Not to restart this and thus take away from Garrett's wonderful accomplishment of winning an argument on the internet
(and we know what they all say about that)
But Northwest has just joined the $25 2nd-bag party. Also, American has filed notice with Canadian authorities that they intend to charge that $25 (apparently for their routes in Canada they are required to give advance notice) so we can expect that here too.
That adds 1 and likely 2 "majors" to Garrett's you're-stupid-to-fly-them list. Leaving only Continental as the only remaining major US airline without announced plans in the works for this charge. Sooner or later that means the "low cost carriers" will join in too. For any questions about that, just look to Europe where RyanAir, FlyGlobespan, and others do charges in some cases even for the first bag, for seat assignment, for check-in at the airport, etc. It's coming.
For those of us who only do short nonstop hops from, for example, Albequerque to Salt Lake, I agree, it would be stupid to fly them. Actually I'd agreed all along but sometimes the point gets missed. However, for those of us who have the mental/emotional/empathic bandwidth to imagine that not everyone has or should have the same life as you, please keep my advice in mind. That is to consider focusing your air travel within one alliance, crediting your miles to just one airline within that alliance, so that you get a certain degree of loyalty status as an "elite" (ooh, bad non-mutual word!) within that alliance from that airline's Magic Tiller Captain's Hat Club.
For example, some of us have college-age kids where one's in Florida, one's in California, and family members in New York whom we do like to see a few times a year, while needing to do work travel to rockin' Raleigh and selfish unsustainable pleasure travel on ski and vacation trips around the world. Some of us have to do weekly trips to Peoria or Des Moines(even more rockin' than Raleigh, I hear) while also doing volunteer work trips to Africa. Some of us have grandchildren in Washington State while living in Massachusetts (quick question, Garrett - is that better or worse than "West Jersey"?). Some of us may live in the upper Midwest where Northwest and their partners are the only viable option (Midwest now gives credit/gets you status on Northwest) and Southwest has not gained a foothold. Some of us might have job or client-specified carriers but still have a choice within them: for example, BigFinancialCo prefers US which means I can credit to UA (both Star Alliance), or prefers DL which means I can credit to NW(both Skyteam), or prefers AA which either means I skip them or if the fare is significantly cheaper I credit to LanChile (both oneworld) adding towards the next free South America trip.
Obviously, don't travel more than you otherwise want/need to, just to get some kind of points for future travel. There's always a "house edge" just like a casino. (Although there are exceptions, such as how Lisamarie and I will be in a $700+ room for free, probably upgraded further for free, at the Grand Hotel Florence for her birthday, for maybe $200 of spend at crappy Four Points during a Starwood promo - but I digress).
This isn't about "Ma & Pa Kettle take a ski trip" nor is it about "23 year old college kid/ski shop tech takes 6 or 8 short flight ski trips". The airlines are aiming their fees straight at the Kettles who don't fly regularly or don't show any loyalty (and BTW Garrett it's not about the kind of miles you get from the credit cards you mentioned - it's about the miles earned butt-in-seat that give you the status so you get exempt from fees, get the other perks, oh yea and get 25-125% bonus each flight of the miles towards the free trips too.)
The point is: if your grown-up, juggling responsibilities and goals, adult life needs REQUIRE you to fly more than about 8 or so trips each year somewhere, you'd be nuts not to look at focusing your travel on one alliance to avoid some of these annoying fees and other airline/airport annoyances. And for the record, I don't give a flying frak which one of them.
If you fly 4 or 5 times a year or less, just pick whichever's cheaper or more convenient. If that airline has or adds a fee for the 2nd bag, suck it up and pay it if the overall numbers make sense. Right now Southwest doesn't charge for the 2nd bag, and does go with the boot-bag+ski-bag= 1 bag concept, so they're relatively ski-friendly. Do 8 or 10 ABQ-SLC hops with them - makes sense.
Do 30 ABQ-SLC hops with them, maybe look at Delta which hubs at SLC so has nonstops, may have good advance fares, and would give Garrett "Silver Magic Tiller Captain Hat" status for 30 segments, even though the miles would be less than 25,000 flown. That would exempt from their new bag fee, would also exempt from Northwest's bag fee, and would also allow early boarding to be sure there was room in the overhead for the ski boots before Ma & Pa Kettle dragged all their bags on.
Fly once or twice a year and that's it? Just go by fare and pay the fees.
Meanwhile I just got off a plane 7 hours ago, checked 2 bags for free, got drinks for free, had priority baggage service so they made the tight connection and were among the first 10 bags out, earned 100% bonus on the award miles for the flight, and that ensured that I'm home and ready to go skiing in about 10 minutes.