Ski resort guide editor Chris Gill reflects on his wasted career.
I’ve been in the ski resort guide business for over 30 years, first as the Editor of the original consumerist book, The Good Skiing Guide (not to be confused with the Good Ski Guide), then as co-editor of Where to Ski and Snowboard and now as editor of a new series of related smaller books, starting with Where to Ski in Austria . So I know a bit about resorts, and guides to resorts.
My books have provided me with a living, but in other respects have been a waste of time, I’m now told. I got into an exchange on Facebook the other day with a guy who was firmly of the opinion that guidebooks and other organised presentations of information and advice about ski resorts are to be avoided. The best source of help in choosing a resort, he asserted with absolute confidence, is a lively online forum.
He was putting this view forward in response to a post of mine publicising Where to Ski in Austria. Had he read it? No. Had he even seen it? No. But he knew from experience that all such guides were fatally flawed.
The gist of the guy’s argument was that the author of a guidebook can get hung up on a particular aspect of a resort, and it may be an aspect that doesn’t matter to you, the individual reader. Thus, the advice you get is likely to be misleading. On the other hand, if you go to a forum you’ll get advice from many quarters, automatically eliminating that kind of bias.
Well, that’s one way of looking at it. When I go to forums and feedback sites, what I see is a bit of a mess, out of which I find it difficult to extract sense. I find a lot of strongly expressed views, often conflicting, resulting from the random experiences of people whose background, prejudices and competence are unknown.
Contrast that with what guidebooks offer: organised presentation, clear and consistent evaluations, and the knowledge that you are reading the considered views of someone who is dedicated to figuring out the merits of different ski resorts – and figuring them out for different people with different requirements.
I’ve visited every important resort in the Alps multiple times. I do it by spending weeks of the winter on the road, moving from resort to resort every day or two (depending on how big the ski areas are). And I’m in resorts to observe, not to enjoy myself. (OK, mainly not to enjoy myself.) I think this means I’m better placed to arrive at balanced, impartial judgements than people on holiday.
On reflection, the sales and support Where to Ski and Snowboard enjoyed for 20 years encourage me to think it hasn’t all been a waste of time, after all.