But the brochure said…

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My parents bought a funky little condo, or townhouse I guess they’re called now, at our ski hill in 1969. The green shag carpet, orange couch and assorted kitsch above the Franklin fi replace, including the photo I took years ago at an interview with Bob Denver, are timeless reminders of all the good times we had growing up skiing. If that shag could only talk….

One of the supreme bonuses of this place is its slopeside location. Ski-to-the-door. Sort of. You can ski away from the door, if you commit to straightlining a very steep and narrow gulley, hop assorted obstacles, negotiate a ditch large enough to be now used as a quarterpipe and so on. Skiing home is something best left to the younger set or those on rental skis. This requires building up as much speed as possible on one of the hill’s runouts (where the orange signs say “SLOW”) and scooting across part of the sand-covered (or muddy) parking lot, avoiding reversing SUVs, bounding Labradors and such.

“Slopeside” and “ski-to-the-door” can mean different things to different people. A smiling, childless woman from a resort’s marketing department admitted to me once that “slopeside” in their rental pool meant “within 400 metres” of the lift. 400 metres? With two or three kids in tow, it’s more a premise to some madcap Japanese TV show with sweaty contestants going once around the track wearing and carrying all their ski gear, and most of their kids’.

Technical Editor Martin and I were talking about this the other day after he had to hoof it uphill along a dirty wet road from his “ski-to- the-door” accommodation.

“Slopeside to me,” said Martin, as he picked at small stones stuck in his ski boot sole and brushed away at the highway salt stains on his pants, “means you walk out the door of the place, you put on your skis—and you ski away.”

We mused over all sorts of lifts in ski country that have been installed purely to service accommodation rather than access ski runs, and declared how much better the world would be if we ran it.

Of course, slopeside isn’t a simple answer. My buddy Leslie turns up her nose at ski-tothe-door condo accommodation. “A keyed, cold and empty entrance, all that taupe and moose décor…so sterile. And bad carpet dust!” said Leslie, who’s frequently seen lounging in big leather chesterfields in hotel lobbies where she’s not actually a guest. “I’d far rather ski up to the hotel ski room and leave my kit.”

I upped the ante with tales of the Grand Hotel Portillo in Chile where ski lockers are considered downright gauche. A valet takes your skis and poles from you practically where you’ve taken them off and, by the second night of your stay, the ski boot guy has memorized your footwear and hands you your runners or dry ski boots, depending on whether you’re coming or going. Now a hotel service like that beats any hot stone massage.

But back to if I ran the world, ski valet is a service that should be available at all resorts where most or all accommodation is off-hill or “in town.” What’s the big deal about slopeside anyway? My most memorable ski trips have always involved us staying offhill in a genuine ski town rather than a resort village. And the best of those trips involved a simple slopeside service that allowed us to leave our gear at the hill after which we could dance out to the car or shuttle bus in our runners. Whether it’s included in a hotel charge or a skier is charged a nominal fee for overnight ski and boot storage right at the hill, it certainly requires a lot less space and infrastructure than a locker room.

When I visit a ski area and I’m staying offhill, I’ve been known to leave my dripping gear in the management’s office for the night. I’m not really there to press the flesh for the magazine; I just don’t want to lug all my crap out to the parking lot.

Iain MacMillan
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