Coasting into climate change

Sandia Peak Ski Co. wants to build a mountain coaster as a hedge against climate change. And who can blame them?

Well … plenty of people, it seems.

“Ski areas have found it very challenging to be dependent on winter alone,” notes Sandia Peak president Benny Abruzzo in a chat with the Albuquerque Journal. And the U.S. Forest Service seems supportive of the project.

But the Journal says the majority of responses during a public comment period have been less so, and a random sample indicates that they do not lie.

“If we built a mechanical bull ride at the top of the Sandias, yes, more people may go up there, but at what cost to the land/view?” one critic quipped. No, not me.

Every time I hear of a project like this I’m reminded just how little I understand about business. How does Sandia Park Ski Co. expect to make bank on this deal? A casual glance at mountain coasters in Steamboat, Gatlinburg, and Branson tells me that tickets are cheap — $16-$20 a rider — but I’ll bet construction and maintenance dollar up on the roof right smart.

Maybe there are enough sedentary bucket-listers to make a dog like this hunt in a town where Topgolf is considered economic development. Ride the Tram, ride the coaster, ride the rental car back to the motel. Whoop, watch out for that fairy on his bicycle. What’s for lunch, hon’? I really worked up an appetite clenching my butt-cheeks on that coaster.

But frankly, it doesn’t seem very imaginative. The Duke City has thrill rides aplenty, with infrastructure already in place.

For instance, anyone who craves a hair-raising vehicular experience in Albuquerque need only take an automobile for a spin on I-40 when the motorcycles are in bloom.

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27 Responses to “Coasting into climate change”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    I was waiting for that last paragraph. For a sphincter-puckering thrill up this way without driving to Albuquerque, a casual spin down Cerrillos Road on a Saturday morning when every lunatic in town is trying to get to Sam’s Club first. Yesterday morning my better half was almost cowering under the dash as I repeatedly said “now would you look at that?”

    All of this bullshit involves people schlepping their fat hindquarters hither and there, such as up a several thousand foot climb, in an SUV. I don’t give a shit whether it is gasoline, electric, or bee pollen powered. It means something has to generate all that energy. Now, what do you think that does to urge on climate change?

    We are doomed. Like Ernest Hemingway, we in the Southwest are gluttoning ourselves with bad karma and eventually will end up with the double barrel of heat and drought pushed to our forehead. Bang.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Everything must be “accessible,” by which they mean “reachable by sitting down.”

      Some things should be hard to reach. Mountaintops. Canyon floors. Wisdom.

      Buddhists reach wisdom by sitting, but they also move around a bit from time to time.

    • Shawn Says:

      If only more folks could understand the energy thing. But then if we did we’d all be walking around being scientifically philosophical and look like one of the advanced alien races on Star Trek (the original version).

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    “More people, more scars upon the land.” Seems like a last minute effort to save a business that had no vision. It’s not like climate change sneaked up on us, or Benny.

    • Pat O'Brien Says:

      Quote is from “Rocky Mountain High” a folk rock song written by John Denver and Mike Taylor.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I haven’t been paying attention to what the Abruzzos have done with their hunk of the east side. We used to do an occasional mountain-bike race over there Back in the Day® (one of the Abruzzos was a damn good bike racer), but I haven’t spent any time over there lately. I know there are trails to be ridden, but that’s about it.

      From the depths of my ignorance I’d think some sort of extensive mountain-bike park might be a good thing. You have the Tram ride on the west side for people who enjoy that sort of thing, and human-powered recreation on the other. There’s a bike boom going on, or so I’m told, anyway. But as I said, I don’t know diddley about business.

    • B Lester Says:

      A local scribe for the Janesville Gazette, D S Pledger, wrote a column some years ago lamenting just that. His fave hunting ground was practically inaccessible except on foot. In later years, dorks on four wheelers invaded. They patted their machines and said that “if it wasn’t for these babies, we couldn’t get here”. Pledger wryly sneered something like “maybe that’s why you shouldn’t be here.”

    • SAO' Says:

      Yeah, I’ll never understand business, either. Except for the part where you pay yourself with the money your LLC borrows, then walk away sticking it to the bank. Doesn’t matter how bad the service is if the fees are high enough.

      If the chair lifts are already there, then there’s not much else you have to do to convert to summertime downhill service. But these sleds are a whole extra level of construction and maintenance fees.

      Haven’t been back to Germany since ‘03, but I seem to recall that the ski resorts did pretty good summertime business selling a $15-20 lift ticket to folks who just wanted to hike and get a sandwich plus a half liter while enjoying the view.

      • SAO' Says:

        Looked up AFRC Garmisch for shits and giggles. Looks like MWR has applied a heavy coat of Sandals + Princess Cruises to the hotel. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a complete Bavarian experience that includes burgers, pizza, and Cinnabon?

        But with respect to activities, it’s still mostly human-powered outsdoorsy stuff. They’ve added some sort of tandem para-glider thing, which in one sense is the lazy American approach to adventure, but at least it doesn’t scar up the mountain side. There’s also an alpine version of a ropes course. Could argue that this is mucking up the natural landscape, but you’ll also probably find 150 year old pitons in those cliffs, so I’ll call that another 50-50 jump ball.

        The thing i remembered for summertime mountain top activity was the insanity at the 1:45 mark. It’s only on the screen for a millisecond, but there are casual hikers up there on the Zugspitz, walking off their beers by roping up and walking along the ridge of Germany’s highest mountain.

        Overall, high marks for keeping a ski town running all summer without turning it into Wally World. It’s possible, if you focus on a sustainability biz that will weather the high and lows and not worry so much about striking it rich and then skipping town.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        This mountain-coaster thing must be an official Thing®. Vail has one. Talk about a race to the bottom. This is what I get for taking my eye off the ball. Who knew?

    • Shawn Says:

      “You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye”

      The Last Resort – The Eagles

  3. SAO' Says:

    You will never be able to talk Americans out of paying to slide on their butts or get hauled around by a big engine. It’s in our DNA.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Especially here. All the hot cars have been getting aired out lately. We’ve seen some new BMWs and Vettes, also some classics from days gone by when everything didn’t look like a Honda CR-V.

  4. SAO' Says:

    FYI, not to change the subject, but excellent episode of 99PI that all of y’all NM folks might find interesting.

    Feb 2, Ep 429, Stuccoed In Time

    Santa Fe is famous in part for a particular architectural style, an adobe (mudbrick) look that came to be called Pueblo Revival. This aesthetic combines elements of indigenous pueblo architecture and the New Mexico’s old Spanish missions, resulting in mostly low, brown buildings with smooth edges. Buildings in the city’s historical districts in particular have to follow a number of design guidelines so that they fit this desired look; deviating from those aesthetics can stir up a lot of controversy. But this adherence to a single style hasn’t always been the norm — for a time, there was actually a powerful push to “Americanize” the city’s built environment. Then, over a century ago, a group of preservationists laid out a vision for the look and feel of Santa Fe architecture, and in the process changed the city forever.

  5. Stan Thomas Says:

    35mph? On a motorbike. Is there something I don’t get about I-40?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Some of the local motorcyclists like to play games in traffic, Stan. I’ve seen them in packs on Tramway, popping wheelies and whatnot. Never seen them acting out on the interstates, though. That’s slightly insane. It’s Death Race 2000 on the interstates around here. 75 mph and up is the rule, no matter what the speed-limit signs say.

  6. katholoch Says:

    It’s not how little you understand about business, it’s how little you relate to the typical yahoo in many places. Cottonwood Mall opened when I was living in ABQ (must have been 1996). First day attendance was 250,000 or something like that? This was when ABQ had 450-500,000 residents. I think the state only had a 1.5 million people at that time. So half the city went to a mall opening or like 15-20 percent of the state population? I remember being truly appalled. It was wall to wall people and traffic jams. So, unfortunately, don’t underestimate the things that your “average” American enjoys. You are the likely suspect for not fitting in 🙂 I suspect that it wouldn’t be tourists crowding up there, but perhaps residents–as long as the Tram is free.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “You are the likely suspect for not fitting in.” Hee, and also haw. Truer words, etc. I think I was the only person in Bibleburg who wasn’t thrilled to death that a Trader Joe’s was coming to town. Fine, I thought, I’ll go there sometime. But for a lot of grocery aficionados it was the Second Coming.

      Ditto the In-N-Out Burger chain. It’s a burger chain. But it has a mystical reputation among burger fanciers, and an announcement that In-N-Out will be opening a location in your state triggers spasms of joy among the faithful.

      Expanded shopping opportunities and industrial-food offerings hardly seem occasions for hosannas.

      • JD Says:

        Re In-n-Out, they routinely have queue lines of cars 4-5 blocks long since opening here in Bibleburg … engines running … not sure what gets done while waiting … especially at 10:30AM when seemingly large numbers of people crave a hamburger … maybe remote/cellphone work? And guess what? Another burger “icon”, Whataburger, just announced they’ll be opening within a 400 meter radius of In-n-Out! Maybe we should be called Bible”burger”?! 🙂

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          Someone should open a joint with that name: “BibleBurger.” It would be a short and interesting episode in the fast-food story.

          My go-to burger joint before Pueblo’s Bingo Burger came to town was Cy’s Drive-In on Uintah. But Back on the Day® it was Conway’s Red Top. Oh, man, talk about your burgers. One was a meal for the whole family, unless I was in your family, in which case you had to buy your own damn burger because I was eating all of mine and probably some of yours too.

          • SAO' Says:

            Bible Burger has potential. Instead of “no shirts no shoes no service,” though, the sign has to say, no cotton/wool blends, no shellfish, and no coveting.

        • SAO' Says:

          Now that we have kinder, we’ll do a drive-thru about once a year. But I’ll never understand the reluctance to get out of ones car.

          But you know what’s worse than lunch time drive-thrus? K-8 drop off and pick ups. About 80% of the kids in our town get dropped off, and it’s usually because mom and dad are running late. But it never registers that the people on the sidewalk are moving faster than the people in the land yachts. My favorite passive-aggressive move is to wave when I walk past them on the the way there, then make sure they see that I’m heading back home while they’re still waiting to get into the parking lot.

  7. Shawn Says:

    Business. As we know, corporations are not caring beings. But our Supreme Court has given them a life and they, the living, breathing, devouring corporations, could care less about the long term consequences of a short term financial gain. Humanity contiunually has to adapt. Not to the epochal changes of the planet and the natural world, but to the changes that humanity creates for itself: warfare, conquest, population growth, exploitation, climate alteration. We as individuals do not have and / or do not care to have the capacity to think beyond the growth of our children. So we will continue to improve for humanity (in my opinion, fuck up in a big way), the world and beyond and we will adapt.

    As for a mountain top roller coaster, wonderful. Something else that draws us in, takes our money and insures that we stay on track. They wouldn’t want us to veer off course and become independent.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Ever since popping the ankle last year I’ve had a renewed appreciation for the simple act of walking. You see stuff. It’s slow, but you get there, eventually. Very little technology is required. The infrastructure is already present.

      I rode the Tram once, just ’cause. It was there, so why not? Marvelous feat of engineering. I look at something like that and think, “Holy hell, however did that get built?”

      The next question, of course, is “Why did that get built?” Here’s your list, there’s your bucket, what’s your hurry?

      I’ve ridden my bike up to the Crest a few times. I’d like to try walking it one of these days. Then I might be glad the Tram is there so I can hitch a ride back down.

  8. khal spencer Says:

    When we lived in Los Alamos, I would try to get up to the cross country area before the downhill place opened, at which time the entire side of Pajarito Mountain was covered with four wheel drive vehicles. Still, they were going under so they started doing stuff in the summer, such as hauling people and their mountainbikes to the top using the chair lifts and letting them bomb the downhills. A friend of ours from down the street broke both arms doing that.

    Yep. Business exists to make money and with climate being in a warm and dry snit, doing something to keep your ski resort out of Ch. 11 makes sense for business even as it drives up energy needs but as SAO said, “…You will never be able to talk Americans out of paying to slide on their butts or get hauled around by a big engine. It’s in our DNA…”

    B. Lester reminds me of something. We used to hunt deer near the Pennsylvania border in a little place called Pine City, near Elmira, NY. Lots of old farms there on rolling hills. We would leave the vehicles at one end of a farm field and hike in to several ravines where an orchard and a hemlock forest came together in a “V” and set up our stands. The city hunters would be driving around and parking on the dirt roads, walking in a little ways. Never failed that they would drive the deer deeper into the woods where we were sitting there in ambush. The freezer was never empty. I bribed my grad advisor to look the other way as I left the university for a week each year by promising him the liver.

  9. Coasting into climate change — Mad Blog Media – GLOBALYNC – Humanity Says:

    […] Coasting into climate change — Mad Blog Media […]

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