Sunday musings: Snowboarding vs. skiing, telephone wait-time Rhapsody, going cold turkey on business travel


TaosSlopesWe ponder. Are snowboarders a protected class that should be considered like race and gender under federal law? Can interminable waits on airline holds ruin classical favorites — even Rhapsody in Blue? Can businessmen go cold turkey on business travel? Stop completely? We hear from a writer who did just that.

Snowboarders sue Alta; do they have a case?

Can snowboarders force a ski-only resort to open its slopes to riding as well as skiing? Alta is one of only three resorts that forbids snowboarding, but the only one on federal land. Are snowboarders a protected class? We may soon see.

The argument is more than a bit flawed say many, considering snowboarding isn’t a protected class like race, gender or religion. It likely makes for a weak case. Alta only needs to show they have a ‘rational basis’ for the ban; something seemingly easy for the resort and the Forest Service to prove.

Here’s why:

Alta’s layout is not conducive for boarding. The multi-mile traverses are difficult, perhaps impossible, on a snowboard. There are flats and uphills everywhere.

Alta’s Winter Site Operation Plan, approved by the Forest Service, gives Alta the right to “exclude any type of skiing device that they deem creates an unnecessary risk to other skiers and/or the user of the device, or any device they deem causes undue damages to the quality of the snow, or is not consistent with the business management decisions.”

Alta has its history to preserve. If any place holds the soul of skiing it’s Alta “SKI” Area.

Airline hits sour notes with the wait times on customer calls

Can listening to a classical favorite while on airline hold ruin your taste for the music? It is an open question. But there is a solution — a travel agent may help you avoid the interminable waits and the $25 fee for speaking with a human.

O.K., O.K., maybe a beloved composition can’t actually be done in by an airline, in this case United Airlines, that incessantly pumps out a few bars of the theme as its tinny hold-music for travelers waiting interminably for a customer service agent to pick up. But from my own experiences and from those of readers I’ve been hearing from, many of us have heard enough.

“I never want to hear ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ ever again — I’m hearing it in my sleep,” said Frederick Rotgers, a clinical psychologist in New Jersey who spent eight hours on phone calls trying to rebook a canceled flight in Puerto Rico on Jan. 5.

But maybe there is another approach to the frustration of waiting on hold for hours while tinny music assaults your ears: Just get a travel agent, some people are advising me.

After more than a decade of being encouraged to book your own travel arrangements, there may be a reason to rethink that, as the recent travel chaos showed.

The most productive thing I’m doing this year — no business trips

Can you go cold turkey? Stop business travel entirely? This author did and plans to keep doing it through 2014. His answer — videoconferencing.

Last June I quit. Cold turkey. No more travel. I simply canceled all of my upcoming trips and declared myself a no-fly zone through the end of 2013.

It was a bold experiment in self-preservation. I struggled with a deep depressive episode in the first half of 2013. I was functional, and got my work done, but I was in a continuous state of joylessness. I simply didn’t want to do anything. And when I did something, it was devoid of any satisfaction. Something had to change.

For seven months I got up and went to sleep in my own bed, next to my wife Amy with our dog Brooks at the foot of our bed. I didn’t experience the stale smell of an airplane a single time. I didn’t have any delayed or missed flights. A TSA person didn’t feel me in any inappropriate places. I didn’t have to grab an imitation candy bar, disguised as an energy bar, a single time.

Instead, I mastered videoconferencing. I have always used some version of it on occasion, most recently Skype and Google Hangouts. But I never put real effort into setting up the appropriate infrastructure, which includes hardware, software, audio, and connectivity.

Photo of Taos by Charles Leocha

  • Carchar

    After telling his boss he is quitting business travel, how will my son-in-law be able to support his family? ;)

  • AKFlier

    No, types of recreation cannot be protected classes. That term refers to inherent characteristics of human beings, like gender, ethnicity, etc. Engaging in a certain type of activity is a choice, not something you’re born with.

    As a fed land manger specializing in managing recreation, I could list thousands of court cases confirming the fed government’s right to close areas to one form of rec while allowing others. This is often needed to prevent resource damage or avoid dangerous conflicts between users. E.g. you can’t mountain bike on many hiking trails in National Parks. The courts don’t tell us we have to make it possible for everyone to do anything everywhere.

    As a skier, I observe that on slopes where boarding is allowed, boarders (esp. novices) tend to scrape all the snow off the center surface of steep sections and pile it up on the edges or the bottom of the slope. As a consequence trails used by both types of rec get denuded of powder, something skiers tend to like. They get icier and require more grooming ($$). So Alta has every right to say no.