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Jan. 7, 2020 Volume 42, No. 1
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HOLIDAY RESORT REPORT: UNPREDICTABILITY IS THE NEW NORMAL
There was good news and not-so-good news coming out of ski areas around the country over the first critical holiday period of the season.
The two-week holiday period appears to have been good in many places, with natural snow blessing Colorado and some other parts of the Rockies, and cold weather boosting snowmaking in others.
The Northwest, Midwest and Southeast fared less well, with fluctuating temperatures making things less certain. Northern Michigan was cold enough for snowmaking but the southern part was too warm.
Mickey MacWilliams, executive director of the Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association, told Michigan Radio that some parts of the state got rain and others got a respectable amount of snow. She said climate change is already hurting the industry in Michigan. And Michigan wasn’t the only place.
Some Oregon ski areas had to close for at least the start of the holidays, but were reopening last week. Hoodoo general manager Matthew McFarland summed it up, telling news sources “We might have been able to pull off an opening on Monday, but honestly it has been hard relying on the forecast this year.”
In the Mid-Atlantic, good early conditions melted away and warm weather halted snowmaking. Add in some rain and it wasn’t the best, but snow is expected this week.
Seven Springs and Hidden Valley in Pennsylvania, Wisp in Western Maryland, and Canaan Valley and Snowshoe in West Virginia expected several inches of powder by Sunday night, and everyone will be able to make snow.
Proving that optimism is essential for people in the ski industry, Donna Hines, marketing director for Blue Knob, PA, told TSIL that although “holiday attendance was not what we had hoped for, due to the weather, we had three successful New Year’s Eve events on the mountain and rang in the new decade with fireworks and fun.”
Heading South, Joe Stevens spokesman for West VA ski resorts, said that in spite of iffy conditions, “One thing the state’s resorts saw over the three week holiday period was an increase in young children taking skiing and snowboarding lessons.”
Just a few weeks ago, it was one of the driest starts to the rainy season in modern California history. Now, most of the state has returned to normal, with snow in the Sierras and ski resorts in Southern California reveling in a new blanket of snow this week.
Mammoth Mountain in the Central Sierra had already received more than 10 feet of snow, right in time for the busy holiday season and in Southern California, Mountain High reopened Friday morning after a snow dump that brought more than three feet closed it down Thursday.
But even before that, the ski area saw a record holiday period. “Skier visits are up over 50% from our 5 year average and revenues and yields for the 2 week holiday period are at record levels across the board,” CEO Karl Kapuscinski told TSIL.
“Our Yeti snow play parks (we now have 3) continue to sell out daily with again over 70% being non-Caucasian. I predict in 5 years (Snow Parks) will account for up to 40% of our revenue as they are nowhere near as dependent on snow conditions or weather and unlike the skiing population the market is growing leaps and bounds here in So Cal.”
At Wachusett Resort, MA, it was “overall a good holiday,” marketing guru Tom Meyers reported, with visits up about 12%, despite having to close 12/30 due to weather.
In Vermont, a headline in the Burlington Free Press may have summed things up best. “Thanks to ‘delicate balance’ of warm and cold, Vermont ski resorts hitting snow sweet spot.” The first line of the story: “It might look like a pretty crappy ski or ride season from the valleys of Vermont, but for resorts in the mountains the view is a lot better.”
SENIOR SKIERS SUE VAIL RESORTS OVER ‘HIDDEN CHARGES’ IN SEASON PASS
Two long-time skiers at Northstar Resort, CA, have filed a complaint in federal court alleging the ski area’s parent company, Vail Resorts Inc., breached the contract in their ski passes and committed fraud, according to a story in the Reno Gazette Journal.
Steven Kroll, 79, and Ronald Code, 77, purchased $496 senior passes. It was only after they paid to renew their non-refundable season passes that Kroll and Code learned Northstar California Resort was adding a fee for their preferred parking lot that could increase their costs to visit the resort by thousands of dollars.
They want the court to force Vail to provide free parking in their preferred lot for the remainder of the season, more than $200,000 in damages each and reimbursement for court costs.
Kroll and Code say the damages are necessary to deter Vail, a company valued at nearly $10 billion, and others large corporations from using “their superior economic power to bully and defraud their customers.”
UTAH TRANSPORTATION AGENCY CONSIDERING TOLL TO RELIEVE TRAFFIC IN COTTONWOOD CANYONS
The Utah Department of Transportation is looking to mitigate traffic in the Cottonwood Canyons, according to ABC4 News.
UDOT officials say 2.1 million people visit the canyon annually. By 2050, it expects a 37% growth in Salt Lake County and 108% growth in Utah County, bringing an extra 1 million or so new residents to the area.
“One of the ways we are trying to improve transportation up Little Cottonwood Canyon is getting people to carpool, to use transit, to find ways to get fewer vehicles up and down the canyon,” said UDOT’s John Thomas, who is in charge of an Environmental Impact Statement researching the issue.
The Environmental Impact Study should be drafted by this fall and could be finalized by the Spring of 2021.
NEW YORK STATE PLANS TO REBUILD MID-STATION LODGE AT WHITEFACE
New York state will spend $14 million to rebuild an Adirondack ski center lodge that was destroyed in a fire, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
The Mid-Station Lodge at the state-run Whiteface Mountain resort in Wilmington burned to the ground on Nov. 30. The old lodge, built in 1960, had a restaurant and served skiers on the mountain’s upper slopes, according to published reports.
The governor’s office said there were 300,000-400,000 visits per season.
The new 10,000-square-foot lodge, designed in the architectural style of a classic Adirondack great camp, will have dining facilities, a vaulted ceiling and a wraparound viewing deck, Cuomo said.
The first phase of the two-part reconstruction project is targeted for completion next November, with the second phase to be completed a year later.
Whiteface, run by the state’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, hosts major alpine ski events and serves as a U.S. Olympic training site.
REVELSTOKE OWNER ADDING GROUSE MOUNTAIN TO HIS OWNINGS
Northland Properties Corporation, owner of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, BC, has entered an agreement to acquire Grouse Mountain Resort from CM Asset Management, according to published reports.
Northland is the largest privately-held hospitality group in North America. It also owns Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing in British Columbia. The transaction is expected to close in January 2020, though terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
CM has only owned Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver, BC, since summer of 2017, when it purchased the resort from the McLaughlin family, who owned it for 40 years.
CM managing director Kenny Zou touted the significant investments the company made during its brief ownership, including facilities and infrastructure, adventure offerings, and technology capabilities to bolster its value-add for guests.
The future of the resort could include further investments in upgrades. Since Northland purchased Revelstoke Mountain Resort 10 years ago, it has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into making it an international, year-round luxury resort.
SOS OUTREACH HOLDS INDUSTRY DAY TO EDUCATE ASPIRING YOUNG LEADERS
Back in December, just before the world’s best skiers charged through the downhill course at Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey, a group of youngsters, ages 13-18, belonging to SOS Outreach, gathered to exchange questions and inquires at the organization’s annual Industry Day.
SOS Outreach is committed to creating a culture of community and empowerment where kids can discover their enthusiasm for life and learn the skills that they need to live it to the fullest and carve their own path, according to its website.
In a setting that encouraged open, forward-thinking conversation, SOS students prepared questions for a panel of outdoor industry leaders that included executives from Smartwool, Spyder, Head USA Wintersports, Beaver Creek and Vail Resorts.
The program provides students in the local community with the opportunity to ask industry leaders about everything from working on a resume to preparing for a job interview to tips on public speaking. The event offers a unique perspective of potential careers within the industry.
Industry professionals shared details of their journey to their current roles today. The students learned that more often than not, that path has many twists and turns – from stringing tennis rackets to product design, washing dishes to marketing, banking to ski operations, and forestry to philanthropy.
The underlying theme: follow your passion. And for these professionals, that’s working in the ski industry.
Advice from the panelists included the importance of having a supportive mentor in the industry you want to pursue, preparing for a job interview by practicing in front of a mirror, proofreading your resume for grammar errors, and making sure you’re interviewing the employer as much as they’re interviewing you.
SON OF ‘ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK’ CREATOR DIES AT PARK CITY
Charles “Charlie” Noxon, 20, son of an acclaimed TV writer and producer, died at Park City, UT, on New Year’s Eve, according to published reports.
Noxon, the son of Jenji Kohan, who created such popular series as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Weeds” and “Glow,” was pronounced dead after hitting a sign at the resort, police said.
Noxon was alone and there were no witnesses to the crash, but it appears that it happened as he tried to navigate a fork in the trail, according to Lt. Andrew Wright, spokesman for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Noxon, an experienced skier who was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was on a trip with his siblings and father, journalist Christopher Noxon, police said. They were further down the mountain at the time of the accident.
His family was “shattered” by the loss, according to a statement issued via the sheriff’s office.
The ski resort, part of Vail Resorts, confirmed a “serious incident” on an intermediate trail near Canyons Village. A statement to USA TODAY from Mike Goar, chief operating officer at Park City Mountain Resort, said the resort’s ski patrol responded to the incident, and the victim was evaluated, treated and pronounced dead by an air ambulance team.
“Park City Mountain, Park City Mountain Ski Patrol and the entire Vail Resorts family extend our deepest sympathy and support to our guest’s family and friends,” Goar said in the statement.
BOULDER BUSINESS OWNER DIES AT ELDORA MOUNTAIN RESORT
Rodney Smith, 55, who owned Boulder-based Backpacker’s Pantry, died following an accident at Eldora Mountain Resort, CO, Dec. 30, according to published reports.
Smith was found unconscious at approximately 10:30 AM after what appeared to be a collision with a tree. No witnesses were present at the time of the crash. He was airlifted to a local hospital following the crash and died on Jan. 1, 2020.
According to the Backcountry Pantry statement, Smith was “doing what he enjoyed doing the most,” on the mountain with his two sons at the time the accident occurred. Also included in Backpacker’s Pantry’s statement was the assurance that the company plans to stay true to Smith’s mission of creating sustainable products. Backpacker’s Pantry is best-known for their freeze-dried trail meals, with products sold in large-scale retail chains like REI.
TWO OTHER DEATHS REPORTED
A 21-year-old from Pennsylvania died from injuries he suffered at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, NY, over the holidays. Nicholas Koch was injured after skiing down the Lower Northway trail and striking a cluster of trees, according to New York State Police. He later died at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, VT.
A Seattle man died at Alta Ski Area on Thursday – the second death at a Utah ski resort this week. First responders were called to a medical emergency in the “Sunspot” area of the resort, according to the Alta town marshal. Skiers found Sean Brennan, 37, unconscious and unresponsive in deep snow near a tree. He was taken to Alta Medical Clinic where he was later pronounced dead.
Contributing editor Mary Jo Tarallo. For subscription information, contact TSIL’s business office at The Snow Industry Letter, 802-770-9383 (mobile), or e-mail TSILeditor@madriver.com. Produced by The Snow Industry Letter LLC. Any reproduction – by photocopy, fax, any other form or electronically – violates federal law and is prohibited without the consent of TSIL. Jan. 7, 2020.