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September 30, 2006

Several Colorado and Utah Counties have Highest Life Expectancy in the US

This article from the Vail Daily discusses a new Harverd study about life expectancy in the US:

It’s a classic chicken-and-egg question: Do people in Colorado have behaviors that make them healthier, or is it because living in Colorado makes them healthier. ... Is it somehow healthier to live in Eagle County? That’s what a new study from Harvard University seems to say.

Eagle and six other counties located along the Continental Divide in Colorado lead the nation in longest average life expectancy — 81.3 years. Four of these seven counties — Clear Creek, Grand, Eagle, and Summit — have ski areas, with Loveland in Clear Creek and Winter Park and SolVista in Grand.
...
Rounding out the nation’s top-40 places for life expectancies are:

• Five more counties from mountainous areas of southwest Colorado: San Miguel, Ouray, Mineral, Hinsdale, Gunnison, and Archuleta);

• Five from Utah — Morgan, Summit, Washington, Cache, Cache and Rich — all but one in mountainous areas.

Chicken or Egg... Tough call. I guess it doesn't matter the exact causes from my point of view. When it comes to better schools, you don't need to know why the schools are better to want to live in the District and send your kids there. When it comes to healthier places to live, if that is something you value, that is somewhere that you consider living.

Better schools draw better students. Better life expectancies draw like minded people and become self fulfilling.

Posted by Justin at 06:22 PM

September 28, 2006

Ski Magazines Rankings in October Edition - Alta and Big Sky

Ski Magazine ranks Big Sky #24 and Alta #28 in this years Rankings. And both have similar knocks on them. Not enough night life. Not enough restaurants. Just not enough besides the skiing to do.

I just wonder what folks are looking for. I look first at the skiing. Then at the price. Then at the price of accomodations (usually off mountain). I might eat whatever crappy greasy burgers they serve for lunch and grab a Dew, but I don't look for five star dining when I ski. Just give me a Reese's with my grease burger for lunch so I have the juice to finish out the afternoon after a day of quad burning magic.

But then it kind of hit me, that is what skiing when you are poor is about. You look for a good deal and you bring your own lunches. You bargain hunt.

First, Alta is rated as the best bargain. No kidding. Duh! $52 for a lift ticket. Crazy cheap accomodations in SLC less than 20 minutes away. And so on. But Alta has no nightlife. And honestly, that is a huge knock against Utah for destination skiing. The Alcohol does not flow freely enough. Big Sky is too cold and does not have enough night life. Forget the 5k acres and Lone Peak. Discount 4,100 feet of vertical. They have bad on-mountain food.

I wonder sometimes if I am the strange one. I look at Alta and see small crowds, massive snowfall totals, tons of powder, great vertical, tons of terrain, and the Snowbird connect. I see SLC right next door, cheap accomodations, great food, and plenty to do in the evenings in SLC. Let's not forget the proximity to the Airport. Plus if you get bored, there is Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude, etc., right there. But there are no snowboarders, which may be the best part.

I look at Big Sky and see the doorstep of Yellowstone, INSANELY MASSIVE VERTICAL AND ACRES, a growing base area, an almost unspoiled old west town, cheap accomodations in Bozeman or in the local motel, and great conditions year round.

I don't take week long vacations at Aspen. I save the $10,000 that a week with a condo for my family would run, get season passes at Brian Head, and spend that money on gas and a condo that I own at a smaller resort off the beaten path. I eat on mountain for lunch most of the time, but it is a dog or a burger or some pizza then right back to the slopes. Dinner, we actually eat something more, but usually that is someplace cheap and something like pasta at home or maybe a couple of pizzas. It is not a "vacation" but rather a very frequent event, so we look for bargains so that it can be even more frequent. A vacation to me is taking a cruise or going to Disneyland. Skiing is not a vacation, but rather, part of my daily or at least weekly routine.

I think it is skewed to have rankings based almost solely on rich folks from the city that have money to burn and want to take their week in Aspen. But that is what the industry caters to. That is who Ski Magazine writes for. They don't write about e-Baying equipment. They don't write about season pass deals or Frequent Sky Cards. They write for destination skiers.

I don't knock folks that enjoy the sport this way or the fact that the ski media writes for these folks or the fact that our resorts market to these folks (and price for these folks). It is a fact of life. I just think that it is important to recognize that backwoods places like Wolf Creek, Brian Head, etc., exist and have a great value proposition for folks that are looking for a different experience than flashing more cash for a week in Aspen than most of the locals working at the restaurants and on the lifts make in an entire season working at the resort. Big Sky and Alta are places that may not appeal to folks that can drop $500 on a night of drinks and want the local nightlife, but since I am not one of those folks, I look for something different in a resort.

Posted by Justin at 01:22 PM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2006

Picking on Brian Head

The Employment Listings for Brian Head for the Upcoming Season are out. Let's make a bold career move and leave IT to work at the resort:

Position Department Hourly Pay Rate
Ski & Snowboard Instructors Winter Sports School
$6.50
Strong communication skills & ability to teach others. Patient & friendly personality. Intermediate or above skiing or snowboarding ability required. Ensure guest safety and guarantee a good time on the slopes for your clients. Employment is dependent upon applicant passing an on-slope ability test prior.

I will save time and space by summarizing... lots of jobs for line cooks, lift operators, rental shop folks, daycare providers. And all of them pay $6.50 an hour.

BUT, and that is a big BUT, the resort wants the town of Brian Head to subsidize a $10M expansion project (that will probably never get completed) to allow them to make a bunch of new condos Slopeside by paying for a $1M bridge across the main road.

So what is the resort giving back? I just plain don't understand it. I would like to see audited financials from the resort to see where all the money is going. I mean, if they are struggling to make ends meet AND PAYING THEIR EMPLOYEES POVERTY WAGES WITH NO BENEFITS, then perhaps it is not a good investment to spend any more money on the resort at all. If, on the other hand, the owners are doing well AND PAYING POVERTY WAGES, I sure don't see why the town should spend money on improvements. The resort, flat out, is not a good neighbor if they are paying these kind of wages. Why create more $6.50 an hour jobs at a resort where no one can afford to live all so that we can build huge slopeside condos for folks in Vegas to come and spend their Vegas money while our locals make $6.50 an hour. Let the folks from Vegas pay for it in their new Condo prices.

An important part of a resort town is to have locals. The industry has effectively priced locals out of living near the mountain or near their job. The smallest studio condo at Brian Head is $100k. A mortgage on that at say 7% would yield a payment of $700 per month plus Homeowners dues of another $200 give or take. Add in utilities and that is right at $1,000. Let's say that a person makes $6.50 an hour and is lucky enough to work 40 hours a week. That works out to $260 per week before taxes or $1040 per month.

Notice why there are so few locals or the locals we do have don't actually get to enjoy living at a resort because they are working three jobs. The only folks that actually live in Brian Head are either retired, own a business, or are Realtors.

And the resort wants the town to subsidize their industry? Yeah, right. Pony up, Brian Head Resort.

Posted by Justin at 11:11 PM

September 26, 2006

Squaw Valley Offers Free Skiing for Active Duty Military

FTO reports on the free skiing at Squaw Valley for military personnel:

Squaw Valley, CA - Squaw Valley USA announced this week that it will continue to offer free lift tickets for skiing and snowboarding to active military personnel everyday during the 2006-07 season. In its fourth consecutive winter, the Military Discount Program is Squaw Valley’s way of acknowledging the hard work and sacrifice of the US military.

Squaw Valley USA Founder and Chairman Alex Cushing, who recently passed away, served in World War II as a Lieutenant Commander. His service in the U.S. Navy transpired into a strong, lifelong connection with the military. Offering free military lift tickets is a policy that came straight from his heart. Cushing attested to his affinity for the program in his last annual letter to Squaw Valley season pass holders:

First and foremost, we will continue to strengthen our policy of free skiing and riding for our active duty military – one of the truly successful programs we have ever done...No one else in the ski business has even attempted to match what we do.

Over the past three years, 32,000 active duty military participated in the program, saving them over $2 million.

This is solid. These kinds of things make such a difference for our military people.

Posted by Justin at 05:34 PM

ESPN Reports Dennis Green Changes His Mind

Dennis Green has changed his mind already:

Matt Leinart's time as a starting quarterback in the NFL will have to wait -- the Cardinals are sticking with Kurt Warner as their starter.

"Generally talking about the starting lineup is not something we do," coach Dennis Green said. "However, given the speculation that was out there we want to make it clear. We're disappointed after last week, but we still expect to be a playoff football team and we fully expect Kurt Warner to be the quarterback that leads us. That has not changed."

I think it makes more sense for Dennis Green to start Rudy Carpenter instead of Sam Keller anyway. Wait, which soap opera are we stuck in?

I am still disappointed about the way the Cardinals lost to the Rams. Now what remains to be seen is if they can rebound against the Falcons. It is just one loss and Denver suffered the same kind of loss to the Rams in Week 1, but looked like a totally different team this week against the Pats. But then again, Denver has a former MVP at Quarterback that has made two Super Bowl appear... wait, my bad. Denver has a former Cardinals Quarterback that we kicked to the curb. Both quarterbacks have started the year as bad as any veteran could. But my hope is that perseverance will pay off for the Cards and the Broncos by sticking with the veterans.

I am a Jake guy. I get crucified for it by my Cardinals buddies and several Broncos buddies have said I must have been sniffing glue. I am also a Kurt Warner guy. Both are proven vets. But Denver and Arizona have as talented of young backups as there are in the league. Tampa Bay would love to have a quarterback controversy instead of a ruptured spleen and nothing behind them. They actually tried out Shawn Kind (speaking of Cardinals rejects).

Posted by Justin at 05:23 PM

JP Has Some Sick Shots of Berthoud Pass from Saturday

JP at Colorado Backcountry took several pics this weekend hitting the dump. Several are knee to waist deep. From the shots, it looks like the storm brought a decent amount of snow.

JP always has me jonesing. He bought a new sled and spends his time hitting backcountry stashes all over the Divide.

If you are not a regular, check out his site. He does not post as frequently as I do because unlike me who hangs at my condo at the resort, he is hiking and often camping in the backcountry. The pics he posts are phenomenol.

Posted by Justin at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

September 25, 2006

I Had a Dream About Football Last Night (Cards Lose 16-14)

Weird dream last night. The Cardinals managed to completely self destruct yesterday with Kurt Warner throwing three picks and having a game losing fumble.

My dream goes something like this:

Kurt Warner is asked about the fans booing him and says, "I don't give a Rat's Ass".

Dennis Green decides to start Matt Leinart at Quarterback today, only to change his mind 24 hours later. Kurt Warner transfers to Nebraska.

I was absolutely livid yesterday after the fumble and then the fair catch call. This season is playing like a bad soap opera at Quarterback in Phoenix. I thought I was going to burst a blood vessel. The Cardinals gave a game away and on top of it, the Sun Devils looked like a bad Pop Warner team on Saturday.

We were at the Cardinals vs. Broncos preseason game and I asked my cousin and Clay who would be starting first, Jay Cutler or Matt Leinart. Jake redeemed himself with a solid performance against the Pats, while Warner stunk the place up. Looks like Jake will remain the only quarterback to lead the Cardinals to the playoffs in the last 20 years that they have been in the valley.

Posted by Justin at 09:03 PM

Liquids Ban Partially Lifted on US Flights

This just in from the TSA on the liquid restrictions for US Flights:

WASHINGTON - The government is partially lifting its ban against carrying liquids and gels onto airliners, as long as they are purchased from secure airport stores, and will also permit small, travel-size toiletries brought from home, officials said Monday.

A total ban on such products, instituted after a plot to bomb jets flying into the United States was foiled, is no longer needed, said Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley.

"We now know enough to say that a total ban is no longer needed from a security point of view," Hawley told a news conference at Reagan National Airport.

He said that most liquids and gels that air travelers purchase in secure areas of airports will now be allowed on planes. He called the new procedures a "common sense" approach that would maintain a high level of security at airports but ease conditions for passengers.

That means that after passengers go through airport security checkpoints, they can purchase liquids at airport stores and take them onto their planes.

I have literally left a can of shaving cream and some hair gel in my desk at the office in California because I got sick of spending $5 on it every time I came out since I could not bring it with or take it home. Travelling was hell at first, but actually has been kind of nice lately. All of the women that used to bring on massive carryons have been checking their luggage with their makeup, meaning that the overhead bins are not full and people get loaded into the plane sooner.

I have a locking cover on my Avalanche and we drive through Las Vegas and across Hoover Dam to go to Brian Head. They make us pull over and open the back before we can go across. More security stuff. It is a new world that we live in. But some restrictions are just plain overboard. When someone figures out how to down a jet with a tube of toothpaste or a bottle of perfume, get back to me. I am down with the caution, but I am also pleased that logic and common sense took over.

Posted by Justin at 06:26 PM

Ski Lessons and PSIA

So a couple of years ago, I considered taking a part-time gig instructing to get a free season pass and give me something to do. I get bored and it would have cut the prices to nothing for my kids and required only a few days of work over the course of the season if I could get a part time job. Well, needless to say, after months of preparation and thinking about instructing, I decided to go a different route and start writing about skiing at my own website.

One major benefits of my brief decision to instruct is that I signed up and am an affiliate member of the PSIA. I need to instruct at a resort to get full member status, but in the meantime, there are tons of clinics that improve instructing techniques (which has the side benefit of improving your own techniques). Long story short, the PSIA has lots of great information and is relatively cheap to join. If you are in the industry or just interested in learning more, their websites have tons of free stuff and good pointers to improve your game. Maybe to help you teach the little ones and improve what they do.

In the interest of disclosure, I started both Jake and Jarrett out in lessons (with someone else) until they got to the point that they could ski greens, get on and off the lift, and get used to "wedge, pizza, snowplow" or whatever they call it this week. Then it is to the top of Widow Maker or Death by Evergreen or Sonny Bono or whatever the steepest double black is. OK, maybe they hit a blue or two on the way before we get that far.

Each year, I might send the boys for a lesson or two a year when I want to pawn them off so I can hit crazy steeps and deeps. Jarrett is still learning and is so young that he will require considerable effort to ski with, so he will stay in lessons for a while whereas Jake and Jackson can go most anywhere I can so I give them a walkie-talkie and it is meet you at the bottom. But it is still always good to have someone objective look at their form and work with them. We are past the point of me doing much teaching since they are both solid in their turns, carving well, etc. Jake is struggling with pole placement and moguls, so that is one thing I want to work on with him this year. I am going to take a lesson or two myself to have an expert pick apart some of my flaws. I want to improve my upper body movement and pole placement when making turns. Work on getting more fluid. Work on keeping my knees in tighter.

My single biggest problem is I am out of shape. I have a mountain bike hanging in the garage, but have been too busy travelling for work to use the thing. I know what is coming. Great technique up until noon when my quads burn, then it is back to fighting to stay parallel because my legs won't put the right pressure on my edges. So my New Year's Resolution is to stop being fat and lazy for 2007. Too late for this year.

Posted by Justin at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

Huge Storm Across Colorado Dumps Over 2' on Vail

Do I really need to add much to the title? Breck, Keystone, and Vail all received between 18" and 2'+ of new snow this weekend and late last week.

Checking reports from A-basin and Loveland and all reported they had at least 8" as of Thursday with more expected through the weekend.

We are now counting the weeks instead of months until ski season opens. Pretty soon we will be talking days.

Posted by Justin at 05:25 PM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2006

Cleveland Rocks--Indians to Move to Goodyear, AZ

Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes were recently spotted in Goodyear, AZ--OK, my bad--Willie Mays Hayes and Wild Thing Rick Vaughn. Holy Bob Uecker...

The Cleveland Indians are coming back to Arizona.

The Major League Baseball team Thursday agreed to move its spring training home from Winter Haven, Fla., to Goodyear.

In a letter dated Sept. 21 to the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, the Indians confirmed the team's desire to head west.

"We enthusiastically support the application of the city of Goodyear to the Sports and Tourism Authority of Arizona as part of the process of bringing Cleveland Indians baseball and its fans to Arizona," states the letter, signed by Cleveland Indians President Paul Dolan. "We eagerly look forward to developing a long-term relationship with the city of Goodyear and the state of Arizona."

The Indians trained in Tucson until 1992 and had been considering relocating their spring training operations to the Orlando area.

Goodyear leaders and team representatives spent Thursday ironing out details that would commit the Indians to the southwest Valley, making it the Cactus League's 13th team.

The next step is to apply for public funding from the sports authority to help pay for the proposed $77.5 million facility near Estrella Parkway and Bullard Avenue.

This is less than three miles from my house. Bullard and Estrella Parkway actually run parallel to each other, so what they mean is on Yuma between Estrella and Bullard. Add this to the regional mall that is going in, and Goodyear will join Surprise as major West Valley cities with MLB Spring Training teams and funky sounding names. There is also talk that the Dodgers may make a similar move and set up shop in the same ballpark.

So I am riding on the plane to Oakland with a woman from NoCal who is relocating to Phoenix. I am usually an iPod up full blast and ignore the world guy on most planes, but we start talking before takeoff. Net is that she wants to know where to look for a new place in Phoenix and she works in downtown by the airport. Tempe is too collegy, Chandler and Ahwatukee are very nice, and were my first suggestions. Scottsdale is too expensive. Mesa and Queen Creek too far. Gotta have access to the I-10. She loves the outdoors and does not want to live in a concrete jungle or where there is a lot of crime. Wants places to ride her bike. Wants to do stuff like rowing, (so Tempe town lake makes sense) Wants great views and to not feel like she is in the middle of the city.

I recommended Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear. I told her that I heard rumors about the Cleveland Indians and LA Dodgers moving to Goodyear. Plus the new Cards stadium. Plus the new Coyotes stadium. Plus the new mall. Plus the widening of the I-10. Goodyear is looking better all the time.

By the time we both looked up and stopped gabbing, they were telling us to put seat backs up and tray tables in the full upright and locked position. I hate advertising for my stinking city and sounding like the Chamber of Commerce. I gave her my URL for the site as we left and she talked to one of her friends who already lives in EMR and all but confirmed everything that I said. The place is awesome.

Posted by Justin at 04:18 PM

September 20, 2006

Name Changes for Frequency at Big Sky--But Still Lots of Free Skiing

Dax from Big Sky e-mailed me today that I should be aware that the Frequency Pass is now called the "Frequent Sky Card". Names, Schmames. They could call it whatever they want. Here is what I call it--"two free weeks of skiing, discounts, $21 per day off of lift tickets, lodge discounts, etc., ALL FOR $69 PER YEAR". I suggested this to Dax, but they don't think it will fit on the card. I expect royalties if they use my suggestions...

Here is the link to the ***NEW FREQUENT SKY CARD*** and what the card does for the holder:

  • $21 off the regular season window rate (Adult $48, Junior/College $28)
  • $5 off when adult window prices are $50 or less
  • 14 free ski days (Sunday, November 26, 2006-Saturday, December 2, 2006 & Monday,April 9, 2007-Sunday, April 15, 2007.)
  • Tuesday, January 2-Sunday, January 7, 2007 half price of regular season rate (Adults $35, Juniors $25)
  • 50% discount on Huntley Lodging (Dec. 7-23, 2006; Jan. 2-8, 2007; April 8-15, 2007) Additional dates available, contact reservations; some restrictions apply
  • 10% discount on any retail items in any Big Sky Resort outlet.
  • 25% OFF adult grp ski/snowboard lessons any Saturday, all season.

These kind of deals make the sport affordable if you plan ahead. Maybe Big Sky is not right next door, but at $48 per day with a frequency pass (as opposed to $69 without), you can ski Big Sky for a little over half the price of somewhere like Aspen. If you are flying anyway, Bozeman has a major airport and direct flights from several big cities. And on top of it, even without the Pass, $69 a day is still a smokin' deal for a place as massive as Big Sky with awesome vertical. Big Sky/Moonlight has over 5,000 acres and 4,300 feet of vertical. Big Sky alone has 3,600 acres. And no crowds. It sounds too good to be true, but trust me, Big Sky is as good or better than any resort out there. Add in the price with the Frequent Sky Card, and the kids free skiing, and Big Sky has to be at the top of any family's list.

Lots of folks think top tier resorts like Big Sky are out of reach of their budget, but with the frequency card, you can cut a huge chunk out of the cost. Add in that Big Sky offers free skiing to up to two kids under 10 with a paying adult, and a family trip to Big Sky is well within reach. Lodging is reasonable in Big Sky and even cheaper in Bozeman.

I don't ski like a destination skier. I never rent condos, we usually stay 5-6 to a hotel room, all ride up together in a big SUV, and do things on the cheap. I need a hippie VW Van one of these days. I am planning with some friends for the free week in November at Big Sky. I know this much--say five of us go to Big Sky, stay in town at $100 per night for five nights, and split the cost. That is $100 each for the week. On top of that, we each buy a Frequent Sky Pass for $69. That is under $200 total each for a week of skiing plus lodging at a top tier resort. I take Jake and Jackson with me and they ski for free on top of that. It is just too good of a deal to skip.

Posted by Justin at 06:07 PM | Comments (2)

September 19, 2006

Colorado Pass and New Banner Ads

I have posted some new ads on the site for Breck and Keystone. I am going to be heading up there to both of them this year and ads help me pay the bills. (Maybe even help me get a free pass or two from time to time.)

I am an A-basin and Loveland kind of guy most times I go to Summit, but that is simply because of price. $75 a lift ticket is a heck of a lot different from $40 a lift ticket at A-basin or Loveland. Well, it seems that there is an alternative for me that would allow me to ski A-basin, Keystone and Breckenridge as well as spend 10 free days at Vail and Beaver Creek for less than the price of a week of skiing at Keystone--The Colorado Pass:

  • Unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at Keystone, Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin
  • 10 days skiing and riding at Vail and Beaver Creek.
  • The Colorado Pass is restricted at Vail and Beaver Creek November 24-25, 2006; December 27-31, 2006; and February 17-18, 2007.
  • Heavenly 1/2 Price Tickets. Ski Heavenly in Lake Tahoe for 1/2 price! Restrictions apply. Details>>
  • One-Year Subscription to SKIING Magazine included with your Colorado Pass purchase.
  • Savings for your Friends and Family. Colorado Pass holders will receive six coupons so your friends and family can ski at a discounted rate. Check back soon for updated pricing.
  • Breckenridge Unlimited Ski & Ride School Lesson Pass for only $159.
  • Resort Charge convenience. Link your credit card to your Colorado Pass to charge on-mountain dining, ski and snowboard lessons and more.

    How much does the whole thing cost? $399 for an adult, $299 for a teen, and $189 for a child if you buy before October 15th.

    I posted about the Big Sky Frequency Card, which is also a sickeningly good deal, but the Colorado Pass is a must have. Downside is you have to purchase in person at one of their listed locations. If you were to simply spend 5 days over the entire winter at Vail or Beaver Creek, and bought the pass, you could spend the entire rest of the winter at Breck, Keystone, and A-basin for free. (Math majors will note that $75 per day at Vail x 5 days = $375)

    In the interest of disclosure, I am running ads for Breck and Keystone as well as for the Colorado Pass. Here is my deal--I won't run ads for stuff or do reviews of things that aren't completely honest. If I say it is a good deal, it is or I would not say it. I have three kids and am always looking for deals on gear, lodging, skiing, etc. This is an insanely good deal. Whether they advertise here or not.

    I ski on the cheap and this is most certainly the best deal I have seen. My season pass at Brian Head runs $288 at spring renewal prices for students, $328 for everyone else. By this time of year, that jumps to almost $400 to ski for the year at one single resort. And Brian Head's pass does not include 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek. Nor does it include three other resorts (Breck, A-basin, and Keystone) for the entire year. If you know for certain you are going to Colorado (or to Heavenly) and know that you will ski at least 5 days this winter, this is a MUST HAVE. Plain and Simple.

    Posted by Justin at 09:47 PM

    September 18, 2006

    Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Hopi Gods

    Last week I posted the following:

    The folks with the Hopi Tribe need to put the pipe down.

    Hopi attorney Scott Canty said it is up to the deities, not man, to make snow.

    "To usurp their authority is a crime, an insult," he said. "It desecrates the entire mountain that the Hopi believe is a living entity."

    The tribes say Snowbowl is an affront to their religion and its existence may have caused the Sept. 11 attacks and other universal calamities. The resort, one of two in the state, might go out of business because of a lack of snowfall.

    You know, I was just thinking...

    If the Hopi Gods are powerful enough that they can cause 9-11, why didn't they pony up 400" of snow last year so that the resort could stay open for more than two weeks? Why don't they ensure a consistent snowfall for Snowbowl so that snowmaking is unnecessary?

    The idea of angry and all powerful Gods that would cause 9-11 over skiing at a resort, yet have the power to simply provide natural snow and keep the Snowbowl folks from usurping his authority bothers me. What is up with the Hopi Gods?

    I am asking the Hopis to pray to their Gods that El Nino continues, Snowbowl never has a season without snow again, and that snowmaking is completely unnecessary because of the massive power and influence of the Gods of the Hopis. If their Gods pony up with the snow, I will change my stance on the need for snowmaking at the resort and may actually renounce all versions of my faith and begin worshipping the divine creator that gave birth to all civilization at the San Francisco Peaks. I call on all skiers to make the same commitment to the Hopi Gods.

    Posted by Justin at 12:30 PM

    Winter is On Its Way at Big Sky

    Dax at Big Sky took this awesome photo of Lone Peak this morning and sent it to me.

    If you like resorts that offer 5,000 Acres of skiing and close to 4,000 feet of vertical, no lift lines (almost ever), and 400+ inches of snow each year, you might want to give Big Sky a try. I personally hate places like Big Sky though. I mean, once you have that kind of experience, you just don't even want to get out the skis and go anywhere else. It really just isn't fair.

    Again, FREQUENCY PASS! Plain and simple. If you know you are going to go to Big Sky, the Frequency Pass is almost like stealing. It takes three-four days to make it worth the $69 because of the discounts. Or better yet, a day or two of the two weeks of free skiing, or of the half priced days for frequency pass holders. I am working out details of my trip up there this year.

    Posted by Justin at 11:17 AM | Comments (1)

    When It Comes to Blogging and Skiing, I Must Be Doing Something Right

    I keep forgetting about Yahoo and all of the other search engines out there because I almost always use Google. I guess I could ask some Internet Butler dude, but I usually Google things as opposed to Asking Jeeves or Yahooing. But that is just me.

    I have been seeing a steady rise in traffic as my search results status has risen on Google. Well, when it comes to skiing and blogging, the results are in at Google and my site pops up right at the top. Type in "ski blog" as a search term or "skiing blog" and I am number one and number three.

    More here:

    Posted by Justin at 09:57 AM | Comments (3)

    September 17, 2006

    Nice Early Snow at Steamboat

    Jon at Steamboat Blog posts this little nugget:

    I just heard from a friend that Buffalo Pass just above Steamboat Springs got 1.5 feet of fresh snow last night. That means that the ski area probably got over a foot on top. As you can see from the picture below the grass on Heavenly Daze is virtually covered which is no small feat because it was pretty tall and standing a couple of days ago. It is still snowing up there and it just started snowing nice sized flakes here at the base of the Steamboat Ski area. The forecast is for more snow tonight so I'll keep you posted. I'm trying to get up the gondola to see it for myself but it is closed due to the weather at the moment.

    I talked to Jon yesterday and he sent several other pics of snow across the Front Range. We are full swing into fall now.

    Posted by Justin at 11:42 AM

    Jeep Trip to Wickenburg

    Yesterday, I took the Wrangler out to the Linda Mine outside of Aguila, AZ. The monsoon rains did a number on the upper road, but the powerline road and the main road in was in surprisingly good shape. We grabbed the flashlights and took the group underground into the mine while we were there. (I worked at this mine for two years underground, so I felt fairly safe going in that conditions were ok)

    My exhaust continues to take a beating. It has gotten even worse. It keeps dragging and I need to lift the thing and get some more clearance. We came back, ran Box Canyon, then had lunch at Anitas and watched the ASU game in the back room. The weather was almost perfect, not getting past the low 80's. Just a great day.

    Posted by Justin at 11:34 AM

    September 15, 2006

    Northstar at Tahoe Works to Get It Right on Employee Housing

    After my rants the last few weeks about employee housing and benefits, I spotted this article at First Tracks Online:

    Ski resorts have long faced challenges housing seasonal employees in expensive resort towns, but California's Northstar-at-Tahoe ski and snowboard resort is employing an innovative tactic.

    Northstar's Rental Rewards Program awards free lift tickets or a season pass to homeowners who rent a room or rental unit to Northstar Resort employees for the winter. Homeowners can receive 10 lift tickets (valid Sunday through Friday, during non-holiday periods) for each address at which they house Northstar Resort employees, regardless of the number of employees housed at that address. In lieu of tickets, program participants may choose to receive one Value Pass, valid at Northstar Resort Sunday through Friday, excluding blackout dates, and valid at nearby sister resort Sierra-at-Tahoe any day, excluding blackout dates. Owners of multiple-unit dwellings and rental agencies may be covered under different guidelines.

    This program does not cover current employee/landlord agreements, and tickets are not for resale. Rental openings must be posted with the Northstar Human Resources department prior to filling vacancies to qualify for lift tickets or a season pass. Northstar Resort has not developed guidelines regarding the cost of rental and lease agreements, however the resort recommends that they fall within the range of $300 to $450 a month, per room, plus utilities.

    That is absolutely solid of the resort. Lift tickets and passes cost the resort next to nothing, but the idea of offering these as a way of helping fix the employee housing problem is awesome. The resort is doing something to ensure that employees can find adequate housing and it costs the resort next to nothing but provides a huge incentive for homeowners and further helps take care of their employees.

    Let's hope others follow the lead.

    Posted by Justin at 06:26 PM | Comments (1)

    El Nino is Coming

    From Oregon, it appears that El Nino is coming which is bad news for them. El Nino tends to dry out the Pacific Northwest, but dumps snow and rain on California and the Southwest.

    There's worrisome signs for the upcoming ski season. Climate scientists with the National Weather Service see El Niño conditions developing over the ocean. Correspondent Tom Banse explains what that means for our weather.

    El Niño is the name for a warming pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon affects weather around the globe.
    ...
    Instead, Southern California and the Southwest will get some of our rain. Mass says this El Niño is still revving up.

    Please let this be true for us in Arizona and Southern Utah. This site explains the effect in more detain and has actual data corresponding to the increases or decreases in average snowfall associated with El Nino:

    El Nino strongly favors only Southern California, Arizona and far southern Utah, with milder effects extending to the southern Sierra and New Mexico. It may surprise people how small the correlations are at Tahoe and in southern Colorado. Everyone remembers the record Sierra snow during the record El Nino of 1982-83. But the 3rd and 4th strongest El Ninos (1992 and 1987) were severe drought years at Tahoe, and there are several good La Nina seasons, probably assisted by colder temperatures minimizing low elevation rain. The most southwestern locations in Colorado (Purgatory, Telluride and Red Mt. Pass) have even smaller correlations than North Tahoe.
    ...
    With the exceptions noted above (Brian Head and Steamboat) El Nino/La Nina have minimal predictive value for Utah and Colorado ski areas.

    Here is what their chart says about BH and the Southwest:

    Area Monthly Seasonal Seasons
    Southern California Composite (7,000 - 8,000) 24.6% 56.6% 31
    Arizona Snowbowl, AZ (9,500) 23.0% 58.8% 15
    Brian Head, Utah (9,770) 21.0% 50.2% 15
    Arizona Snowbowl, AZ (10,800) 20.5% 50.7% 16

    The monthly correlations are not large enough to have much predictive value. But by combining 6 consecutive months together to form seasonal data, the correlations for some areas get into the 50% range. This fits with observed experience that in big El Nino or La Nina years the expected effects occur from time to time but not consistently.

    Posted by Justin at 12:17 PM | Comments (1)

    September 14, 2006

    The Hopi Tribe Goes All Jerry Falwell Over Arizona Snowbowl

    The folks with the Hopi Tribe need to put the pipe down.

    Hopi attorney Scott Canty said it is up to the deities, not man, to make snow.

    "To usurp their authority is a crime, an insult," he said. "It desecrates the entire mountain that the Hopi believe is a living entity."

    The tribes say Snowbowl is an affront to their religion and its existence may have caused the Sept. 11 attacks and other universal calamities. The resort, one of two in the state, might go out of business because of a lack of snowfall.

    I seem to remember 9-11 being caused by 19 hijackers with knives crashing jets into buildings and farm ground. Even if you are a nutjob conspiracy theorist, 9-11 was at worst caused by George Bush. I never thought it was caused by skiing. I am declaring a skiing jihad. From this point forward, I will attempt to cause calamity across the globe by offending the deities of the Hopi tribe by desecrating their sacred land with my two planks. Gotta say, me thinks that the 9-11 hijackers were not real concerned with the Hopi Gods when they were chanting Allah Akbar and crashing planes into buildings. But that is just me.

    How do they expect us to take them seriously when they throw crap like this out there? This is a serious lawsuit and it is just retarded to throw out the rhetoric that they are using. They ought to be ashamed. But if their Gods are behind 9-11, we are all in trouble. I think their Gods should probably be more upset about the fact that 50% of Arizona Indians have diabetes, their only real source of income for the reservations is casinos, there are massive alcohol problems among the tribes, and the Indians traded away vast amounts of their deity's land for trinkets and beads. As I said, if the worst that their God has done to punish us for our disobedience in those matters was 9-11, I think we are safe to make snow there.

    Update: Sorry, for those of you who missed the Jerry Falwell reference, he made the following statement about 9-11 two days after the attacks:

    On the broadcast of the Christian television program "The 700 Club," Falwell made the following statement:

    "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

    Falwell, pastor of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, viewed the attacks as God's judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked."

    I consider these kind of comments to represent the most reprehensible kind of rhetoric possible. To use a national tragedy to advance ones own religious or political views is just sickening. Every action that we take that someone does not agree with now affects some other person's "GODS". If the Hopi Gods are that upset with the ski industry, maybe we should all give up skiing to appease them. I hate to think that I might personally be responsible for 9-11 because I have never used a box cutter to hijack an airplane. And if I offended anyone by posting Jerry Falwell's statements (for which he later appologized), please just explain the difference between what he said and what the Hopis said. At least Falwell appologized for his outrageous statements. No one is asking the Hopis to.

    Posted by Justin at 11:30 PM | Comments (2)

    Parting Ways with History--Part II

    Forgot to include that Gonzo patrolling Left is not all that is changing. So are the Diamondbacks themselves:

    Like many of you, we were stunned to learn that the Diamondbacks are reportedly planning a change in uniform colors for next season, apparently dumping their purple, teal, copper and black scheme for one that will include something called "Sedona Red" and a "sand" hue.

    Our initial thought was that it's all about money. Isn't that always the case in professional sports these days? If merchandise sales are lagging, a change in uniforms makes all that stuff in the closet obsolete.

    It isn't unheard of in sports. And for some reason red seems to be the new color of choice, so finally the Cardinals are ahead of their time.
    ...
    We suspect this is as much about cutting ties with the Colangelo era as it is anything, and that's too bad.

    He brought this city its first world championship in a major sport, and when we think of that 2001 World Series the indelible images are going to be recorded in purple and teal.

    But that's just us. So we wondered if Colangelo is seeing purple over all of this.

    He took the high road, refusing to speculate on whether it has anything to do with severing past connections.

    "In an era of sea change in sports, even the sanctity of the names of the stadiums and arenas doesn't last very long," Colangelo said. "I'm prone to purple and orange, always have been and always will be.

    "But it's certainly the Diamondbacks prerogative to change colors, uniforms or whatever. It's a time of change in a lot of ways.

    "I'm just going to hang on to all my purple stuff."

    So are we, JC. So are we. Got my good luck purple Game 7 jersey from 2001. What a joke to change around the things that tie us back to 2001. What purpose does it serve to sever the ties from the brightest moment in Phoenix Sports history?

    Posted by Justin at 06:18 PM

    Parting Ways with History

    Every good thing has to come to an end. It happens that the best thing that ever happened to Phoenix sports occurred five years ago. While the wounds of 1992-93 for the Suns were still fresh and painful, an expansion baseball team did what the Cardinals, Suns, and Coyotes could not--bring home a championship. Now, the last piece of the connection with that team is leaving. Gonzo follows JC, RJ, and Curt out the door. Let us hope that he gets more respect than Colangelo did.

    Luis Gonzalez's tenure with the Diamondbacks will end after this season. Club officials informed the popular left fielder on Thursday they have no intention of bringing him back for a ninth season in 2007, The Republic has learned.

    Gonzalez, 39, is in the final year of his contract and, after being told he is no longer in Arizona's plans, is set to become a free agent.
    ...
    Starting with tonight's game, Gonzalez has seven home games remaining at Chase Field. The series with the Rockies runs through Sunday, and after a nine-game trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Diamondbacks wrap up the 2006 season with a four-game home stand Sept. 28-Oct. 1 against the Padres.

    Gonzalez, obtained in 1998 along with cash considerations from the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Karim Garcia, is the Diamondbacks' career leader in home runs (224), RBIs (772), runs scored (774), hits (1,325), doubles (308) and walks (667).

    His bloop single off of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera drove home the winning run as Arizona won the 2001 World Series.

    But perhaps the best part of the article is this:

    The Republic's advertising department fielded a request from Gonzalez's talent representatives at Gaylord Sports Management, inquiring about placing a large ad thanking Valley fans for their support through the years.

    The ad is likely to run during the Diamondbacks' season-ending homestand Sept. 28-Oct. 1 vs. San Diego.

    Thank us... thank us?!?! No, it a scrappy journeyman outfielder from Detroit that deserves the thanks. Choke up on the bat, stare down Mariano Rivera, and drop a shot over Jeter for us. I have the DVD and every time I watch that 2001 season or the 57 HR or the 100+ RBI's season in and season out, it is all the thanks that I need.

    Gonzo gave our town a championship and turned the Airplane hanger downtown and the expansion team that wore purple and teal into the Champions of Major League Baseball. And went toe to toe with perhaps the best closer ever in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series to do it.

    Thank you Gonzo. Not only for what you did on the field, but for being such a great man off of it.

    Posted by Justin at 05:59 PM

    New Link to Steamboat Blog and First Snowfall

    I added a new link to Steamboat Blog, which is a Steamboat based blog that I read quite a bit last year. 120 Days of Powder has not had an updated post and Wil does not return phone calls, so I am unsure on their status for the year. But neither here nor there. The good news is that snow is falling in Colorado.

    The storm dusted the Mount Zirkel and Flat Tops Wilderness areas and came with a half inch of rain in town during the weekend. The Yampa river was flowing about 50% above average over the weekend which should be great for fall fly-fishing in the Steamboat Springs area if the precipitation keeps up. Last year we had a really wet fall in comparison to the several previous years followed by a great ski season. This year seems quite a bit wetter over the last 6 weeks with even more strong bursts and showers that linger even longer. No one knows what that will bring but it sure seems like a good sign. The weather has also gotten dramatically cooler over the last week or two. People are starting to make that extra effort to get in their fill of summer sports and put up winter essentials like new skis, the tent sale this year has been packed.

    Good times. I still have to head north to get my place ready for 2006-07 and make sure the heater is on low so I don't burst any pipes.

    Posted by Justin at 02:58 PM

    September 12, 2006

    Falling Gas Prices Just in Time for Ski Season

    ABC News reports on falling gas prices:

    There's good news for drivers these days. In the last week, gas prices have fallen 11 cents to about $2.62 a gallon.

    Since mid-August, the average price at the pump has fallen 42 cents from a summer high of $3.04. That means you'll save about $38 this month if your family has two cars.

    Earlier this summer, "Good Morning America" financial contributor Mellody Hobson predicted prices would drop after Labor Day. Hobson says it's all about supply and demand, and it's finally working in our favor. The peak summer driving season just ended, so demand is down and inventories are up.

    I have a Chevy Avalanche that is my ski rig. 4x4 which is mandatory, plus covered gear storage for all of our gear, boards, bags, etc. Averages 17 MPG on the highway if I am not doing 85 MPH and a trip to Brian Head takes a tank each way at a cost of $75-100 depending on prices.

    Most pumps stop pumping automatically at $75, and lately it has been taking more than that to fill it when I run it near empty. It has a 30 gallon capacity, bone dry, so at $3.00 per gallon, that is $90.00. I have gotten it as high as $100. As often as I go back and forth, the lower prices will really help. $.50 a gallon at 30 gallons saves me $30 a trip north ($15 each way). That almost pays for a burger in the lodge.

    Posted by Justin at 11:23 AM

    "New" GPS Technology Being Used at Resorts

    This article talks about the new "high tech" GPS technology being used at a couple of resorts now:

    News has reached us that the French resorts of Val d’Isère, Tignes, Morzine, Les Gets, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, La Tania and Méribel are all making the Summit Tracker available to those who want to know what they have been doing on the slopes.

    It’s the same size as an average mobile phone and can be strapped to your arm without distracting the skier or snowboarder from their sport. It is also entirely safe – it receives data and does not transmit so it does not interfere with mobile phones or avalanche transceivers.

    When you return the Summit Tracker at the end of the day, you can receive the day’s information and a full colour double sided report showing your activity.

    Come on. I own a Garmin handheld GPS that is the size of one of the old Nokia 6100 series phones and use it while out jeeping all the time. Take that data, download it via the Serial Port interface, and plug it into Google earth and you can do all kinds of fun stuff. Take the brain power of my 10 year old. Then print up a cool picture and watch the people oooh! and awww! I wonder what they charge for this service? An extra $50 a day to wear a GPS that cost me $125 to buy (plus $50 for the serial cable).

    Now, this brings up a good point. When you are out skiing backcountry, a GPS loaded with topo maps is a good idea and like they said, it is about the size of a mobile phone. Now, they talk about wearing it on your arm, but a better idea is to stick it in the strap pocket of your camelback. That is where I clip the microphone for my Motorola handheld radio. Also a good idea to have.

    But don't make brain surgery into rocket science. The article acts like this is the coolest thing since Furbies or Tickle Me Elmo. Get a clue. This is one of the reasons that I dig skiing with IT guys. We are geeky and do geeky things like watch Battlestar Gallactica after the day of skiing, but chicks dig it and so do all the other people that look up to us... wait, did I miss high school? True, I used to beat those kids up with the rest of the football team and make fun of them, so I get made fun of by my geeky friends for going to high school football games every Friday night. It makes for an interesting mix when my football loving friends meet the geeky work buddies. Add some religion and politics in there and we have near fistfights. And most times it is me stirring the pot.

    Posted by Justin at 10:43 AM

    Ken Jennings of Jeopardy Fame--Where Are They Now

    I am in SF again for the first half of the week, which means reading the USA Today that the hotel provides. Came across this article on Ken Jennings that won $2.5M from Jeopardy:

    "I didn't turn in the Toyota for a Jag the day after I received my money," says Jennings, 32. "I did not want to be one of those 'Where are they now?' stories where the guy's living in a trailer. That would be totally ironic, right? You thought he was smart on Jeopardy, but then he spent all his money on coke or hookers or whatever."

    Classic. How do you top that?

    UPDATE: Forgot to close the html tags and it did some weirdness to the blog for a few. Love when I do that.

    Posted by Justin at 10:34 AM

    September 11, 2006

    WWBD--What Would Bode Do

    From the What Would Bode Do section of the news, Utah Lawmaker Michael Morlet talks about banning alcohol at ski resorts:

    (KCPW News) State Representative Michael Morley says he's dropping his plans to crack down on alcohol at ski resorts. This week, the management of Brian Head Resort sent a letter to Morley responding to his complaints and those raised by a resort visitor.

    "If they will follow up on the things they've committed to here, I'm probably gonna back off," says Morley.

    The Spanish Fork lawmaker Morley sparked a panic in the resort community last week when he threatened to run a bill that would nearly ban alcohol at ski resorts.

    In a letter, Brian Head's general manager vowed to ban all open containers from ski lifts and better train lift operators to handle signs of intoxication. Resorts have the ability to revoke lift passes and call the police in some cases.

    Morley says his threat had the desired effect, and he no longer believes the state needs to pass new laws. Ski Utah director Nathan Rafferty says all of Utah's resorts are committed to enforcing rules similar to those mentioned in Brian Head's letter.

    First off, alcohol and skiing is retarded. I am not much of a drinker at all, so I just cannot see the logic behind skiing drunk. Or having open containers on the lifts. You are out in freezing temperatures, and if you are like us, off piste hitting powder. Imagine making a mistake and getting injured. You want to be in control. Now I guess skiing groomers where ski patrol can come over and give you the "sled of shame" ride down makes it less dangerous, but let's face facts--skiing is dangerous. I wear a helmet and don't understand people that think it is completely safe. It is not.

    But then again people think boating while drunk is a good idea too. Until someone drowns. Same with skiing. You get hit or wreck or freeze to death or get frost bite because you are toasted and then it isn't fun and games anymore. What I am wondering is why the resort isn't already cracking down on open containers and busting people for skiing drunk or being impaired. I want ski patrol to be keeping people safe, not focusing on busting people poaching lift tickets or using someone else's season passes (inside reference that some readers of the site may find humorous).

    Posted by Justin at 01:20 PM

    September 10, 2006

    September 10th, 2001

    The Arizona Republic has an excellent story about September 10th, 2001. Here are some highlights:

    The big news of the day in the Valley was the new Cardinals Stadium. Not the now-opened shiny spaceship in Glendale; the new Cardinals Stadium in Tempe that never was.

    Construction had been halted two months earlier when the Federal Aviation Administration declared the Tempe site a risk to planes on final approach to Sky Harbor International Airport. Impatient to move ahead, the state Tourism and Sports Authority voted 7-0 to resume construction and order $2 million worth of steel trusses - trusses that never would be used.

    The Cardinals were practicing for their season opener. They'd had an unwelcome bye the first week of the regular season and were eager to get going against the Redskins in Washington next Sunday. The game would be postponed to Jan. 6, 2002, with the Cardinals losing 20-17. Pat Tillman would make seven tackles and have two assists in that game, his last.

    Hani Hanjour had waited for tomorrow for a decade, since 1991 when he settled in Tucson from Saudi Arabia and tried to learn English. He was miserable at it. Hanjour had a 0.26 grade point average at the University of Arizona.

    He was just as bad trying to learn to be a pilot. He received a commercial pilot's license in 1999, but two years later, instructors at JetTech flight school in Phoenix told FAA officials they couldn't imagine how Hanjour passed the tests. His English was still horrible. And as one instructor said: "He could not fly at all."

    On the eve of destruction, while Piestewa was wrapping up another day of training at Fort Lee, while Tillman, Roque, Bird and most of us were moving through a serenely normal evening, the man with broken English who couldn't fly at all was checking into Marriott Residence Inn in Herndon, Va. The hotel was close to Washington Dulles Airport.

    Hanjour wanted to be at the airport early tomorrow morning. He and 18 others were bent on destruction.

    September 10th, 2001, was just another day. For almost 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, it was their last. Remember the victims and their families and remember the bravery of the men and women that died heading up the stairs in the towers that day; rushing the cockpit of a hijacked flight to stop the plane from killing someone else's mother or father; parachuting into Afghanistan weeks later. I hope they are at peace.

    Posted by Justin at 11:58 PM

    September 08, 2006

    Brian Head Interconnect Improvements--Whose Job is it to Pay

    Got an e-mail from another local and friend of mine answering some of my questions about the new interconnect. First, let's have a little reality check--the real estate market at Brian Head is dictated by the market in Las Vegas and to a lessor extent, LA and Phoenix. And right now, all three have slowed considerably. It remains to be seen whether any new construction has sufficient buyers. Most of the speculators are gone. So the new Summit project sounds good, but it actually getting built is yet to be seen. If there are not a bunch of new condos, will the resort need/want to invest in the new lifts?

    So that leaves us with the question of what does the town get in return for building a bridge for the ski resort. I assume that if it meant additional building of new condos, additional tax revenue, additional growth, etc., perhaps this would be a justifiable investment of public funds. I just don't see that. I don't see how making more condos slopeside, especially if they never get built or never get sold due to the RE market, makes the project worthwhile. Nor do I see that "new hiking trails" across the road make it a good project either. I can hike across the road, thank you very much.

    This is a gift to the resort and a gift to developers building across the road. And unless the resort is obligated to complete the lift improvements and somehow this is going to result in a return of revenues to the town, I cannot see that it makes sense for the town to make this kind of investment. The new condo projects should pay for the improvement through impact fees. Or they should build the improvements as part of their zoning requirements. If the recovery of the investment were clear, I would be in 100% support.

    I want new lifts and the Navajo interconnect as bad as anyone, but it is not the town's job to pay for resort improvements. The resort owns huge chunks of land that increase in value if the improvements are completed and I can guarantee you that lift ticket prices are going to increase if the resort puts in more runs and better lifts. This gift from the town would allow the resort to invest less money in improvements that are going to allow them to either attract more skiers and/or charge more money. That just does not make sense to me as a taxpayer.

    Posted by Justin at 06:09 AM | Comments (3)

    September 07, 2006

    Helmet Usage on the Rise

    This is from the Demographics Survey Conducted each year (h/t First Tracks):

    An increase in helmet usage was also noted, an ongoing pattern illustrated in previous years data. Helmet usage continues to remain most prevalent among those under 15 and those 55 years old and older, as well as among advanced and expert participants. Overall, 38 percent of survey respondents were wearing a helmet when interviewed, up from 33 percent last season.

    Everyone that I ski with except Jeremy rides or skis with a helmet. Last year, we were hitting a nice drop and my buddy Tim had a guy basically come over the edge of a small drop off and not paying attention, clip him with his snowboard across the helmet. I have had several nasty falls that my helmet has at very least prevented a major headache, let alone a possible major injury. I bought Jeremy a helmet last season, he just doesn't like to wear it.

    Use good safety gear. I know it is cheesy and lots of guys think they are invincible. I would really like to see some more respected folks like Shawn White, Bode, Tanner Hall, Jeremy Bloom, etc., come out with a stronger pro-helmet campaign, but I guess Bode should start with a "don't get drunk while race skiing" safety campaign first.

    I dig my helmet because on cold days, especially with my skull cap underneath, it keeps my head warm, plus keeps my goggle straps from digging into the back of my head. I wear a Bad Lt. helmet that ironically is used as a costume piece on BattleStar Gallactica by their Marines.

    Posted by Justin at 03:18 PM

    September 06, 2006

    Summit at Brian Head

    How can I possibly be this slow to report major news on my home resort? I am seriously slacking, but hey, it is football season. I guess that is my excuse.

    The Summit at Brian Head is going to be a massive new development on the Southern edge of town.

    "Our resort will capitalize on what we see is pent-up demand for quality resort living and we plan to lead the growth in that area," added Jabra, who is also a driving force behind a $500 million 700-unit luxury high-rise residential project in Las Vegas.

    Summit at Brian Head will be a master-planned community built on 42 acres near the southern boundary of Brian Head. The overall complex at completion will consist of 420 condominiums, 34 town homes and a signature clubhouse. Pre-development financing is in place for the project.

    The town's namesake ski resort is also has in place a 10-year expansion plan which calls for a golf course, another chairlift, and housing projects of its own.

    Add this to the Lofts at Brian Head and the new Black Diamond condos going in near the base of Giant Steps, and there are some massive new projects coming to the resort.

    I can tell you from personal experience that Brian Head has a lot to offer. First and foremost is its proximity to Las Vegas, Phoenix, and LA. Second, is its cost. An entry level condo is a third the cost at most comparable resorts. Third, the resort has great powder and lots of terrain. Most of it is intermediate, but that should change when the new Pioneer Cabins lift is completed. Fourth, Brian Head has an awesome family atmosphere, uncrowded slopes, and is a great place to bring the kids.

    Makes you wonder how all the new traffic and new people will change the resort, but I am a huge advocate for change and for improvements at resorts. BH needs some new lifts, some more terrain, and needs the exposure that these projects will bring. This increases the value of my condo and my experience at Brian Head.

    Posted by Justin at 11:54 AM | Comments (1)

    Brian Head Interconnect Improvements Proposed

    Brian Head is considering a new interconnect project to connect the existing Navajo and Giant Steps ski areas. If you have been to Brian Head, you will notice how the runs were already cut above Georg's ski shop from the previous lift that used to be on that side. In addition, the project will include replacing the Giant Steps lift with a high speed detachable quad.

    The Interconnect Project will consist of a new chair lift to replace the historic chair lift #1 (removed from service in 1992) that crosses over Highway 143, and a second new chair lift that extends from the base of the new chair lift #1 on the east side of Highway 143 to a point near the top of Giant Steps Mountain. A new highspeed detachable chair lift will also be installed to replace the existing chair lift #2 at Giant Steps. The Interconnect lift system will expand the existing ski terrain by over 33%, and allow skiers of all abilities to circulate freely between both base areas without removing their skis. Importantly, the Interconnect Project will also significantly enhance ski access to a majority of the area’s lodging units, thereby reducing automobile traffic and parking congestion in and around the Town of Brian Head.

    I received an e-mail from another local yesterday pointing out the information at the Brian Head Town website. We went back and forth via e-mail about the logistics and the issues, but net is we feel this is a good addition, but not in lieu of completing the Pioneer Cabins area. Our other concern is that the town is footing an almost $1M bill for a bridge across the highway, but much of the improvements will make more condos "slopeside" and ski in ski out. Certainly this means all of our tax bills will go up--now it looks like $100 a year or less for most condos.

    Brian Head needs more advanced and expert terrain and I posted about Pioneer Cabins and the MDP last year, but the pdf's at the USDA website are gone. I tried to get copies from the Dixie National Forrest and from the libraries, but no dice. The area has good snow; a great location close enough to California, Arizona, and Nevada; and great atmosphere. Only real issue is that it is a weekender and day tripper resort and there is almost no destination skiing. What that means is that the resort is usually empty on Mon-Thur but busy on powder days and weekends. Don't even ask about holidays. Most of the condo rentals occur over the holidays.

    I probably won't be able to attend the town meeting on September 13th, but will ask some friends to provide more info on the happenings.

    Posted by Justin at 10:36 AM

    September 05, 2006

    The Longest Two Months of the Year

    Labor Day marks the end of summer. The leaves start turning and the waiting game intensifies. Will it snow early and provide a solid base? Who will be the first to open?

    Roughly two months remain before A-Basin and Loveland open their lifts for the first time in 2006-07. I have some winter preparations to complete like finishing the downstairs bathroom at the condo and getting the heater set to keep the place warm enough to prevent broken pipes.

    This has been an unusually wet monsoon in Phoenix and as posted previously may have a weak El Nino. All of these things make me hopeful for a 100% open Brian Head by Mid-November. I have Jackson's new skis mounted and ready. Now we wait.

    Posted by Justin at 12:14 PM

    September 03, 2006

    But Foreign Labor is Only Used to Keep Aspen Affordable, Not to Increase Profits

    Aspen keeps their costs low so that they can pass along the savings to low income folks through low lift ticket prices:

    The super-early price reflects the discount available to employees of Aspen Chamber Resort Association-member businesses. Without the ACRA discount, the "early-bird" price is $1,649.

    The cost of the Premier Pass - the one that's good for unlimited skiing on all four local mountains - is going up $50 from last year's super-early, ACRA-member deal. And last season's price for the Premier Pass was up $50 from the prior season. The cost of the pass has gone up in each of the past four seasons.

    The price of the two-day and one-day passes are increasing, too, as is the cost of a Classic Pass.

    The single-day, walk-up lift ticket rate will peak at $82 this season, up from $78 last winter. The daily rate generally gets a great deal of attention, in comparisons among various ski resorts, but Aspen Skiing Co. executives have long said that comparatively few people actually buy single-day tickets, opting instead for multiday deals that bring the price down.

    The Skico unveiled this season's lift ticket and pass prices on Tuesday.

    Pass prices generally go up annually, but the Skico pays particular attention to the price of the Premier Pass with the early-bird and ACRA discounts. That's the one most locals purchase, according to David Perry, company senior vice president.

    "We give it the most scrutiny, I think, and try to keep it reasonable for locals," he said.

    So if you work at Aspen making $10 an hour (the prevailing wage) for 40 hours per week during the five month season, you would earn approximately ($400 per week x 20 weeks) $8,000. If you don't work at the resort and are just another local, you can simply shell out $1600 for a season ski pass, which works out to 20% of your income for the 5 month ski season. Basically, you either work at the resort, mooch someone elses pass, or better have some serious savings or rich relatives if you want to be a ski bum.

    Posted by Justin at 08:42 PM

    More on Wages for Employees at Aspen Skiing Company

    Again, it is evil and wrong to shop at Walmart, but totally OK to vacation at Aspen. It seems that Aspen cannot hire enough college kids from the US, so this last year they relied on over 350 Foreign Workers, here on temporary work visas.

    Like ski bums of bygone days, they are often college students who come into town for a little work, and maybe a little partying, for a season. But these workers are often from the Southern Hemisphere - Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa - whose summer breaks coincide with Colorado's ski season.

    For summer resorts, it's more likely workers from the Czech Republic or Romania serving up coffee or cleaning sheets. The Aspen Daily News reports on this foreign army of workers in its Mountain Business Journal. "If you got rid of the foreign workforce in Aspen, there wouldn't be anybody working there," said Norman, Okla., immigration attorney Jon Velie, who helps a number of clients obtain visas to work in Aspen. "There's a handful of Americans, just not enough to fulfill the need."

    Aspen Skiing Co. hired nearly 350 foreign workers last season - that's about one of every 10 SkiCo employees - who came in on H-2B short-term worker visas and J-1 foreign exchange visas. "We've tried to (fill those jobs domestically)," said Jim Laing, SkiCo's vice president for human resources. "We've not been able to. And we've been able to substantiate that with the U.S. government. ... We have to substantiate the need. We actually run ads domestically, with all the applications being sent to the Department of Labor to show that we don't have enough applicants to supply the demand that's out there."

    Other ski areas across the state hire hundreds more. Each year, the federal government hands out 66,000 H-2B visas, divided equally between winter and summer seasonal employment. Employers gobbled up those visas so quickly, last year the government exempted thousands more workers who had held the visa for more than three years.

    Aspen Skiing Company has lots of pet "PC" projects that do not include living wages for their employees.

    ASPEN (AP) - The Aspen Skiing Co. is supporting a lawsuit seeking to require the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Supreme Court agreed in June to take up the case brought by a dozen states and others including the Sierra Club. Aspen Skiing Co. filed a friend of the court brief supporting the petitioners Thursday.

    And then there is this about Vail following Aspen's lead in buying "wind credits":

    Vail Resorts Inc. will buy enough renewable energy to cover electricity use for all of its ski areas, hotels and headquarters, making it the nation's second-largest corporate user of wind power behind Whole Foods. The "green" energy will cover power use at its five ski resorts, its lodging properties, including RockResorts and Grand Teton Lodge Co., all 125 retail locations operated through Specialty Sports Venture and its new corporate headquarters.

    "Companies need to start diversifying their energy sources," said Vail CEO Rob Katz, who made the announcement at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "We view sustainability as integral to our company's future success." Vail, which recently moved its headquarters to Broomfield from Avon, will buy about 152,000 megawatt hours of wind-power credits from Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy.

    Vail will not actually be powered by wind. Instead, the credits will pump more wind energy into the nation's electric grid, reducing the amount of coal and natural gas used. The publicly traded company would not disclose the cost.

    Here are the jobs posted for Aspen Skiing Company at their website:

    • Child Care Attendant: Starting wage - $9.27/hr
    • Lift Attendants: Starting wage - $9.25/hr plus a possible $1500.00 end of season retention bonus if you finish out the season.
    • Guest Services Hosts/Hostesses: Starting wage - $9.50/hr
    • Retail/Rental Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
    • Ticket Seller Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
    • Mountain Photo Sales Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
    • Cafeteria Server or Waiter/Waitress (Informal): Starting wage - $9.21/ hr (Does not guarantee 40/hrs./wk.)

    So guess what, when you pay $9.25 an hour to folks to live in a town where they cannot afford to rent an apartment, the only takers you get are immigrants. In some elitist circles, we call this movement of jobs from highly (or lowly) paid US workers to cheap foreign labor "OUTSOURCING". Gone are the days of ski bums. Wages are so low, even the ski bums won't take them. Yet the folks at Aspen can still get all kinds of Liberal Kudos for being environmentally friendly. Because Spotted Owls and Global Warming and Al Gore have families to feed unlike the underclass of marginally employed workers that serve us our coffee at the resorts. But Aspen supports wind energy and reducing greenhouse emissions. Sure, they have to import workers because pay is so low, but they pay lawyers to file briefs against the Bush Administration's environmental policies.

    Posted by Justin at 08:13 PM

    September 01, 2006

    Wages, Housing, and the Ski Industry

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps numbers on things like the wages and salaries of Lifeguards, Ski Patrol, and other recreational workers.

    Employment estimate and mean wage estimates for this occupation:

    Employment (1) Employment
    RSE (3)
    Mean hourly
    wage
    Mean annual
    wage (2)
    Wage RSE (3)
    107,620 2.5 % $8.67 $18,020 0.7 %

    Percentile wage estimates for this occupation:

    Percentile 10% 25% 50%
    (Median)
    75% 90%
    Hourly Wage $6.11 $7.03 $8.13 $9.83 $11.92
    Annual Wage $12,720 $14,610 $16,910 $20,450 $24,790

    This is really saying something about the industry. First, most of the positions have no benefits. Second, the pay is absolutely astonishing. Only 10% of workers in the broad job category make more than $12 per hour. 90% make less than $12 per hour.

    I bring this up because we have our annual debate on our road trips about the role of Walmart in America. It is a favorite topic because we usually argue politics on our journeys. I am disgusted by the way the ski industry treats their employees. First, there is almost no affordable housing. This study is from Mammoth Mountain:

    At Mammoth Mountain’s prevailing entry-level wage ($8.40 an hour), an employee working full-time would earn $1,344 a month, and could afford to pay $403 for housing; this is in the very low-income (VLI) range. However, due to the seasonal nature of the business, it is not always certain that an employee will accrue forty hours a week, or work five days. Therefore, a seasonal employee’s earnings are likely to be less than $1,300 a month. Furthermore, only one-fifth of Mammoth Mountain’s 2,500 employees work year-round.

    Increasingly, jobs in the service sector are being filled by immigrants, both documented and undocumented. However, they seldom live in employee housing, and instead must commute great distances. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has about 500 employee apartments; according to Duhigg, a three-bedroom apartment goes for $650.

    The impacts of rising housing costs in the face of wage stagnation cause “down valley” syndrome: workers can no longer afford to live in the communities in which they work, and are forced to commute long distances. Jeff Berman of Ski Areas Citizens Coalition says, “Many of these immigrants have to live over an hour away from where they work…. Subsidized housing is reserved for college students taking a winter off.” Affordable housing in Mono County can be found in outlying areas such as Antelope and Chalfant Valleys, where it is possible to purchase a lot, drill a well, and install a manufactured home for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a single-family home or condominium in Mammoth Lakes or other village areas. Others choose to live in Bishop and drive over forty miles each way up US 395 over the Sherman Summit (elev. 7000), making for a harrowing and lengthy commute in inclement weather.

    A couple of my good friends absolutely, steadfastly refuse to so much as set foot into a Walmart, yet will participate in travelling to ski resorts where the employees are treated far worse than Walmart could ever imagine by companies like Mammoth Mountain:

    Mammoth Mountain, CA. December 21, 2005 - Dave McCoy, Founder and controlling shareholder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area ("Mammoth Mountain") announced today that an affiliate of Starwood Capital Group Global, L.L.C. (Starwood Capital) has completed the purchase of the majority interest in Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for $365 million. Rusty Gregory, who has worked for McCoy for 29 years, will continue as chairman and chief executive officer and will hold a 12.5 per cent interest in the company. Intrawest Corporation (NYSE: IDR; TSX: ITW) ("Intrawest") will retain a 15 per cent interest in Mammoth Mountain.

    I don't want to beat up on this point, but it is important that we recognize that the folks that work at our resorts make next to nothing and can barely afford to rent an apartment. I know it is cool to hate Walmart now days, but we are talking about an almost $400M business that pays their people $8 an hour to work at the resort, and my friends have no problem skiing there, but think they are making a social statement by boycotting Walmart.

    I believe that wages are dictated by the working environment and by the market. If kids weren't lining up to work low wage jobs at the mountain so that they could ski everyday, resorts would have to pay more money. Instead, many of these resorts set wages at well below poverty level and still find plenty of takers.

    The entire industry is catering to the wealthy. That is why a set of skis and bindings can run $1200 easily. Snowboards run as much as an average lift worker spends makes in two weeks. Worker's wages are at rock bottom and housing is sky high. And ironically, big corporations are getting wealthy off of the industry.

    You hear about Vail supporting renewable energy and everyone trying to be "environmentally friendly". How about paying your workers enough to eat or buy a car or pay car insurance and health insurance and rent and food all at the same time. Maybe enough to afford new gear occasionally. You hear PC buzzwords and see nice donations from folks like Burton and flowery stories about how committed these folks are to helping the poor and homeless and saving owls and protecting the forest. But then you see how they treat their workers.

    I am a free market capitalist and I am totally down with this behavior, but just don't crusade against corporations when you make your living off an industry that is about as capitalistic and borderline wrong as there is. Don't bash Walmart when Intrawest, American, and others pay worse wages. Hey, Jake, why don't you donate some money towards affordable housing for ski area employees or for crusading against the resort industry that makes them endentured servants working for a season pass.

    Posted by Justin at 04:37 PM | Comments (2)

    Guided Skiing in the Alps

    So if you read the blog at all, you know I am cheap. Plus I live in the Rockies and have a monster SUV set up to chase snowstorms and powder days. Sure, I have to put gas in it, but I actually have taken sleeping bags with me and slept in the back of the thing when I was poor and wanted to get in a powder day. This is more for you East Coasters that are debating between a trip to the Rockies or the possibility of heading to Europe, which is a more reasonable distance for you than for me. And again, for purposes of full disclosure, I still have not been to Europe. Tons of trips to Latin America, and am currently working with several folks from Rome on various projects at my day job, but never went to Europe.

    Couple things--even as an expert, you can still use a lesson from someone better than you. Someone that can pick out flaws in your technique. Second, paying $500 to a resort for a private guide/instructor (plus tip) actually puts about $10 per hour into the guy's pocket which illustrates that you should always tip and that most resorts love taking money from out-of-towners and private lessons are way too costly through the resort.

    Got a note from Mike at Ski Pros Megeve to check out what he does in the Alps. I know that there are folks that do this at other US resorts and when you find them, they usually can put together rates and packages that are far superior to anything a travel agent can do. They know all the deals and most of the folks that work at the resort, take turns with the folks running the places since locals ski with other locals, and get the bargain basement prices for everything. They are not getting rich off of this, mind you, but they make considerably more than the $10 an hour that resorts pay their instructors and usually are the guys that have 30 years of skiing experience and still want to spend every day on the mountain, but not get paid like a 20 year old kid.

    I don't want to get into a bash the ski industry contest here, but as long as I am on the topic, if you work at a resort, you don't do it for the money. You do it for the free pass, the ability to work on the snow, and usually for room and board. They pay next to nothing, so make sure you tip. Hence why you see so many college age kids working there. I will dedicate a longer post to this later.

    This came from a customer of his:

    "I use to fly into Geneva International Airport, from the East Coast and it took me 6hrs. flight time + 1hr.drive in a rental car to get to Megeve.... and much less time than going to Vail or Aspen in Colorado, from the East Coast. The food is great and not too expensive if you know where to go.

    Despite the disadvantage of the $ to € exchange rate, the air fare is less and paid in dollars, there are many flights into Geneva and lots of competition! An Internet search will help find the cheapest flight.

    I now live in Geneva and one of the best things about living in Geneva is its proximity to the French Alps and skiing. This winter I discovered Megeve, some 80 minutes from Geneva. It is a most charming town, with wonderful Hotels, restaurants and shops catering for every budget. The ski area is also super, with excellent facilities, a variety of slopes (complete with trees) to suit every level and modern high speed lifts.

    I decided to take lessons for the first time in 10 years and was delighted to find "Megeve Mike, a native English speaking instructor" on the internet, who responded to my initial e-mail, with a phone call, within 5 minutes of receiving it. Mike Beaudet is from Colorado and is an independent certified American/French ski instructor who also speaks fluent French. He knows Megeve like the back of his hand, and apart from teaching skiing lessons, he helped us book our accommodation, organised the hire of top quality ski equipment (which we got at 20% less than booking it on-line), and came to pick us from the Hotel on the day of our first lesson.

    Definitely work checking out and considering for tours, etc., if you are heading to Europe. Lessons are always worth considering too.

    Posted by Justin at 10:46 AM

    First Tracks Online

    I have a new link at the top to First Tracks online and a full syndication of their news content. Marc at FTO sent me the following in an e-mail:

    Oddly, FTO started as more or less my own personal blog before the term "blog" was even coined, detailing my days patrolling at Jay Peak in Vermont. This was back in the early 1990s when browsers were text only without even fonts, colors, or even bold or italics. Over the years it just snowballed. It's more than I can handle now sometimes.

    Check FTO out.

    Posted by Justin at 10:35 AM