I’ll Take a Pass. No. Really. I’ll Take a Pass, PLEASE?

By W.T. FUCHS

Longtime local skier Jim Sylvester became a household name in Missoula overnight last night.

No wonder: He was on the front page of the paper (the Missoulian) yesterday, telling the town that he’s mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore.

So mad, in fact, he’s asked the  U.S. Forest Service to step in on his behalf as mediator after having been denied a Snowbowl ski pass earlier this season.

Holding 20-odd laminated ski passes from past years in hand, Sylvester poured out his plight to the masses, maintaining that he was only trying to act in the interest of other skiers in pointing out areas where safety was lacking at the ski hill, namely where the East and West bowls converge and empty skiers into a single cat track that leads to the main lodge.

He says he expressed his concerns to owners Brad and Ronnie Morris a year ago, via a suggestion box, and never heard back.

When he went to renew his season ski pass this spring, he was denied.

He now says he’s taken his case to officials of Lolo National Forest – the entity that holds the permit for Snowbowl to operate on forest lands – to force its owners to sell him a season pass.

Brad and Ronnie Morris have owned and operated Missoula’s only ski resort for 27 years and told the Missoulian yesterday they denied Sylvester a pass because his efforts to point out safety issues became progressively “disruptive,” and that he upped the ante in his pursuit of seeing changes implemented when he tried to blow the whistle on safety issues with the Morris’s insurer.

A skier shows a cornice who's boss.In light of concerns that things might escalate from there, the Morrises exercised the right of any business owner, and denied him access to a season pass thisyear.

He wasn’t banned from skiing the mountain, he was just denied a season pass. Morris said it would be easy enough for a friend to purchase a ticket for him and for him to ski, and they wouldn’t stop him.

But once all the back-and-forth subsides, here’s my question:

If Sylvester doesn’t think Snowbowl is safe, and in good conscience could no longer keep silent, why would he want to ski there? 

In fact, Brad Morris was quoted asking the same question in yesterday’s news story.

All of this prompted the Facebook newsfeed to jam with chatter yesterday, as comments either expressed rancor and promised boycotts, or good riddance “whiner-go-home” comments.

Online newspaper comment sections expressed much the same.

One man wished Sylvester luck: “Have fun driving to Lost Trail.” 

Another welcomed boycotts and attrition: “It’s encouraging to see all the whiners who won’t be at the Bowl on a powder day. Stay home, go somewhere else.”

Still others stood in support: “Well-run organizations encourage feedback, especially negative feedback, and learn from it.”

Another noted the idiocy of the argument: “Holy egos. Get over your poor little hurt feelings and sell the guy a pass. Are we in middle school? Good grief.” 

Yet, still, one fact remains that no one seems to be talking about:

THE GUY WENT TO THE OWNERS’ INSURANCE COMPANY TO FORCE THE ISSUE!

HELLO? Do I have a bad connection?

What is it about, “I’ve enjoyed the fruits of your labor for the last 27 years, but I just went behind your back and stuck a dagger in it, so if you’ll kindly allow me to still patronize your unsafe business while pursuing action against you, I’d surely appreciate it,” that escapes those defending Sylvester?

Do Brad and Ronnie Morris run a perfect ski area?  They certainly don’t. There are a lot of things wrong up there – including the occasional falling chairlift – but the existence of a suggestion box means someone wanted to hear concerns at one point.

But if you mistakenly believe this is about a suggestion box comment prompting the non-renewal of a season pass, it’s not.

According to Morris, Sylvester never sat down with him to express face-to-face concerns. He never suggested solutions for what might improve the area in a non-confrontational manner in a letter or in person. He never even called him a “dirty, rotten so-and-so”. He just went into “I’ll show you my voice counts” mode, and still expected to be able to purchase a pass for another season of unsafe skiing.

Now, the foot-stomping continues in allegations of wrongful “discrimination” and threats of action to see sanctions imposed for violating a special permit issued by the Forest Service.

And this guy wonders why he earned the “disruptive” moniker?

Missoulians, wake up! This isn’t about skier safety, this is about people who take liberties with their liberties, figuring that their “right to expression” extends into any realm, and therefore must be heard – by the world!

Complaining in the name of unnamed others is rarely inspirational and world-changing. It’s just blowhard-y, dishonest, a trifle tedious, and annoying.

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 Love him or hate him, W.T. Fuchs is always thought-provoking. Check out his previous posts, “Warhol’s 15 Minutes: Long Before ‘The Bachelor’ Hot Mess“,”As Long as it’s Not Pajama Jeans…” and “Just Say No to a New Year’sResolution“.