy and dark house before spending the night at mum’s and driving to Liverpool in the morning, and then straight on to Yorkshire where it is scheduled to heave it down for the next six days. This would be a good season to be a canoeist. Unfortunately we are caving and trying to finish the survey of Lost Johns’ off. So I am coding a blogging today. Lazy lazy lazy.

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