Blogger and libertarian authoress Virginia Postrel, in her recent book, The Future and Its Enemies, made a telling point that having fun and free enterprise are increasingly being fused in the same activities.
She cited the example of sports like professional beach volleyball. Now, there are few activities which might excite the moral scorn of the miserablists of the left and right more than a group of young men and women (the latter in rather fetching garb, ahem) punching a ball to and fro over a net. Well, if the idea of volleyball as part of an enterprise culture offends the scolds in our midst, then how about skiing?
I have recently had my annual fix of shooting down ski slopes in the French resort of Val D’Isere, a magnificent resort . I enjoyed a fantastic week. There are few adrenalin-boosting activities to match it, in my view. And putting aside the obvious points about this activity, one thing struck me – skiing is a classic part of a capitalist, fun-loving, life-affirming culture.
Skiing is ‘pointless’ to those who think we should devote our energies to ‘higher’ activities, or who think that all those resources spent on ski lifts, skis, hotels and airliners should be diverted to other, worthier goals. Skiing is a vast industry these days. Unlike spectator sports such as football or cricket, skiing is 99 percent participant sport. Millions of people of all ages – mostly being relatively fit – go skiing in places all over the world every year.
Many of the people who work in ski resorts – guides, holiday reps, lift attendants, bar staff and so forth – all seem to form part of a new culture remarkably similar to the sort of laid-back surfing culture made legendary in southern California. While affecting a sort of casual demeanor, most of the people seem in deadly earnest about ensuring they serve the skiers well. A lot of the holiday staff, many of whom have taken big salary cuts to go to the mountains, seem to speak a sort of ‘leisure industry slang’, a sort of hybrid of Australian ‘matespeak’, Californian ‘coolspeak’, and in France of course, overlain with that Galoise-smoking sang froid of the expert skiier with his nonchalant posture.
Skiing is a major triumph of capitalist organisation and enterprise. And even in the French Alps, in the homeland of the 35-hour week and dreaded bureaucracy, it seems one of the most successful businesses in France. In fact, I got the impression that many staff in the French ski businesses have to work for far longer than is permitted under the nation’s job-destroying regulations.
And as a final observation, skiing is risky. Good grief, allowing folk to go down a slope without a State licence – are we mad?