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December 30, 2008

Snowbowl Turns Away Customers Because of Insufficient Parking

People from Phoenix and Tucson want skiing in Flagstaff. Plain and simple. There is not enough parking or lift capacity to meet demand. Hence why it makes sense to upgrade the parking, add snowmaking, improve lifts, and open new terrain... unless you are the competition, the Sierra Club, or the Hopis and Navajos. But again, that is another matter:

Arizona Snowbowl filled up on Saturday, with an estimated 3,500 skiers, and again on Monday, said General Manager J.R. Murray.

Traffic leaving Snowbowl was at a crawl on Saturday, so about 400 customers stayed at the lodge for two extra hours, until about 8:30 p.m., to wait it out.

"We're trying our best to accommodate everybody," Murray said.

Some received vouchers or discounts, for long waits.

Avondale resident Steve Navis was one unhappy customer when Snowbowl's lift lines and parking lots filled up on Saturday.

He started up Snowbowl Road at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and, after lift tickets and lift lines, hit the slopes at 12:45 p.m.

Most of his group got in two runs for the day, due to large crowds. Then it took them 3 1/2 hours to descend Snowbowl Road.

It's a dilemma for the business, said Murray, which typically has 10 or fewer days per season that reach capacity.

"People don't want to get turned away after they've driven here, but at the same time, they don't want long lines," Murray said.

Demand is there. The area is there. Just a couple improvements away from having consistent seasons with artificial snow so that people do not all try to cram into the area at one time. Some additional parking. Some more lift capacity.

I feel bad for the people that got turned away. No business wants to turn people away. Every single unhappy person that drove up the mountain and got the boot should thank Joe Shirley and the Sierra Club for their attempts to block the improvements that would already be completed if not for their lawsuits. Instead of skiing at Snowbowl, a good way to spend the weekend is watching a Beatlemania knockoff concert at the local Indian Casino in Phoenix. OK, that was unfair, this is a different tribe, not the Navajos or Hopis, but still, come one. Beatles Knockoff band?

Posted by Justin at 04:14 PM

December 28, 2008

Review - Apollo Goggles by Spy

I really got to ski with my new Apollos for the first couple times over the last week. They rock so hard. First, they have yet to fog on me at all and are crystal clear. Second, they are sick comfortable. I did not know about all the technology that goes into them, but this is pretty interesting:

In development over the last three years, the Apollo's groundbreaking and proprietary Mosaic lens creates maximum peripheral vision with a nominal frame profile. The unprecedented lens shape-neither spherical or cylindrical-contours sharply at specific points, seamlessly following the shape of the face to maintain a perfect and enormous field of vision with no distortion or internal reflection. The first of its kind, Spy's new multibase lens is the first new snow goggle lens shape developed in over a decade.

In addition, a new precise, self-positioning Magnesium/Grilamid hinge system turns 360 degrees with movement at any axis, allowing a comfortable and helmet-compatible fit. As with all Spy Optic goggles, the Apollo boasts our patented Scoop(r) ventilation system to conquer lens fogging, triple layer Isotron(tm) face foam featuring moisture-wicking Dri-Force(tm) fleece, and 100% UVA, B & C protection.

Received with great interest and fanfare at the January 2008 SnowSports Industries America tradeshow, the Apollo garnered not only excitement from dealers and media on the show floor, but won an Innovation Award in the Skill Category from the SnowPress Show Daily, the official publication of the SIA show.

Spy Optics goggles are all I will be wearing from here on out.

Comfortable, helmet compatible--check and then some. It is like not even wearing anything. It was all kinds of cold and my helmet fits well even with my North Face mask underneath it. Just plain comfortable and the look kicks butt too. A little spaceman'ish, but cool.

Posted by Justin at 07:36 PM

Outstanding Conditions at Brian Head (and My Ride of Shame)

First, the conditions at Brian Head are outstanding. 100% Open and they just opened Dunes yesterday afternoon, unfortunately after Jarrett and I had finished skiing for the day. Jake, Jackson, and my dad were still out and hit powder run after powder run on Dunes while I was packing up gear and getting Jarrett back to the condo.

That brings us to the ride of shame. First run of the day we went up Giant Steps. The weather was extremely cold and the lift operator's station at the top of the lift was covered in ice where they could barely see. On top of that, the operator must not have been paying much attention. Jarrett and I went to get off the lift and he wrecked and cut me off, so it was either fall on top of him and hope I didn't blow out a knee or stay on the lift and wait for them to stop it. They didn't stop the lift when he wrecked, so it was back down the hill.

Concerned ski patrol and lift folks at the bottom. "Are you OK?" I felt like the guy that you always hate that gets on the lift to the top of the mountain, breaks a femur at the unloading zone of the lift and leaves you stranded, hanging in mid-lift for an hour. I was that guy. Thankfully Dad, Jake and Jackson were two lifts back and skied down with Jarrett or I don't know what he would have done.

Jarrett started the day out right for me and ended it early costing me powder runs on Dunes. Today I stayed at the condo with him for the day since he didn't want to go out. But you pick and choose your moments and honestly, it is worth missed runs and missed days to spend time with the kids. We went shopping at Walmart for Jake's birthday and we ate Sonic.

Dad said the conditions were unbelievable today too. Fast snow and still great coverage. Brian Head is ready to roll for the rest of the season and everything is open and running.

Posted by Justin at 07:28 PM

December 26, 2008

Two Feet at Brian Head

Brian Head got dumped on last night with over two feet. Wind is dying down and the temps are warming up tomorrow. Perfect day coming up.

We are here for until New Years. See you all on the hill.

Posted by Justin at 08:39 PM

December 22, 2008

Great Article on the Economics of Aspen

Interesting read and thanks for the great link from a reader:

To me it has always posed the classic development problem: how do you both improve and preserve what you've got, without setting forces in motion that undermine what you were trying to protect?

Before the housing and economic meltdown Aspen’s future was considered in State of the Aspen Area 2008, a report commissioned by the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County Board of Commissioners to provide guidance for future decisions on issues ranging from housing to growth management to transportation. The goal was to generate a 10-year community vision for the future, but that future may have to be put on hold.

The report highlighted several trends that seemed to pose serious challenges for Aspen. Most prominently, it suggested that the Aspen economy was becoming dangerously dependent on real estate and construction, as opposed to the original drivers of skiing, lodging and retail/restaurants. There were many new jobs, but a decrease in available housing for workers.

Aspen backs up to the Continental divide (closed all winter)! The Roaring Fork Valley is steep and narrow. Low- and middle-income workers must all live and commute “down valley.” But down-valley communities, where one used to be able to find cheap housing, have themselves become too crowded and expensive.

On top of this the Roaring Fork Valley has moved within sight of being "built out." Traffic congestion is expanding up and down the valley (there is only one road – Route 82 – to get in or out of town), reaching intolerable levels during rush hours which start earlier and end later. A population of primary and second homeowners increasingly "aging in place" (with large percentages intending to retire in place), taking both their labor and residences off the market, exacerbate existing housing/lodging/worker imbalances.

The only reason the town "works" now is massive cross-subsidization. The fabulously wealthy subsidize the town budget with high property taxes on their mansions (even though some are in residence only a few weeks a year). They also subsidize the many arts, cultural attractions and charities so ubiquitous to Aspen as well as a range of services for year-round residents, from child care to education, health services, senior services, and police and fire departments.

Revenues from the rich and ultra-rich also pay for a town government that has a budget of $100 million plus for a town of 6000 permanent residents. In other words, Aspen could not afford itself if it had to rely on itself. Yet it was assumed the system would continue to work indefinitely because of the belief that "there will always be [a need for] an Aspen," a playground for the ultra wealthy who spent freely and gave generously."

This is the ski industry in a nutshell. No locals anymore. Locals live down valley. Locals live like illegal immigrants do in Phoenix--working the jobs the rest of the folks will not and living in hovels packed 10 deep, sleeping on floors and thankful for their jobs that allow them to live in what to them is Utopia. The only difference between an illegal and a ski industry worker is that most ski industry workers do not send money home to their families in Mexico--except for the increasingly large percentage of ski locals that are indeed from places like Argentina.

It is an industry, not just a town, on the verge of collapse under the weight of high real estate prices combined with no real workforce to build the houses and staff the restaurants that cater to the rich.

Posted by Justin at 05:55 PM | Comments (4)

Arizona Snowbowl Open for Season

The recent snows have helped Snowbowl achieve 100% open status:

ARIZONA SNOWBOWL IS NOW OPEN FOR THE 2008-2009 SKI SEASON

We are happy to be operating with 100% of the resort open. We now operate daily 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, including holidays. Conditions are incredible. Spend your holidays with us on the slopes.

No thanks to Dave Smith for giving me a heads up or anything... (j/k) I am going to hit him up for some lift tickets just for forgetting the resort's biggest snowmaking supporter.

Posted by Justin at 05:48 PM

December 21, 2008

Sunrise Trip (Boycott Over)

As you may be aware, I have been boycotting Sunrise for almost three years:

I had this idea for Sunrise. Try this on for size--Snowbowl gets as many as 125,000 skier visits, 70% of which are from Phoenix. If Sunrise can get Snowbowl to close, they would capture at least a large portion of those skier visits and probably be profitable, even in a bad year. If estimates are correct, that 125,000 number may be more like 200,000. Then Sunrise could show a large enough profit to get their loan to make more snow and attract even more skier visits. Leading to even more profits. Wow. That Bachelor's Degree in Business from ASU finally pays off. Or maybe not. Even the WMA tribe is smart enough to come up with this business plan.

Well, news for Sunrise--I ain't gonna be a skier visit ever again or deal with their rude WMA tribe members that work the resort, stay in their trashy hotel, or spend money at their casinos. They are trying to hose Snowbowl by using some lame "Religious Freedom" excuse to shut down snowmaking on the precious San Francisco Peaks. Instead of pumping WMA tribe money into fixing their 30 year old facilities and improving conditions, they instead spend it on legal challenges to shut down their competition.

And who gets screwed in this whole deal? Why, the people of Phoenix, Tucson, and so forth that would rather shave two hours each way off of their drive and save the gas money they would spend going to Sunrise by going to Flag which is much closer. Better yet, Snowbowl has a more friendly and helpful staff made up mostly of college kids that actually do ski or ride unlike the WMA tribe members that run the resort at Sunrise. They understand skiing and care about the sport unlike the tribe at Sunrise, most of whom are simply there because in the winter they cannot start fires to provide work like they did in 2002 by starting the Rodeo-Chediski fires...

Well, I am done boycotting since Snowbowl finally prevailed in court:

Regardless of which of these explanations you want to choose as the motivation for the above parties, all of their reasons lack sufficient reasoning to stop the development. And short of the SCOTUS taking the issue on, and by all means send it to Roberts and Alito and Thomas and Scalia to decide, I think this is over. A SCOTUS decision would actually be even more harmful to the Environmental movement because it would codify this decision where it cannot be overturned even among the Liberal 9th Circuit.

Well, yesterday, Sunrise was awesome. Great snow. We skied Maverick and Lupe and took laps in the singles line on Sunrise Lift. A little bit of moguls. A little bit of powder. And great coverage. We ate an incredible lunch at the mid-mountain lodge. Pork burritos and rice and beans. Everything about the experience was good. And it was also Jackson's first time skiing somewhere other than Brian Head.

Only the Sunrise Peak is open, but more should be coming open soon with the storms coming this week.

Posted by Justin at 06:40 PM

December 15, 2008

Chair 2 at Brian Head Now Open

Brian Head opened Chair 2 today:

Chair 2 is now open! Chairs 3, 5 and 6 are also open today, as well as a great terrain park with 10 features off of Chair 3. The lift ticket price today is $25 for everyone.

Four of the 8 lifts are open, though it only amounts to a handful of runs. Brian Head could receive as much as 2-3' of snow over the next few days which will open a bunch more terrain. The resort received 7" of snow yesterday so this could be the first real large snowstorm of the season. And the rain is moving northeast from LA/Vegas as we speak.

Posted by Justin at 10:26 AM

December 12, 2008

President Bush and President Elect Obama Call on Congress to Immediately Pass Ski Industry Bailout

Senior Whitehouse leaders have confirmed that President Bush is in talks with Congressional leaders to pass an economic stimulus package that includes money for snowmaking, hotel improvements, and ski subsidies to help bail out an industry stung hard by the recession.

"We cannot allow the Vails of the world to go belly up like American Ski Co did. Too many jobs are at stake and there are important national security interests. If these resorts close, not only will our national pride suffer by losing highly coveted Olympic medals, but all of the supporting industries like the Front Range Marijuana industry will be affected," Obama said in agreement with the bipartisan legislation.

I swear, I kid you not, this is the crap that we are hearing every day. Why not bail out my industry? Why stop at banks and car companies? Give some money to Vail and make season passes cheaper. Prop up my condo prices so that I don't bleed out my ass every year as I watch prices tumble.

I want some hope and change. =)

Posted by Justin at 05:08 PM | Comments (2)

Season Pass Deals - Vail Resorts Gets It

Vail sells "Epic Passes" with unlimited skiing at all VRI resorts and makes a killing:

The hue and cry over the unwashed rabble likely to snap up cheap ski passes and invade Vail this winter, clogging our roads and jamming our ski slopes and parking garages, has morphed into the “All the Love” ad campaign as quickly as you can say “economic downturn.”

And Vail Resorts, which bore the brunt of the controversy after the announcement of its unlimited, six-mountain, $579 Epic Pass last spring, revealed Tuesday it sold nearly 60,000 of the season passes, prompting accolades from some analysts who foresee a brutal year for the ski and tourism industries.

“Front Range riff-raff” comments from a former Vail business leader and concerns about parking on the part of some town officials seem like distance echoes from a different era – even though the debate occurred just seven short months ago...

In a conference call with investment analysts Tuesday, CEO Rob Katz said the company reaped about $32 million from the sale of just over 59,000 Epic Passes – good at Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly (Calif.), Keystone and Vail ski areas.

Overall, Vail Resorts took in nearly $91 million from the sale of about 204,000 of all of its season pass products, including the discounted Colorado Pass. And there has been almost no discussion of parking problems, traffic woes or Front Range customers who tend to spend less than out-of-state destination visitors.

And they ski a lot more days too. It is a tough sell. Sell more passes for less money to people that will use more days and spend less on mountain versus leaving lifts idle and keeping the riff-raff out.

Every dollar counts, even if it is a smelly hippie dollar from some scruffy dude's wallet that he keeps in his van with his ski dog--Mutt.

And more of the folks at Vail will be US citizens thanks to changes to Visa rules:

ail Resorts, which annually requires 1,900 H-2B visas, hoped to benefit from a cultural ambassador programme used in other resort areas such as Disneyland after the nationwide cap of 66,000 H-2B visas for America was reached earlier in the year.

“The requirements for the visas are very specific, and USCIS wanted to make sure Vail Resorts’ program met the visa’s specifications,” said Kristin Williams, a spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.

“Immigration officials wanted more information about Vail Resort’s cultural exchange program before any more visas were issued.”

Under the programme, instructors are introduced as cultural exchange ambassadors and share their native languages and cultures with guests.

A provision allowing returning worker permit holders to be exempt from the cap expired this year, meaning that many international restaurant workers, ski instructors, lift operators and other mountain workers were unable to return this season.

This recession provides a real wake up call to the industry. Foreign workers at low wages combined with high dollar destination guests combined with high real estate sales profits has been the business plan for places like Vail. But when the economy slows, it is time to get back to the Riff Raff, the locals, the ski bums, and the basics. Prices come down. Folks that ski are more passionate about it. Profits are down for the industry (that didn't make a lot of profit anyway).

Looks like American Ski Co got out at the right time. The industry is getting shaken up.

Posted by Justin at 04:55 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2008

Apollo Goggles by Spy

I am working on some new Apollo goggles from Spy that seriously rock. I have not used them enough to offer a full review, but they are so comfortable that I almost forgot I was wearing them.

I got Jake a pair of Spy Soldiers that are just as cool, but he has dibs'ed them so I gotta steal them back to review them later.

Will do a full review when the snow gets deep enough to actually ski.

Posted by Justin at 10:52 PM | Comments (1)