Editor’s Note: This opinion piece has been updated to reflect the following correction: Crystal Mountain management clarified that they only enforce this policy restricting sack lunches to a specific area between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Management also clarified that homemade PB&Js can be enjoyed at one of the picnic tables outside on the deck.
In a world of $150 lift tickets and ski-up valet parking, I find temporary solace in my homemade PB&J—it’s simple, effective, and even tricks me into thinking I’m not spending my life savings on a day pass. So when an attendant at a resort’s mid-mountain lodge told me my lunchtime masterpiece wasn’t welcome on premises, I was a bit—how should I put this—pissed. The Lunch Enforcer at Crystal Mountain, Washington, continued tickling rage receptors by informing me that not only was my bagged lunch not welcome at the mid-mountain hut, but also not on the top two floors of the base lodge, at least from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when lunch hours are enforced. Graciously, the mountain would, however, let me eat my meal in a basement locker room. A brown bagger for life, I had become a ski area outcast, my scarlet letter written in gooey raspberry jelly.
So, uh, what the eff guys? With more resorts jumping on the bandwagon, I have to wonder when packing a lunch turned into a badge of social inferiority.
The brown bag has been a part of mountain life since people started sliding downhill, and definitely before base lodge cafeterias and ski-up pho shacks. And banning sack lunches hurts a lot of folks besides the dirtbags like me. Let’s be honest—I will still whip up Saltine and ketchup sandwiches no matter how many lunch police you throw my way.
No, you’re cutting deeper than that. You’re cutting into the families that should be coming back week in and week out. After clawing boot and nail to get their two young ones up to the hill, renting gear from your demo shop, and spending a weeks’ salary on lift tickets, parents rely on some homemade soup and sandwiches to make the whole thing worth it. They don’t live in a world of brioche buns and imported clam chowder anymore, they just need a place to sit and eat Goldfish while Tommy Jr.’s mittens dry out. But after coughing up $20 for those same cheddar snacks and a red Gatorade just to use the lodge stools, suddenly skiing doesn’t seem as fun. Suddenly that family stops coming back.
Lodges have long fostered a sense of community, a spot where skiers reconvene after a morning of chasing pow or just chasing each other. Moms saving seats while reading supermarket novellas, bags hanging from wooden pegs, snowy kids barreling in for a thermos sip and chocolate chip cookie—sure it was chaotic, but it was part of the ski experience, wasn’t it? Now buildings seem impossibly sterile, lifeless.
That’s because the moms are barricaded downstairs, as are the young families, the ski bums, the O.G.’s, and the rest of the people that make a mountain tick. Sure there are still plenty of redeeming characters buying organic pizzas upstairs, but skiing’s glue sits at picnic tables in a tungsten-lit basement. That’s where you’ll hear about the best runs of the day, laugh at a stupid joke, and maybe trade your apple for half a turkey sandwich.
Brown baggers are a resilient bunch, but frankly we’re running out of real estate. Rumor has it that next year we’ll be relegated to a janitor’s closet, renting it out in ten-minute increments and passing it off to the next in line. It’s unclear where the phase-out is coming from, but my guess is some guy or gal that never enjoyed the mushy satisfaction of a mountain PB&J. To that special someone: Sack up and give it a go—if you need any tips, you can find me in the basement.