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Patdowns on the Slopes

Apparently we have to be wary of pantybombers on ski slopes now, too.

Long Arm of the Law

It’s a windless morning at Steamboat Ski Resort, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” pulses through a bright Gondola Square. Shuffling across the slushy snow, skiers line up to board the Steamboat Gondola, but first they must unzip, de-layer, and turn out their pockets. Like travelers at Denver International Airport, these would-be gondola riders must run through a gauntlet of security checkpoints before taking to the skies.

After ticket scanners confirm that skiers’ lift passes are legit, a panel of uniformed police officers pats everyone down and inspects backpacks for contraband such as alcohol. Refuse the search, and that $97 day-ticket becomes null and void. Still, on this bluebird day, one baby boomer flexes his ’60s-honed flower power and bucks the system. “You don’t have any right to search me!” he shouts. Throughout the loading zone, heads swivel toward the lone renegade. The cops try to respond to him in hushed tones. But he won’t be quieted. “You have no right!” he repeats.

This is one of those rare occasions where I agree with a hippie.

Of course, this isn’t TSA in action, so it’s not really about pantybombers or some illusion of security. Instead, the justification used is that it’s to maintain the family-friendly atmosphere of the ski resorts and to thwart theft. I wonder when malls will start implementing pat-downs and pocket searches under the same justifications — after all, there’s plenty of room for obnoxious behavior at malls, and an ever-present problem with theft.

With every day that passes, I’m more amazed at my virtually hall-monitor-free experience in Iceland. We laughed at the fact that the Land of the Vikings outlawed the sale and private ownership of souvenir swords, of all things, but at least they didn’t have security people on every corner looking for any reason to rifle through your belongings and clothes and feel you up with an invasive touch-search.

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