Due to an unseasonably warm string of winters, many Mid-Atlantic ski resorts will be using this summer to shift their focus from skiing and snowboarding to vertical hopscotching, a new sport that has seen rising popularity. By dispensing with the expensive burden of making snow, resorts view vertical hopscotch as a way to draw visitors to the slopes year-round. Many ski areas in Switzerland, already reeling from the retreat of glaciers, have completely converted their ski slopes to vertical hopscotching slopes, in many cases removing lifts, gondolas, trams, and startled packs of ski instructors.
Although hopscotch first gained popularity in children’s schoolyards, the sport has since expanded to include all but the elderly, who are considered too frail. Hopscotch has traditionally been performed on a flat surface, and although the game is governed by an official and bewildering set of rules, few understand the rules and just enjoy skipping from square to square.
Vertical hopscotch is a new take on an old concept. In vertical hopscotch, the flat surface is replaced by a surface that is not flat, for example an inclined or tilting surface. This makes ski slopes at ski areas an ideal setting for the burgeoning sport, as ski areas offer surfaces in a range of inclinations from almost flat to scary vertical.
While skiing and snowboarding use the same types of surfaces, they require snow, the lack of which continues to be a thorn in the side of ski resorts. For example, resorts have to rely on Mother Nature to provide snow, or expensive manmade snowmaking. Ski area managers made a revelation when they realized they could simply switch to vertical hopscotch, using much of their existing infrastructure but dispensing with the need for snow.
“In fact, snow only gets in the way of vertical hopscotching,” said one local mountain manager. “If it does snow next winter - and that’s a big if - for the first time we will actually use our snowcats to scrape away the snow from the slopes, so the snow won’t interfere with the vertical hopscotching of our guests.”
Guests will be able to choose whether they wish to hopscotch up or down the mountain. There will be two separate lift tickets available for sale. The “down hopscotch” ticket will cost more, as it will include a lift ride to the top of the mountain for those too lazy to skip their way up. The “up/down hopscotch” ticket will be a relative bargain, and will allow visitors to hopscotch up the mountain and then rotate 180 degrees, hopscotching back down the mountain. Resorts are still trying to work out a sensible protocol that will keep up-scotchers from bumping into down-scotchers.
“We believe the up/down hopscotch ticket will be our most popular product,” said one area manager. “If few people purchase the down hopscotch ticket, we may remove existing lifts from our mountain. Guests have always found them unsightly, and they are absolute magnets for lightning and nesting birds.”
Several resorts are already busy painting squares onto their ski slopes.
“The painting is an arduous process,” said a marketing manager for a Pennsylvania resort. “However, we hope to finish it by August, allowing the slopes to open by September 1. That will be our earliest ever opening date.”
Another benefit of hopscotching is that it requires relatively little equipment. This will allow resorts to dispense with their ski and snowboard rental inventory. Although this will remove a money-making line item from the balance sheet, it will eliminate the cost and burden of putting out press releases each fall breathlessly announcing new rental inventory.
Local skiers and snowboarders have mixed feelings about the changeover.
“I suppose I will miss skiing to some degree,” said John Thompson, a lifetime skier from Calvert County who requested anonymity. “On the other hand, have you tried vertical hopscotching? It’s exhilirating! After a few visits, I think most skiers and boarders will wonder why they ever bothered with such a burdensome and costly sport.”
Note: This story was originally published on April 1, 2008.
M. Scott Smith is an indentured servant with DCSki. In exchange for writing articles for DCSki twenty four hours per day, Scott is occasionally given crumbs of bread. As part of his indentured servant contract, he is allowed outside two hours per week for exercise.