Rant 1: Why Stairs to Every Bathroom?

by Brian Wilson, on 5/9/99

(Read a personal description of Backblaze here.)

There is a universal rule at almost every ski lodge in America, and that is that they force the skiers to walk up or down several flights of stairs to use the bathroom. I'm not kidding, ask any skier to think about Squaw Valley's various bathrooms, and I challenge them to find a bathroom at the main level or close to ground level in any lodge (think of the top of the tram, and where the bathroom is). Heavenly is probably the worst offender I've ever seen, with MONUMENTAL treks through hallways and restaurants and down 4 or more long flights of stairs just to relieve one's self (for example, at the top of the tram and Gunbarrel lift). I've skied at more than 30 of the top resorts in the Western United States, and visited more than a hundred bathrooms, and can list the bathrooms I found on the main level on one hand.

First let me explain why this is near and dear to my heart, and the concern of all skiers. First of all, skiing is an all-day sport (commonly the lifts open at 9am, and close at 4pm) and nature is going to call every skier at least a couple of times during the day. Compounding this situation is that skiers exert themselves and are at altitude, so they end up drinking a lot of fluids during the day. So skiers are going to need to "take a leak" a few times a day, if not a whole bunch of times during the day.

Now, unless you are a skier you cannot appreciate how hard, and frankly how dangerous, it is to walk down a flight of wet stairs in Alpine ski boots. These boots keep your ankles effectively immobilized (for safety on the slopes), which makes it difficult to walk around even on a flat surface. It's even harder keeping your balance as you clomp down stairs, and it's impossible to keep the bottom of the hard plastic boot flat against the stair. This means skiers are teetering on the very corners of a hard plastic heel and toe. Also, remember that there is snow outside and all over skier's clothing and boots, which is melting all over the floor. So there are pools of water, snow, and ice everywhere. And instead of making bathrooms easy to access, right near the entrances to the lodge, they put them down a flight of stairs. What kind of insanity is that?

Next, we skiers are a gregarious bunch, and tend to ski together in groups of 4 or 5. But mother nature calls at different times for each skier, so those that don't need to "go" wait around outside in the cold. Since the stairs take longer to navigate and the bathrooms are universally located a long distance from the entrances, this means your friends are out shivering in the cold for a longer time waiting for you.

I'd like to know what idiots are designing these incredibly stupid floor plans for these ski lodges? Haven't these architects every put on a pair of skis?!! The MAIN USE of a mid-mountain ski lodge is to relieve one's bladder. Here's a hint: put a rest room at the top or bottom of the tram or gondola, or even ski lift. Think about it-> you get off the lift, take a quick bathroom break, then hit the slopes. It's fast, it's easy, it makes sense.

A couple of ski areas deserve honorable mention for bucking this annoying trend. Deer Valley Utah is very, very nice to its patrons, including the best bathroom on a ski slope I've ever seen. The summit lift (Wasatch Express?) drops you off at the top of the hill, and you can ski down 30 yards out of the wind, and there is a rest room at snow-level right there. You click off your skis less than 6 feet from the toilet. HEAVEN!! Another honorable mention is Telluride Colorado, which actually has a bathroom at the bottom of the gondola in a perfect location.

If you are a ski area building a new lodge, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, please ask any 10 skiers for their opinion where they would like a bathroom. You'll get the same answer every time: immediately inside the front door, and no stairs please.

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