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January 07, 2011

Where have the Ski Bums Gone

New book out on where the Ski Bums have gone--from the Review by Wayne Sheldrake, the writer of Instant Karma:

In a chilly summation that fits these realities, one ski bum morphed into a ski area executive admitted to Evans, if you aren’t willing to make the sacrifices it takes or if you just can’t afford the Mega-resorts, “..tough shit…. Go find some place that’s not famous and make something out of it. We worked hard to make this place nice. Don’t come crying to me now because you can’t afford to live here.” Then he frets, “On the other hand, if we don’t have any new people coming in, we’re dying.”

Fret not. Though the dropout mentality has all but vanished from the American psyche and college grads deep in debt go straight to the real world, Evans reports those dead-end jobs that ski bums once pounced on are now filled by immigrants. Still drunk with that idea of unfettered freedom and self-actualized happiness, they are the new bums on the block.

It is a sobering reminder of one of the biggest changes happening in this country. We have two major factors at work. We have an income disparity and a class disparity and I am not sure which is more damaging.

Imagine the days long ago when middle and upper managers (perhaps not major execs, but at least line management) lived and worked in the same place as the lower level employees. Sure there were nicer suburbs and there was a difference in economic prosperity, but I cannot imagine is was as pronounced as it is today.

We see it as more and more companies move their offices away from the factory location to glitzy urban lofts. The workers build your product in some suburban location or perhaps an industrial district but the goal of managers is to leave that site and move to "corporate". It is to distance yourself from the working man and achieve an elite status.

John Edwards during his VP run in 2004 often gave the "Two Americas" speech of one where the "Haves" are multimillionaires that get $400 haircuts, fly on private jets, and bang repulsive groupie mistresses while their wives have cancer and the other where working Americans vote for these elitist pricks to run things and tell them they cannot have salt on their fries or toys in the happy meals or transfats or smoke...

The reason that there are no ski bums left, despite the iconic status afforded ski bums among the Baby Boomers that spend the big money and own second homes in the Aspens of the world--

The Rich don't want them there.

How do you coexist in a town where a pint of beer costs $9 with the folks that work menial labor to subsist and live the dream and make mere pennies from the resort serving the wealthy patrons? There is no housing because the dive Apartments have been torn down or turned into Luxury Condos. Ordinances block urban camping. There are no campgrounds. So to scratch out an existence in a resort town, you have to live an hour down mountain and drive each way for a job that pays just over minimum wage, all so that you can earn a season pass that would cost a months salary to a minimum wage worker that you can never use because you are working all the time.

What is interesting is a new trend that my fellow Blogger Wil at 120 Days of Pow, now defunct, highlights. Mobile professionals choosing to take their laptops and blackberries and work remotely over broadband from the resorts. These folks earn six figures and can work from anywhere. They have the flexibility to enjoy the lifestyle and the money to exist in a resort town. My buddy Erich did it at Tahoe last season. Wil was at Steamboat three or four years ago.

It is classic Gentrification at work. Scarcity of these locations and of housing created artificially by zoning laws written by people that already own and have the money to be in charge whose concerns are keeping out the riff raff and keeping their own property values high.

You could write the same article about many sections of Oakland that are becoming less and less black to the chagrin of locals.

This is the price we pay for a booming economy and growing population as well as zoning laws that restrict growth and environmental laws that prevent ski area expansion. We have a fixed quantity of land and a cabal of folks that control it and want to keep the bums out.

I am not sure that is a bad thing in many ways, but it is a change in character of what the towns and the industries were. Reading about a Black poet lamenting Oakland's loss of their culture or skiers talking about ski bums being pushed out by rising real estate prices and mobile urban professionals is just the sad fact of life.

Posted by Justin at 12:11 PM

January 05, 2011

Skiing Down Park Ave.

Gotta post this. Powder Day in NYC.

Posted by Justin at 06:43 PM

December 13, 2010

Why is Alpengluhen Bringing up Maslow?

Alpengluhen has an article that got me thinking about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and skiing. How the hell he did that is beyond me, but fair enough...

Let me start this off by saying at the resort we teach skiing to children ages 4+, and snowboarding to children ages 8+. Why the difference? I used to joke that it took an extra 4 years for a child to build up the proper angst and disrespect for their elders to properly snowboard...

It's at this time checklists such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs come in handy. I have attended the ACE 1 training and never finished the certification point. Does this make me an expert at teaching children? Not at all. It's taken several years to feel confident in teaching young children and I still learn more each season.

Back to the basics of the questions received now. Most of these parents tell you their child is 4 or 5 at this point, which serves as a great indicator for how the conversation will continue. Attention spans are still short at this age. Depending upon the child basic needs can be an issue yet to be clearly spoken. While the child can walk, their physical strength may not yet be up to the point of competency when skiing. (If you don't believe me, try laying on flat ground, rolling to your feet, and standing up. Even adults have issue with this one.) Even with these limitations there is still one overall challenge that tops them all; parents.

The real challenge of teaching skiing isn't the kids, it's the parents. Overall kids this age are just excited to be playing in the snow, making snowballs, sledding, falling in, eating, or building snowmen. The introduction of a snow sport just provides yet another avenue of excitement for the children. Which is the key take away from snow sports; to have fun outdoors. For younger children, associating the concept of skiing with a fun time out in the snow is the most important step to creating your future Olympian. Many parents have difficulty understanding that a great ski day may include putting on the ski boots and building snow forts. Yet their kids have already started to bridge the concept of skiing with a fun time outside.

Let me add my take on this... Start out with the basics of what ruin a ski day for a youngster. The Maslow's Hierarchy is important because before you can actually enjoy skiing or riding, you have to not be miserable.

First, "I'm cold." Imagine that you are your average parent and you decide that Jr. needs to learn to ski as a five year old. So you pony up the $125 for ski school and send Jr. off for the day. Why would you waste the entire day if your kid is going to spend most of it back in the lodge because he is cold from the cheap ski clothing you bought at Walmart?

I am not knocking the value proposition of Walmart for buying your average coat for your little kids. The coat that your kid wears from the house to the car and from the car to school and during the 15 minute recess and back to the car and between the car and home. You are not at home where your kids are building a snow fort the 5-10 days per year when it might snow wherever you live. (I live in Phoenix and it is 78 right now on Dec 13, so suck it!) Assume that it is going to be cold.

So let's assume that you don't want to drop $100 for a good ski coat for your kid that they will outgrow shortly. Then make sure to layer well. And even with the best ski clothing, you still want to layer. Bring that extra sweater. Stay away from cotton sweatshirts and stuff that soaks up water. Being cold sucks. Being wet and cold is worse.

Next worst, "I'm Hungry." Bring snacks. Most kids programs feed the kids and provide hot cocoa during the day, but there is never a bad time to have a pack of a high carbohydrate snack. I personally love peanuts and cashews for snacking, but ideally, a good trail mix is awesome. You can get packets at the gas station on the way up.

Finally, "I'm tired." Make sure that Jr. gets a good night's rest the night before and if you are going multiple days, make sure they are in bed at a good hour after skiing, if they don't crash immediately upon leaving the hill.

Warm, fed, and rested.

Now, back to the original point of the post--it is very difficult to do more with a 5-6 year old than simply try to get them some familiarization with the snow, the cold, and a little bit of snow time. Whether Jr. is on skis or a snowboard, the first several trips add very little for kids under 5-6 if they are not successful and don't enjoy it.

Remember that the physics of snowboarding for smaller kids is a lot different than the physics of skiing. For fear of offending all my snowboarding friends, if your kid thinks he is the next Shawn White, check out Tanner Hall. Skiing isn't some lame, old person's sport despite how hard Jake Burton has marketed his sport to line his pockets. If you lack the physics to snowboard as a 6-7 year old kid, you are far better off skiing than snowboarding. Time on snow is time on snow. And there are a lot of places and things that skiers can go or do that snowboarders can't. It is never bad to be able to do both and then choose based on conditions. Of my adult friends that ride, many were skiers when they were younger and still enjoy skiing as well.

Posted by Justin at 02:09 PM

Exercises for Skiing from New West

Interesting article on exercises to prepare you for ski season:

Unlike cycling, climbing stairs and other exercises that build leg strength while extending the knee joint (called concentric muscle contraction), skiing requires muscular endurance that helps your legs work against the pull of gravity – akin to activities like walking downhill and descending stairs. Exercise physiologists call this eccentric muscle contraction. Some of the best ways to build eccentric muscle strength are running or hiking downhill, lunges and inverted leg presses using machines or free weights.

Skiing also requires strength in your upper body and core. Even simple exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and light weight training will help stave off fatigue resulting from getting up after a fall, poling across flat terrain and down catwalks.

Even more important than upper and lower body strength is core strength. Your core is made up of a complex set of muscles located in your lower back and abdomen. Its function is to help you maintain an upright posture and support your upper body. It’s particularly important in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding because all good technique begins with maintaining proper stance and posture, regardless of the terrain. Great ways to develop and maintain core strength are sit-ups, abdominal crunches and lower back extensions.

Check out the brief article.

Posted by Justin at 01:53 PM

August 30, 2010

Skis.com Names Mirjam Jaegar as Ski Ambassador

This sounds pretty cool:

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., August 25, 2010 — Skis.com, the ultimate online ski resource, has signed Swiss pro-skier Mirjam Jaeger as its ambassador to the freestyle skiing community. In her position as ambassador, Jaeger will contribute short essays to the company’s blog (Skis.com ) and its Facebook and Twitter pages. She will also film several educational videos for the web site on topics including how to slide rails and the beginners guide to using the half pipe.

“We are so excited to have Mirjam represent Skis.com,” said President and CEO Steve Kopitz. “She is mesmerizing to watch both on and off the slope. We are looking forward to hearing what tips she has to offer on freestyle skiing.”

A longtime skier, Jaeger became interested in snowboarding in 1991. She quickly quit skiing, entered into snowboarding competitions, enrolled into a sports school, and booked her first sponsors, all by age 16.

Her love of skiing returned and she began practicing the sport again in 2003. It soon became so important to her that she stopped snowboarding altogether and, in 2005, started to concentrate exclusively on skiing. She keeps a busy schedule, competing all over the world, including at the X-Games, US Open and European Open.

Kinda stoked to learn a little more freestyle stuff and see some decent videos of rail work, etc. Mostly so that I can destroy the edges of my new Nordicas because it sounds like fun.

miriam.jpeg

Posted by Justin at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2010

Crested Butte Sees First Snow

Not really much of a story (or much of a snowstorm), but I need to start posting on this site occasionally. I mean, I have been so incredibly lazy that I have got to get going. Thanks to our three readers for sticking around.

This makes those extra four reps on the leg press worth doing:

Skiers and snowboarders start your engines! Well not quite - but as you can tell from the photo below, winter is indeed coming. The folks at Crested Butte woke up this morning to a dusting of snow, marking the first real signs of the upcoming winter. So grab those newly printed buyer's guides from your mailbox and start figuring out which planks your going to be riding this year. Judging by the looks of it, snow appears to be on its way sooner than later...

I have been in the gym six days this week which is six more days than I spent all last year. I have my new Nordica Zeros and my even newer Nordica Hot Rod boots to break in. Two months and A-basin and Loveland will be open with WROD.

Posted by Justin at 12:41 AM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2010

Summer Goes By So Quickly

OK, I have accomplished nothing toward getting in shape for this upcoming season. Been supposed to start working out since... well... I guess since I was like 14. But I did start hitting the tanning bed so that when my fat ass gets in the hot tub, people do not burn their retinas.

So here is it, mid August, and we are getting ready for another year. Kept the place at Brian Head which I am seriously stoked about. Property values are hellish right now, but with the economy what it is, our lender wants no part of us giving them the house back and they modified our loan. By the time I retire, the value of it may come back to what we have into it.

I have new boots and skis that I bought last season. All geared up and ready. I just need snow.

Here is hoping for early snow and a great winter. I gotta start blogging more...

Posted by Justin at 03:01 AM

April 29, 2010

Thanks Failblog.com

Solid stuff here.

Posted by Justin at 12:31 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2010

Season Winding Down

I looked up and realized how little skiing I did this season. This is the least I have done since probably 2003. Not that I didn't want to get out more, just that the new job has made it a lot more difficult. No vacation time, etc.

There is roughly a month left in the season and plenty of snow, especially in the Southwest due to El Nino. Most resorts close the weekend after Easter so probably three solid weeks left.

I am going to try to close the place down at Brian Head and really want to try pond skimming.

Posted by Justin at 01:52 PM

February 10, 2010

Avalanche Article from the American Spectator

An odd place for an article on Avalanches, but good read nonetheless:

Recently, a young man was caught by an avalanche while skiing out-of-bounds at Snowbasin Resort in Utah. When found, he was dead and buried under only a foot of snow. The physics are interesting. When an avalanche stops, the snow settles within seconds and sets-up as hard as concrete. The victim's movements are paralyzed, and -- like drowning -- death usually comes within 15 minutes due to suffocation. Though there are historical cases of people surviving after being buried up to 45 minutes. At any rate, it's a hideous way to die...

There are precautions to be taken in avalanche country. Check avalanche conditions online or via local media before a trip. Know the landscape and avoid open, expansive areas without trees. Never cross-country ski, snowmobile, or otherwise travel alone in the backcountry. When accompanied by fellow recreationists, small portable shovels, collapsible steel probe poles, and electronic transmitter beacons all increase the survival odds if one is caught in a snow slide. If caught in a slide, flail your arms and legs around in a swimming motion that might leave limbs exposed when it stops. If there's time, extricate yourself from skis or a backpack to assist range of motion. Even a deep breath before it hits will increase survival time by a few minutes. Keep your mouth shut so it doesn't fill with snow and choke you. After all that, say your prayers.

But avalanches aren't the only hazard found out-of-bounds. Recently, at Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming, a 46-year-old man from New York skied over the line near day's end and simply got lost. He called the 911 on his cell phone and reported his predicament. When asked to describe his surroundings he noted an open snowy meadow with a creek flowing through it. Unfortunately, that described hundreds of acres in the area. The man had a GPS Unit, but didn't know how to use it. He was dressed well for a day of skiing, but lacked the extra clothes and survival gear needed to survive the night. Local Search and Rescue personnel and the Grand Targhee Ski Patrol searched for part of the night, but due to snowy weather and the avalanche danger, halted the search until daylight. In the morning they found the man dead of hypothermia.

It is all about preparation. First, know your surroundings. If you want to go backcountry skiing, at least know how to use a GPS and beacon. Have the right equipment. Never go alone.

There are hundreds of dangerous activities in life that are extremely fun and rewarding. Backcountry skiing can certainly be one of them, but it is not for the inexperienced. Hence why I do not ski backcountry. But even backcountry is no where near as dangerous as "side-country skiing" where novice skiers venture just over the ropes to try to track some wide open expanse of snow.

Know your limits. Have the right gear. Have SURVIVAL GEAR. Don't do stupid stuff.

Posted by Justin at 04:27 PM

February 09, 2010

Is Global Warming Going to Destroy the Ski Industry?

I don't like to wade too deep into the "Climate Change" waters, but got a link from a reader to story by a local news station about the ski industry:

Already, the Aspen Global Change Institute forecasts that if global emissions continue to rise, the local ski industry will be little more than a memory by 2100.

Among the group’s sobering findings:

“High greenhouse gas emissions scenarios… are likely to end skiing in Aspen by 2100, and possibly well before then, while low emission path scenarios preserve skiing at mid-to-upper mountain elevations. In either case, snow conditions will deteriorate in the future.”

Skeptics of global warming cite images of major blizzards and snowfalls measured by the foot in Midwestern and mountain regions. Williams says those pictures hinder efforts to convince people that a warmer future really is coming.

“It’s a small but constant change,” he said. “It’s hard for people to embrace that.”...

The Williams-Lazar report offered a glass-half-full scenario for Colorado. While other areas face devastation, change appears to be coming more slowly to places like Aspen.

That doesn’t mean it won’t come, even if freak early or late storms seem to paint a different picture.

“The way I think of it is: Do you want to ski with your grandkids? Or do you want your kids to ski with their grandkids?” Williams said.

“That’s about three generations out. That reverberates with people. They get that.”

Interesting. Scares the hell out of people.

Before I look at the methodology, I just want to point out a few things. First, there is a major correlation between the ENSO (El Nino) ocean temperatures and the snowfall in particular in either the Southwest or in the Northwest. Weather patterns caused by El Nino are well documented and there is a strong correlation.

Yet even in the strongest of El Nino years, climatologists cannot predict even within a narrow range of what the snowfall amounts will be. This is an El Nino year. How many inches approximately will Brian Head receive? Somewhere between 300-500". That is about as good as you will get.

And that is a short time horizon. That is only forward looking, say six months tops. If climatologists cannot tell me even a solid ballpark figure of how many inches of snow a particular resort will receive in a year, even as late as say--October, so I know whether or not to buy a season pass or when the opening day will be this season, how in the holy hell should I believe that they can tell me when opening day will be on average in the year 2100? In 2009, A-basin had their earliest opening EVER. October 9th. Climatologists say they can only make predictions about long term trends using fancy "closed source" computer models that have been ripped to shreds for their coding errors, not make short term predictions about anything useful. Water levels will rise several feet by 2100 and submerge half the coastal cities, but tomorrow there is a 40% chance of light showers. 40%? WTF?

Below the fold, I will get into why I am so disgusted by the scare tactics thrown around by the environmental folks that think putting up windmills is somehow going to help Aspen have good snow in 2100. And I won't even get into the Sierra Club saying that switching from coal to nuclear power is like switching from cigarettes to crack.

The study in question relied exclusively on temperature predictions taken directly from the IPCC's 2001 report. The IPCC's methods and claims are certainly in question with the recent scandals.

The folks at the UK Telegraph are all over the IPCC:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report is supposed to be the world’s most authoritative scientific account of the scale of global warming.

But this paper has discovered a series of new flaws in it including:

  • The publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed to the website of a commercial wave-energy company.
  • Claims based on information in press releases and newsletters.
  • New examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished.
  • More claims which were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.

They are the latest in a series of damaging revelations about the IPCC’s most recent report, published in 2007.

Last month, the panel was forced to issue a humiliating retraction after it emerged statements about the melting of Himalayan glaciers were inaccurate.

Last weekend, this paper revealed that the panel had based claims about disappearing mountain ice on anecdotal evidence in a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.

And on Friday, it emerged that the IPCC’s panel had wrongly reported that more than half of the Netherlands was below sea level because it had failed to check information supplied by a Dutch government agency.

Researchers insist the errors are minor and do not impact on the overall conclusions about climate change.

However, senior scientists are now expressing concern at the way the IPCC compiles its reports and have hit out at the panel’s use of so-called “grey literature” — evidence from sources that have not been subjected to scientific ­scrutiny.

A new poll has revealed that public belief in climate change is weakening.The panel’s controversial chair, Rajendra Pachauri, pictured right, is facing pressure to resign over the affair.

That would be Nobel Prize winning Panel Chair...

But that is not the end of the story:

It can also be revealed that claims made by the IPCC about the effects of global warming, and suggestions about ways it could be avoided, were partly based on information from ten dissertations by Masters students.

One unpublished dissertation was used to support the claim that sea-level rise could impact on people living in the Nile delta and other African coastal areas, although the main focus of the thesis, by a student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, appears to have been the impact of computer software on environmental development.

The IPCC also made use of a report by US conservation group Defenders of Wildlife to state that salmon in US streams have been affected by rising temperatures. The panel has already come under fire for using information in reports by conservation charity the WWF.

This is just not good science. It gets better for the inventor of the Hockey Stick Graph, Michael Mann:

There has also been an acclaimed new paper by Michael Mann, the creator of the iconic "hockey stick" graph, purporting to show that the world has recently become hotter than at any time in recorded history, eliminating all the wealth of evidence to show that temperatures were higher in the Mediaeval Warm Period than today.

After being used obsessively by the IPCC's 2001 report to promote the cause, the "hockey stick" was comprehensively discredited, not least by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian computer analyst, who showed that Mann had built into his computer programme an algorithm (or "al-gore-ithm") which would produce the hockey stick shape even if the data fed in was just "random noise".

Two weeks ago Dr Mann published a new study, claiming to have used 1,209 new historic "temperature proxies" to show that his original graph was essentially correct after all. This was faithfully reported by the media as further confirmation that we live in a time of unprecedented warming. Steve McIntyre immediately got to work and, supported by expert readers on his Climate Audit website, shredded Mann's new version as mercilessly as he had the original.

He again showed how selective Mann had been in his new data, excluding anything which confirmed the Mediaeval Warming and concentrating on that showing temperatures recently rising to record levels.

Finnish experts pointed out that, where Mann placed emphasis on the evidence of sediments from Finnish lakes, there were particular reasons why these should have shown rising temperatures in recent years, such as expanding towns on their shores. McIntyre even discovered a part of Mann's programme akin to a disguised version of his earlier algorithm, which he now calls "Mannomatics".

But Mann's new study will surely be used to push the warmist party line in the run-up to the IPCC international conference in Copenhagen next year to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, temperatures continue to drop. The latest Nasa satellite readings on global temperatures from the University of Alabama, one of four officially recognised sources of temperature data, show that August was the fourth month this year when temperatures fell below their 30-year average, ie since satellite records began. The US National Climatic Data Center showsis showing that last month in the USA was only the 39th warmest since records began 113 years ago.

So where is the concensus?

Posted by Justin at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2010

Truth in Motion

Sat down and watched Truth in Motion last night. Had it Tivo'd and got to watch it on the LCD in HD off of the local NBC station.

It really puts a face on the people that compete in the Olympics. So much of what we see is Shawn White this and Bode Miller that, but these are not the Shawn Whites with multimillion dollar endorsements. These are some of the most dedicated people you can find barely earning a living off sponsor money and ski team money to compete at the highest level.

What they do is not fun. It is not enjoyable. It is brutal. Most of the athletes describe some multiyear rehab from an injury that happened doing 60 miles per hour on icy snow. Bouncing from town to town and continent to continent to prepare.

And it is four years of preparation. Come the 1st of March, after the flame goes out in Vancouver, these athletes start gearing up for another four years of World Cups and qualifying and training to get ready for another go at the Olympics.

And if not, they prepare for the fact that their careers are over.

From the US Ski Team's site:

"Truth in Motion" stars 2010 U.S. Olympic Alpine Ski Team athletes Ted Ligety (Park City, UT), Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), Jake Zamansky (Aspen, CO) and Tommy Ford (Bend, OR). There are also cameo appearances by Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) and Scott Macartney (Crystal Mountain, WA) along with numerous coaches and ski technicians who support this Team.

"You see exactly what we're going through every day," said Ligety, the 2006 Olympic combined gold medalist. "I don't think anybody has ever gotten a truly in-depth look at ski racing. It's cool in that respect. This portrays what we do.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Brett Morgen, the film takes you inside the locker room in every aspect of the being an elite ski racer, only their locker room is Portillo, Chile; Saas Fee, Switzerland; Soelden, Austria, on airplanes, long car rides and hotel rooms across the globe.

"This film spends more time on the characters and people, the personalities and the perseverance," said Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer for Audi of America, which has supported the U.S. Ski Team since 2007.

There is a noted lack of glamour as the film takes you through pre dawn wakeup calls to check lactate levels and stretch before riding a frozen chairlift to work. The athletes are candid, raw and provide an insight to their sport that cannot be seen in a two-minute race.

"There were numerous moments where people said things to us that shocked and surprised us at how open they were," said Morgen, who followed the Team from Chile to Park City and then to Switzerland and Austria. "It was very important for us to let the skiing tell the story."

Schleper provides a unique aspect to the film as she delves into the difficulties of juggling motherhood with working to achieve her Olympic dream. Following two missed seasons after the 2006 Olympics – one to a torn ACL and the other for the birth of her son Lasse, who turns two Saturday – Schleper battled back into the World Cup elite and successfully made her fourth Olympic Team.

I strongly recommend that you watch it when it repeats on NBC this week.

My comments to Jake after we finished watching it:

Jake, I have watched you ski since you were 5 and seen how much better you get every time we go out. If you really put your mind to it, dedicate yourself, and train hard for the next few years, one day, you might be good enough to make the US Ski Team and get a job waxing and tuning their skis.

I am a supportive dad. It is what I do.

Posted by Justin at 02:22 PM

February 01, 2010

Intrawest Defaults on Loans, Lenders Start Foreclosure Process (h/t Mark)

A reader sent me this story from CBC regarding Intrawest's financial problems:

Wall Street financiers say they are going to put the Whistler Blackcomb resort up for sale while the facility is hosting Winter Olympic events next month.

Creditors who have lent $1.4 billion US to the ski resort's owners, Intrawest ULC, have effectively seized control of the company and are attempting to auction off its assets.

Whistler Blackcomb, one of numerous ski resorts Intrawest owns in Canada and the U.S., is set to host major ski events at the Olympic Games next month.

On Tuesday, a notice of a public auction to be held Feb. 19, 2010, was published in newspapers in Canada and the United States, soliciting bids for a membership interest in Intrawest Holdings. Among the assets in the notice were "partnership interests in two resort properties located in Canada (Whistler and Blackcomb)."

In 2006, Wall Street hedge fund Fortress Investments LLC bought Intrawest in a $2.8-billion US deal. Fortress recently missed a $524 million debt payment connected to that purchase.

The primary lender on the Intrawest deal in 2006 was defunct investment bank Lehman Brothers. New York debt managers Davidson Kempner and Oak Hill Advisors also helped finance the deal, and a source familiar with the process told CBC News the major creditors are united in pursuing the auction process.

Typically, lenders are willing to work with borrowers to avoid foreclosure. But the lenders' inability to move the debt repayment plan along seems to have spurred this week's unexpected developments.

Most of these issues are symptoms of the economic meltdown. Especially the meltdown in real estate values. There is more fallout coming.

Posted by Justin at 09:21 AM

January 14, 2010

Popular Mechanics Follows Avalanche Patrolers

Cool Article on Avalanche Patrolers in Popular Mechanics:

The bomb is the size of a soup can, bright orange, stuffed with two pounds of pentolite—a chalky mixture of TNT and an even more powerful explosive compound known as PETN. Ross Titilah, a 31-year-old ski patroller at Big Sky Resort in southern Montana, ties the bomb to one end of a short nylon rope and triggers the igniter. Ninety seconds until detonation. The other end of the rope is attached to what’s known as a bomb tram—a sort of ski lift for explosives that stretches from one fin of rock to another high above the entrance to a steep gully in Big Sky’s experts-only area...

Big Sky is one of the more awe-inspiring resorts in North America, centered around a solitary pyramidal mountain—Lone Peak—which can be skied right from the summit. I arrived following one of the winter’s biggest storms, which dropped more than a foot of snow amid fierce winds. The easiest thing to do, when faced with an unstable snowpack, is simply keep most of the mountain closed. Sometimes this happens. But a patroller’s job is a tricky juggle between mitigating natural dangers and satiating skiers’ desires. To an avid skier or snowboarder, there’s nothing more joyful than flying through steep, untracked snow—precisely the scenario that’s most uncertain in terms of stability. The compromise is that, after a storm, the patrol activates the most slide-prone areas by detonating powerful explosives.

High on the flanks of Lone Peak, in the moments before the bomb hanging from the tram is set to explode, Ross and Steve instinctively scan the surrounding slopes, reading the terrain with practiced eyes. “Flagged there,” says Ross, indicating a line of evergreens whose branches have been sheared off on one side where previous avalanches have swept close by. “Point release,” Steve says, motioning with his chin to a spot where a cliff band, warmed by the rising sun, is naturally shedding the new powder, sloughing little waterfalls of snow.

There’s a flash, and a bang—and, for a second, nothing. Then, from down in the gully comes a loud and disconcerting whooomp, as if an overloaded bookshelf has snapped its supports and dropped onto the shelf below it, which is close to what has happened. Abruptly, what had looked like an inviting ski run is transformed into a tumbling, churning mass of snow, blasting down the hill—avalanches often exceed 90 miles per hour—leaving in its wake a billowing cloud of snow mist, gorgeous and daunting at once.

This is a relatively small slide. The vertical crown face at the top of the avalanche path—which indicates the depth of the snow slab that broke away—is only a foot tall. Some slides at Big Sky have 13-foot crowns. Still, it’s easy to see how, if a skier is caught in an avalanche, escape is virtually impossible. Once the slide is over, though, the slope is considerably safer; it’s like a rubber band that has snapped, its tension dissipated.

Have a quick read. Interesting stuff about the folks that keep us safe.

Posted by Justin at 03:11 PM

Swift.Silent.Deep

Got a great movie in the mail a couple weeks ago Swift.Silent.Deep about the Jackson Hole Air Force.

Seriously loved the movie. Jake, Jackson, Jarrett and I watched it on our Christmas trip to Brian Head. Just awesome and interesting historical perspective.

The film had some controversy about Warren Miller's appearance reported courtesy of the best ski magazine on the market (and maker of my favorite t-shirt) The Ski Journal:

In September Warren Miller Entertainment (WME), the company that produces the annual Warren Miller films, filed a compalint against Level 1 Productions in the U.S. District Court of Colorado for trademark infringement. Miller sold his company and use of his name in 1988, and in the complaint WME cited a 1995 agreement between itself and Miller in which WME owns the exclusive rights to the name, use of voice, and the likeness of Warren Miller in all media.

Along with the trademark complaint, WME also entered a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent more showings of the film. The motion was quickly denied in court, and Berman has continued touring his film despite the ongoing controversy.

For his part, the 84-year-old Miller has been outspoken in his support of Berman and in his distaste for the actions of WME. In October Miller released a statement distancing himself from WME artistic endeavors. "I would like to clarify that I am not, nor have I been involved with Warren Miller Entertainment (WME) or their ski movies for quite some time," he wrote. "It has been six years since I have had anything whatsoever to do with the films bearing my name."

"I stopped working with WME because our ideas on what the ski films should be weren't on the same page," the statement continued, "and they demonstrated that they didn't want my involvement in making ski films any longer." Miller also called some of WME's assertions "absurd" in his statement, and that he believes WME has no valid claim against Level 1.

So shameless plug for Ski Journal, Swift.Silent.Deep, and Warren Miller whose blog entries are awesome as evidenced by this quote:

If you are to believe Nobel Prize winner Al Gore, who also received an Academy Award for his documentary about global warming, everyone should immediately sell any ski or snowboard equipment they own and give up their futile search for powder.

To that scenario I say, “Forget it, Al!” All weather is unusual and the snow will show up and everyone will forget all of the doom and gloom of last winter...

After many years of traveling the world, everywhere I’ve filmed the weather was always unusual. Do I think the unusual weather conditions during the last decade are based solely on internal combustion engines?

A resounding, “No!”...

So get out in the garage and tune up whatever you will be riding on this winter, get your body in shape and try not to get freaked out by Nobel Prize-winner Al Gore. Even though he did invent e-mail and the science of global warming in the office of his air-conditioned, 22-room home, that is fortunately a very long way from any ski resort. Or, at least, it’s a short flight in his private jet.

Posted by Justin at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

January 05, 2010

RFID Used to Bust Season Pass Fraud

Interesting use of technology that not only makes things more efficient for skiers to get on the lifts, but ticket checkers to catch folks poaching off others' season passes:

VAIL — As skiers shuffle through lift lines at many Colorado resorts these days, all they need to do is point to the pocket holding their lift ticket or pass. New technology — radio-chipped "smart cards" — have done away with the antiquated hole punch and the visual scan.

But the seemingly invisible pass check has given rise to scofflaws who figure lack of eyeball scrutiny means it's easier to sneak onto the hill.

"Some people have the misperception that it's easier because the pass isn't visible," says Greg Morrison, assistant chief with the police at Breckenridge, where the radio-frequency passes debuted this season. "Actually, it's more efficient and it catches more violators."

"What was intended as a customer-service benefit actually had the increased effect of fraud monitoring," said spokesman Jeff Hanle, noting that Aspen Skiing upped the fee for returning a pass involved in fraudulent use to $500. "This year, we are seeing fewer people getting caught."

Resorts and law enforcement say it's hard to know whether the uptick in fraud cases is from more people trying to sneak onto the hill or from the new radio-frequency technology enabling ticket checkers to more easily spot scammers.

Even though skiers do not need to remove their pass from their pocket, ticket checkers can review a host of data from each pass they scan, including a large photograph of the skier.

Vail Resorts designed its own software for lift-ticket scanning, engineering a system that is both efficient — virtually eliminating lift lines — and hawk-like in its search for scofflaws. Scanners get a $50 to $75 bonus for each scam they disrupt.

"Sometimes, all we have to say is the person's name and if they don't turn around, we go deeper and ask more questions," says Eric Simon, head of product sales for Vail Resorts.

I like the idea of a bonus when you catch someone using someone else's season pass. Smart business sense because what average lift operator wants to be a prick about it unless they have some incentive to do so?

I am such a live and let live kind of guy. I would be worthless as a patroler or lift ticket checker person. Poach a closed run, I look the other way unless you are over your head or take crazy unnecessary risk and I have to save your ass. A little ticket fraud... meh...

Then again I would probably be a bad bartender or waiter for the same reasons.

Posted by Justin at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

December 08, 2009

Stimulus Money to Fight Snowboard and Ski Theft

Got the following SLC Tribune article forwarded by a reader this weekend:

Brian Head » The battle is on to prevent ski and snowboard thefts in Utah, and the new front is at Brian Head.

Police in this resort town are using federal stimulus money to buy a tracking device that will allow them to keep tabs on snowboard thieves. Chief Gary Bulloch also plans to borrow a van full of surveillance equipment to catch thieves on camera.

"You get young kids that have worked all summer to buy a new snowboard and they're taken out of the ski season," said Bulloch. "That Christmas morning gift, that is gone by the first of January."

Brian Head isn't the only resort town trying to clamp down. Sheriffs' offices in Salt Lake, Summit and Cache counties use sting operations to catch thieves. Last ski season, Park City police started a registry in which skiers and snowboarders can log the make, model and serial number of their ski gear.

The tactics highlight an overlooked security aspect of recreational skiing: How skis and snowboards, sometimes worth thousands of dollars, are left unprotected on racks outside lodges.

The outdoor industry manufactures locks to tether skis and snowboards to racks and railings, but the locks receive scant attention from consumers and retailers.

If you steal gear, you are the lowest form of life. Get a job. Work for it yourself.

This ain't ducking an occasional line to hit a closed run. This is someone's trip that you are taking away.

Posted by Justin at 02:06 PM

November 18, 2009

Advice on Avoiding Altitude Sickness

Good information for flatlanders:

Thickening blood and dyhydration can cause headaches. Worse, these conditions, plus the increased calorie burn at altitude, can help bring about altitude sickness.

The only cure for altitude sickness is to go a lower elevation. But prevention could help stave off this condition. Some tips and tricks I’ve learned:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your trip. Don’t wait till you get to the ski lift to pound down a bottle of water. Start pumping the water down a few days in advance and keep up your hydration pace throughout your stay. You should have water with you as you ski and ride, and drink often, even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s pretty much too late.
  • Eat well. Get in a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins. Bring snacks with you on the mountain and stop to munch every now and then. Keeping your energy level up will help fight the effects of altitude.
  • Pace yourself. Even if you’re in good shape, you’re not in mountain shape. Your first day on the hill should be measured. As your body acclimates, then you can push yourself more.
  • Speaking of acclimatizing… You need to give your body time, particularly if you’re flying in to your destination. Spend at least a day getting used to the altitude by taking it easy, going for brisk walks and just allowing your body to adjust.
  • Learn to love the baby aspirin. This is a standard part of my first-aid kit on the mountain for this reason: Aspirin helps thin the blood, allowing for a more free flow of your bloodstream. Start popping low-dose baby aspirins a day or two before your trip and in the mornings during your stay.

Erich got really sick at the top of Alberta Peak at Wolf Creek last season and it necessitated a trip back down the mountain and the end of an otherwise epic day. He tried to go back out, but it had taken its toll. I got quite a dose of it too, but got back down sooner and it didn't get as bad as his did. He was almost unable to ride back to the lodge. Headaches. Nausea. It was hardcore.

Prevention is a good thing because once it starts the day is done.

Posted by Justin at 10:33 PM

October 13, 2009

Ski Magazine 60 Days of Giveaways Contest

Ski and Skiing magazines have a new set of giveaways that are worth checking out:

Ski Magazine & Skiing Magazine are reaching out to the top ski & ride communities online to announce THE BIGGEST SKI GIVEAWAY EVER!! As part of this huge celebration, Ski & Skiing Magazines are bringing skiers and boarders 60 Days of AMAZING prizes including: • Squaw Valley vacation packages • Line Skis • Full Tilt Boots • Merrell Jackets • Spy Goggles • Snowbird Week ski vacation • Dakine Packs • AND SO MUCH MORE!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:
Everyday from October 1st - November 29th, 2009 visit http://skimag.com/60 and answer one (easy) trivia question to be entered for the daily prize – Great prizes from the top brands in the ski industry will be awarded.

Pretty good stuff for free. This is two freebie posts in a row. Check it out.

Posted by Justin at 11:53 AM

October 02, 2009

Skiing on a Budget

I am in the process of setting the annual ski budget and this brings up the annual posts regarding affordability of the sport and to a lesser extent, of the economy in general. First, let me tell you my "wish list" of things that I want to do this season:

  • Thanksgiving Trip to Wolf Creek
  • Christmas trip to Utah, probably mostly Brian Head with a side trip to Alta
  • MLK Day trip to either CO or UT
  • President's Day trip to Brian Head
  • Spring Break in Brian Head or Wolf Creek
  • Easter at Brian Head
  • 2-3 Day Trips to Sunrise and Snowbowl
  • Possible trip to Summit County for a couple days
  • Possible trip to Big Sky to see family that would include Jackson and some SLC skiing
  • Maybe another couple trips to Brian Head or Wolf Creek as time permits

Obviously, if money were no object and I had no job plus the kids could take off school, I would do all of this and more. As things are, I have to plan around school holidays and work schedules, plus a budget. Here is what I am doing to keep costs down and my recommendations for like-minded folks that want to get more bang for the buck.

First, pick a resort and buy a season pass. Here are the economics for most passes. The break even point on an adult pass is usually 7-10 skier days. There are couple things to consider about that. You want to make sure that you will get those days in ***at that resort***. A season pass alters behavior in that it reduces the cost at one resort and encourages you to go there instead of to alternative choices. It locks you in, so if you want to ski a bunch of different places, it may not be for you. But the flip side is that it effectively reduces the marginal cost of a skier day which may encourage you to go more often because all it costs you to go for that extra trip is gas and food.

Youth passes for tweens and teens are especially good deals. For instance, a 15 year old pays the full adult ticket rate of $45 or peak $52 at Brian Head. A K-12 pass for your high school or middle school student runs $219, meaning the break even point is 4.5 days.

Finally, on the pass front, Vail Resorts offers the Colorado Pass and better yet the Epic Pass that provide unlimited skiing at all VRI resorts for $599 adult. Break even point is an unheard of 6 days. Plus you get access to half a dozen premier resorts.

Next up, is gear. If you shop any other time than April, you are getting burned. Well, maybe February to April because in February they start discounting and you get the best selection, but in April a lot of stuff is gone but you get the best prices. That is the time to start looking for your gear.

Rough estimates on gear are as follows:

$400 Skis
$300 Boots
$200 Bindings
$150 Helmet and Poles
--------
$1050 Total investment

Make the assumption that you are getting Demo quality gear and buy brand new. You can eBay things and cut this number down closer to $750, so we will use a mid-range number of $800. Most places a good Demo set runs $40. That puts the break even point for good gear at 20 days.

Now, you start looking at your investment and how to maximize the useful life of gear. I am a huge believer that the single most important piece of gear is a good fitting pair of boots. If you own your own boots, you can get a custom bootfitter to do formed footbeds and to even mold the plastic exterior to fit your foot. I bought a $600 pair of Nordica Beasts for $289 from REI on clearance five years ago and paid another $150 for bootfitting. So my investment was a little high at let's say $500 counting shipping and tax. I have roughly 60-75 days on my boots and they are still like brand new. I take great care of them though and that makes a huge difference. I have another set of boots that I bought in 2003 that my dad uses that have over 100 days on them. They were $200 brand new and are getting worn, but that is $2 per skier day.

Skis are a different story. Edges get banged up, bindings break, new shapes and styles come out. I have kept my powder skis since 2005 but they are 2004 models with four going on five seasons on them. I have probably 30-40 days on them, but including bindings, I paid $400 off of eBay. I bought another set of skis two years ago at a clearance sale at Sport Chalet and stripped the bindings off of my 2003 skis adding a new set of skis for $200. I got them 50% off of a half price sale in March. Bindings will last you until they are no long indemnified if you take care of them and that runs around 10 years.

Kids skis are the same way, but the price of a boots are usually around $100 and skis and bindings another $250. You get far fewer days on them so it often makes sense to do a season rental for $100 that most shops do before the season starts.

So back to my plans--

My budget is as follows:

$500 Lodging for 5 days at Wolf Creek
$1000 for Lift Tickets and food at Wolf Creek
$1200 for Season Pass at Brian Head
$2000 per day for Jake, Jackson, Jarrett and me per additional skier day not at Brian Head $250 x 8 days
$2000 for Gas $200 per trip x 10 total trips
$1000 for annual gear replacement / new gear
----------
$8000 total ski budget

Not counting the condo expenses for the year. And not counting all the incidentals like food, snacks, etc.

Now we start cutting the wish list down and Wolf Creek is a $2000 trip. I really want to take a nice trip somewhere this season with Jackson as he has only skied at Brian Head and Sunrise.

Like I said, the economics of this are pretty rough in a recession, but I love the sport and have two kids plus Jacko so it is the price you pay. This puts us on pace to hit 20-25 days. That is a good target.

Posted by Justin at 12:31 PM

September 06, 2009

Start of Fall

Labor Day marks the official countdown to ski season. It will be less than two months an A-Basin and Loveland will be opening. Then Wolf Creek and over the next few weeks, most of the Rocky Mountains.

It is an El Nino which means that my preseason hopes for epic snows in the Southwestern Rockies are riding high. Brian Head, Wolf Creek, Sunrise, and the locals ***might*** be in store for great snow years if the weather gods cooperate.

I have to go through the gear and start getting the skis tuned pretty quick. In Vegas, Sports Chalet is having a huge sale this weekend, but the local stores don't get the ski gear out for another month.

Posted by Justin at 06:56 PM

July 16, 2009

Trip Planning for 2009-2010 Ski Season

I just confirmed my reservations for Pagosa Springs for Nov 23-28 and for Eagle for Dec 19-27. I am buying an Epic Pass for me, Jake and Jarrett and will use the half price tix for Jackson at Beaver Creek, Vail, Keystone, Breck, and A-Basin. Here is the plan--ski those five VRI resorts plus Durango and Wolf Creek before January 1, 2010.

Jackson has only skied Sunrise, AZ, and Brian Head, UT, so this will be an awesome trip for him. Jarrett has only skied Brian Head.

I am looking forward to hiking Alberta Peak and the back bowls at Vail most of all.

Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Posted by Justin at 03:13 PM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2009

National Skier Visits Down 5%

Skier visits numbers came out and were not as bad as one might have expected:

PORTLAND, Maine - The economy may have fallen off a cliff last year, but the ski industry's drop was a lot more gentle.

Preliminary figures show there were 57.1 million visits to ski slopes across the country during the past winter, a 5.5 percent decline from the record 60.5 million visits the year before.

It could've been worse without favorable weather in most parts of the country that helped offset the slumping economy, the National Ski Areas Association said Friday.

The figures were released as ski executives attended the association's annual convention and trade show in Florida, where spokesman Troy Hawks said many ski managers felt they had dodged a bullet.

"The positive thing is that it was a fairly strong snow year," Hawks said. "Many of the resorts said they would probably rather have a bad economy and a good snow year, versus a good economy and a bad snow year."

The industry makes its money off of all of the ancillary items like lodging, food, entertainment, etc. It isn't just skier visits that matter, but apparel sales and so forth, but given how bad unemployment is and a host of other factors, just being down 5% isn't too bad.

Posted by Justin at 11:51 PM

April 23, 2009

Whistler Feels Decline

Some Resorts are not so lucky:

Whistler – The latest round of cutbacks at Whistler Blackcomb (WB) is hitting year-round, salaried employees this time, with the announcement that wages will be rolled back to last year’s levels and incentives will not be paid.

In response to questions about reports of significant losses at WB this winter, President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Brownlie wouldn’t release any dollar figures but said skier visits are down 15 to 16 per cent so far for the 2008-’09 season compared to last winter.

Meanwhile, Tourism Whistler statistics are showing an approximate decline in hotel room nights of 11 per cent through February — somewhat welcome news after early-season projections indicated a potential drop of up to 20 per cent.

“We don’t talk about our numbers externally but certainly we’re sharing with staff the challenges,” Brownlie said Tuesday (April 14). “It has not been a good year for Whistler Blackcomb or, quite frankly, Intrawest (WB’s parent company).”...

He said WB officials have worked to reduce operating costs at two other points in the season — in November and again in February, when a chunk of seasonal ski and snowboard school instructors were laid off.

This is more in line with what I expected for Vail.

Posted by Justin at 02:00 PM

April 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Season from the Examiner

Some thoughts:

Skiing is an expensive sport. Let’s look at the numbers - $90/day lift tickets or a $400 season pass; $30/day ski rentals or buy your own for $600 (don’t forget another $400 for boots); $500 snow apparel; $20 parking for the day - and that’s if you live within driving distance of a ski area.

As the economy tanks how can people still afford it?

Apparently people are wondering the same thing themselves. Skier visits and overnight lodging occupancies (along with room rates) have dropped significantly in Colorado. Though the season is not quite over and totals are not yet available, the Mountain Travel Research Program estimates at least a 5 percent drop in skier visits from last year. Worse, occupancy for the 2008-09 season is down 16.3 percent, even though accommodations have slashed rates by nearly 9 percent. Ouch.

However this slide in skier visits seems to be limited to the western slopes. Ironically the ski industry on the east coast appears to be profiting from the slumping economy. Although international and destination markets suffer, smaller resorts benefit because they are more affordable and often closer to home. High travel expenses and increasingly inconvenient airline situations deter skiers from visiting Colorado, but nothing will stop them from skiing. Nevertheless skiers everywhere are conserving where they can. More than ever, people are ‘brown-bagging it’ in order to spend less while on the slopes. PB& J sandwiches and cans of PBR beat $12 burgers and $10 après-ski drinks.

Places like Brian Head and the local resorts should fare better than the major destination resorts for visits. Occupancy is down. Condo sales at Brian Head are nonexistent. Nothing is moving at all. I am sure that more people are brownbagging things.

Good article.

Posted by Justin at 10:31 AM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2009

Vail Resorts CEO on the Latest Ski Season

From the Denver Post:

KEYSTONE — Though the snow was good this season, the top executive at Vail Resorts Inc. had another way to describe the season when it comes to business: "awful."

Skier visits, overnight lodging occupancy and room rates have slid this year, prompting the industry to turn its thoughts to the future, seeking ways to regroup and win back travelers when the economy improves.

"I'm optimistic the season is almost over," Vail chief executive Rob Katz told ski-industry leaders Wednesday. "It's a joke on one level, but there is a truth to it."

He said the industry must reorganize, innovate and give guests more value.

"We are pointed in the right direction, but we can't rely on the success we had over the last five years," he said.

More than 900 ski-industry leaders are gathered in Keystone this week for the 2009 Mountain Travel Symposium.

Skier visits nationally are expected to be down for the 2008-09 season. Early estimates by Mountain Travel Research Program director Ralf Garrison are for between 54 million and 57 million skier visits, at least a 5 percent drop from the 2007-08 season record of 60.5 million.

Statewide estimates aren't yet available.

Garrison, Katz and Mike Shannon, founder of KSL Capital Partners, which owns the Vail Mountain Lodge and other resort properties, addressed a crowded room to discuss the state of destination mountain travel for next season.

"It's important for us not to be so narcissistic and think this is all about us," Katz told the attendees from ski resorts around the world. "This is one of those moments when we are caught up in a much bigger thing."

The latest report released by Garrison's MTRP showed the national average daily lodging rate was down 8.6 percent in February compared with the same period last year. And the total occupancy for the 2008-09 season is expected to be down 16.3 percent.

All things considered, drops of 5-10% are not catastrophic. Not good, but given how much unemployment has shot up, what has happened to home values, and the disaster of a stock market (that surprisingly has rebounded some), skiing is fairing better than I thought.

I was at Alta and heard a couple employees throwing the figure 10-12% around which sounds about right.

Posted by Justin at 07:36 PM

March 18, 2009

Tragic Skiing Accident in Canada

Horrible skiing accident puts the wife of Liam Nelson in a coma and the prospects do not look good:

Natasha Richardson is reportedly brain dead.

The 45-year-old actress - the wife of Liam Neeson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and sister of Joely Richardson - was rushed to hospital after sustaining a serious head injury while skiing in Canada on Monday and has since been flown to New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.

A source close to the family said: "It's so sad. Vanessa, her sister Lynn, everybody is gathering in New York to say goodbye. No one can believe what has happened, that this once vibrant woman, full of love, of life, is lying there brain dead."

Liam - who has two children with Natasha, 13-year-old Micheal and 12-year-old Daniel - rushed to be by his wife's side from Toronto when he learnt of her accident.

Natasha was taking a private ski lesson on the beginners' run at Mont Tremblant, Canada, but fell down when she reached the bottom of the run.

The actress was not wearing a helmet, but immediately stood up and insisted she was fine.

A Mont Tremblant spokeswoman said: "She was laughing and joking and she walked to her room on her own."

Natasha began complaining of a headache an hour later and was taken to hospital. She was later transferred to the intensive care unit.

WEAR A HELMET. This is so horrible. That is all I can think is how glad I am that I always have a helmet on. My Giro Encore is awesome. Just upgraded this season.

Posted by Justin at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2009

Ski Utah Deals (h/t First Tracks Online)

From First Tracks Online:

THE ALTA LODGE

Kids ages 18 and under stay free April 12-19, 2009 at the Alta Lodge. With a reservation for a minimum of four nights, two kids stay in their parents' room at no additional charge. Full breakfast and four-course dinner are also included daily at no charge. With two kids, this is a savings of over $200 per night. In addition to this value for families, Alta Lodge offers a free supervised Kids' Program with activities after skiing, a special kids' dinner, after dinner activities and shuttle service to and from the Alta Ski Area Children's Ski School, which also has a full-time day care service for non-skiing children. For more information, visit www.altalodge.com, or call (800) 707-2582 for reservations.

BRIGHTON SKI RESORT

Brighton has a new deal with Maverik convenience stores. Pick up a Maverik Adventure Card, bring it to the Brighton ticket window any Thursday and receive a half price Twilight ticket (12:30 p.m.-9 p.m.). That's eight hours of skiing for just $29. Limit one Maverik card per ticket. Valid for Twilight tickets only. Brighton is open for night skiing mid December through the end of March. Call (801) 532-4731 for details.

THE CANYONS RESORT SECOND ANNUAL SPRING GRUV

Join The Canyons for a week of events, concerts, and contests. Spring Grüv kicks-off March 28 with the entertaining Pond Skimming event. Contestants in elaborate costumes attempt to ski or snowboard across a 100-foot pond much to the enjoyment of spectators.

In addition, The Canyons will host the Canis Lupus Challenge a 1/2 mile-long gulley that serves up banked walls and whoop-de-doos which often throw racers out of the track. Contestants tackle the difficult course for the best time in their division.

On April Fool's Day visitors are invited to don their best '80s apparel and enjoy a host of free outdoor concerts. Spring Grüv will run from March 27 to April 5, 2009. Check out www.springgruv.com for more details.

DEER VALLEY RESORT

Stay two nights (or more) at the Goldener Hirsch Inn and receive two single day lift passes to Deer Valley Resort per person. Daily European breakfast buffet included. Valid March 29 to April 12, 2009. Two person minimum charge per room required. Prices range from $209 per person for a Lobby Bedroom to $363 per person for a Grand Suite. For more information visit www.goldenerhirschinn.com.

Stay three nights at the Stein Eriksen Lodge and enjoy the fourth night free. The special offer is valid when you stay at Stein's beginning February 22, 2009 and check-out by Friday, March 6, 2009. Rate includes full buffet breakfast and a coupon for 20 percent off any treatment at The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge. A limited number of rooms are available on this special promotion, especially over weekends. Prices do not include taxes or service charges. May not be combined with any other offer or applied to existing reservations. Not offered to groups of 10 or more rooms. Other restrictions may apply.

Or cut through freshly fallen powder or bask in the warm spring sun while enjoying significant savings with Stein Eriksen's Bronze Ski Package that includes deluxe room accommodations, daily buffet breakfast, taxes and one adult lift ticket per person to Deer Valley Resort. Additional nights may be purchased and a two-night minimum stay is required. The package is valid from March 29 through April 11, 2009 for $276 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. A two-night minimum stay is required and lift tickets are non-refundable. This package is subject to availability and prices are per person, per night, based on double occupancy, and include all applicable taxes.

To book reservations online visit www.steinlodge.com or call (800) 453-1302.

PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT

For a limited time, selected lodging properties can be booked with a free night. "Third night free" is applicable through Feb. 28 and Mar. 22 - April 12, 2009. Fourth night free is applicable Mar. 1-21, 2009. Discounted lift tickets, ski rentals, airport transportation and even airfare available. Call (800) 331-3178 for more information.

SNOWBIRD SKI & SUMMER RESORT

Ski Free at Snowbird this spring from $135 per day, based on double occupancy. This includes two free lift tickets with lodging purchase. In addition to fabulous spring conditions, Snowbird will also host a series of entertaining events including the U.S. Freeskiing Nationals (big mountain skiing competition), March 11-14, and the North American Gelande Championships, April 17-19. For more information visit www.snowbird.com.

SOLITUDE MOUNTAIN RESORT

Book three nights in a Solitude condo and get the fourth night free. The deal gets even sweeter with 15 percent off of a massage treatment at the Spa at Solitude and 20 percent off adult lift passes. Available March 1- April 12. All promotions subject to availability, some restrictions may apply. This promotion is only valid on new bookings.

With the Spring Skiing Bed & Breakfast Special, enjoy three nights at the Inn at Solitude and two days on the mountain, plus a hearty breakfast at St. Bernard's before heading out on the hill. The Inn offers ski-in/ski-out convenience, plus all the amenities of the Solitude Village, starting at $287 per night double occupancy, with a three night minimum stay. Valid April 1-12, 2009. Based on availability and double occupancy. Some restrictions may apply. This price is for a Village View Room, and upgrades are available. For more information visit www.skisolitude.com.

THE UTAH OLYMPIC PARK

Purchase any Utah Olympic Park Winter Activity Package, Xtreme zipline ride or Olympic Tour, and receive a $50 discount off a same day Comet Bobsled ride where you'll race at speeds up to 80 miles per hour on the Comet Winter Bobsled. Passengers will experience five G's of force and the equivalent of a 40-story drop in just under a minute in a real bobsled. Experienced pilots take three passengers on a thrilling ride down the entire length of the 2002 Olympic bobsled track. Ages 16 and older, no exceptions. All riders should be in good health to ride. Advance reservations for the Comet are required. Visit www.olyparks.com or call (435) 658-4200 for more information.

Posted by Justin at 03:14 PM | Comments (3)

January 29, 2009

Ski Industry Retail Sales Down - But Not as Bad as It Could Be (h/t FTO)

From First Tracks Online:

"According to the (U.S.) Census Bureau the rest of retail trade is down 11%, so considering that, the snow sports market is weathering this economic downturn fairly well," said Kelly Davis, SnowSports Industries America's (SIA) Director of Research.

Overall, the snow sports market declined 1.5% in total dollars compared to August through December 2007 to $1.875 billion. Hardest hit was the alpine equipment category where current model ski sales were down 17% over last season. One bright spot in the alpine equipment category was the continuation of strong sales of twin tip and fat skis (80-95mm waist width). The snowboard category declined 5% in boards, boots and bindings. Overall apparel was down 3% but snowboard apparel, shell parkas and fleece sales remained strong and another surprising increase of more than 20% in adult one-piece suits shored up the market. Accessories continued to sell well and sales were up 4%, particularly hats, gloves, and wax that many skiers and riders purchased at resort shops.

The equipment category declined 4% in dollars overall with the deepest loss in alpine ski and equipment sold in chain stores. Alpine ski sales, particularly current year models, declined 17% over last season even while twin tips and fat skis were selling well. The biggest loser in the alpine ski category was the mid-fat ski (70-79mm waist width) category; flat mid-fat skis were down 45% and mid-fat systems were down 14%.

Alpine ski boots and bindings sales were about even with last season sales and current year models are selling well. Snowboards, snowboard boots, and snowboard bindings sales declined 5% season over season but reverse camber boards continue to sell extremely well. Nordic equipment sales declined 2% in dollars and 7% in units even though Alpine Touring equipment sales soured 23% to $4.6 million.

Apparel sales accounted for more than 40% of all dollars spent overall in the snow sports market. Fleece continues to be the big seller in the apparel market with $170 million in sales, which was flat compared with August to December sales last season. Adult shell parkas sales increased 5% season and snowboard apparel continued to sell well but increased just 1% compared to last season.

The hottest apparel trend is the surprisingly strong sales of apparel suits, for both adults and kids. More than 70,000 adult suits have been sold so far this season for a 20% increase in dollars sold, and sales of juniors suits are up 21% in dollars sold. Overall, expect to see about 125,000 new one-piece suits on the slopes.

The return of the One Piece Snow Suit. =)

On the plus side, the market is not completely tanking. It is down but not out. Let's hope that the economy picks up steam sometime soon.

Interesting the trend on fat skis versus mid fat and on twin tip versus non twin tip. That the straight midfat appears to be dying.

Posted by Justin at 05:07 PM | Comments (2)

Mammoth Cuts 101 Jobs

From the LA Times:


Sad but not unexpected news for employees at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area: job cuts.

CEO Rusty Gregory, in an interview with KSRW radio, or Sierra Wave, confirmed that 101 employees have been fired and other cost-cutting measures were enacted to make up for a sharp drop in skier-visits.

Revenue at the Eastern Sierra resort, which offers some of the world's finest skiing and snowboarding, is down 21% from preseason projections. And the projected number of skier visits for this season has been reduced from 1.4 million to 1.1 million.

Gregory said 10 senior managers received 5% pay cuts. Vacation time has been shortened and gas allowances have been eliminated. Gregory, however, assured that none of the cuts will jeopardize the safety of visitors.

Meanwhile, snow conditions remain outstanding and lift lines are ridiculously short. I won't say that's a good thing, because it isn't.

On a related note: Nearby June Mountain, which is under the same ownership, probably will remain open at least through February, thanks to advance bookings.

Not good news for So Cal skiers. But it turns out that not a lot of them are traveling to Mammoth anyway so they may not notice.

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

January 20, 2009

Sunny Skies Out West Keep Skiers Home

Not the kind of news California and western resorts want:

Fresno, CA, USA (KFSN) -- A warmer than normal holiday weekend resulted in fewer skiers in the mountains, and some tourists at Shaver Lake were surprised to see less snow than they expected this weekend. Still, very few people are complaining.

There may have been enough snow for these kids to sled down a hill; but Sylvia Murrieta was expecting a winter wonderland when she and her family travelled to Shaver Lake. "When we turned the corner, we thought, 'we're not going to find any snow.' It's all hard. Everywhere it's hard, you can't find any fluffy stuff anywhere," said Murrieta.

The lack of fresh snow led to fewer skiers at Sierra Summit. "I think the perception is, 'it hasn't snowed in the mountains, you can't be skiing.' People are just waiting for more snow," said Boomer Devaurs.

Sierra Summit operators say they make new snow every night and they're constantly grooming the runs. They say despite the lack of real snow, there is still no reason to stay away. "If they're staying home, they're missing out on some good skiing," said Devaurs.

Posted by Justin at 10:04 AM

Protest Video to Get Out There - Kinda Cool (h/t Olof)

Posted by Justin at 10:01 AM

January 15, 2009

Skiers Get Lost Near Powder Moutain, UT - Spend Cold Night

From the SLC Tribune:

A husband and wife spent a night huddled against a rock after skiing outside the boundaries of Powder Mountain resort in Eden, the resort's snow safety director said.

Following some tracks, the pair skied out of the eastern side of the resort, at about 2 p.m. Monday, said Powder Mountain snow safety director Roger Arave.

They continued down a canyon in the La Plata area, ending up about three to five miles outside the resort boundaries. Though they passed boundary several signs, foggy conditions made visibility poor, Arave said.

The pair decided to find a protected place to spend the night, Arave said.

The next day, they futilely tried to reach the resort again on their own until about 3 p.m., when they were found by a group of snowmobilers from the nearby Monte Cristo recreation area.

Though they were without matches or a cell phone, the pair made it through the experience unscathed, Arave said.

"They seemed to be in pretty good shape for the ordeal they had been through," he said.

Glad they made it out OK.

Posted by Justin at 01:14 PM

January 08, 2009

Not All Bad News - Economy Not Hurting Skier Visits As Much As Thought

First Tracks brings more economic info about the industry:

Reports recently released from U.S. ski areas confirm what a previous study indicated: that skiers and snowboarders continue to hit the slopes in strong numbers despite current economic conditions, as long as conditions remain snowy. According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), a random survey of several dozen ski areas nationwide revealed that skiers and riders showed up in numbers similar to last season's holiday period, and in some cases, in record numbers. Some resorts are reporting visits up 40 percent over last year's Christmas holiday period. ..

Visits also appear to be strong in the West, with Colorado's Arapahoe Basin, Powderhorn and Winter Park all reporting record-setting days. Vail Resorts, owner of Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail Mountain, and California's Heavenly Resort, said it planned to release visitation numbers later in the week. In Utah, Park City reports visits tracked on pace with last year, thanks in part to its accessibility to an international airport. In California, Mountain High, just outside of L.A., reports visits up more than 40 percent over last year. Meanwhile Mammoth Mountain reports that while it went into the holiday period behind last year's figures, it finished December up one percent over the previous season.

This fall reported season pass sales across the nation were at record levels, while advance hotel bookings were reportedly soft for some destination resorts. But where there was early snow, resorts are reporting that skiers are coming out at, or in higher numbers than last year and above the 10 year average thus far.

An October survey of a national sampling of skiers and snowboarders showed that the total number of days they intended to hits the slopes tracked on pace with last year across every region of the country. More than half of surveyed consumers said they will seek out destinations closer to home. About 50 percent also indicated they will seek out more affordable lodging options and reduce the amount they spend on food and beverage during their trips. Many skiers and riders indicate they may shave off a day or two from their longest overnight skiing/snowboarding trip.

Pray for Snow. That is all I can say. And pray that people continue to visit resorts, just cut back slightly on their food and drink spending, go closer to home, take shorter trips, and spend less on lodging. These are good things anyway as they tend to bring down prices. Resorts will lower their prices to be more competitive and this is good for everyone. Hotels lower prices to compete with bargain down mountain places.

But predictions for things being completely dire seem to be exagerated. This is very good news.

Posted by Justin at 12:20 PM | Comments (2)

Bargain Hunters, Juniors, Apparel Keep Industry Afloat

From First Tracks Online:

While the overall retail market struggled to make it into the black after Thanksgiving, the ski and snowboard retail market remained healthy with 3% growth according to SnowSports Industries America's (SIA) own research. August to November snow sports sales surpassed $917 million as the overall retail market faltered in the recession's nadir. SIA further reports that carryover and juniors' equipment sales continued to lead the snow sports hard goods market, while sales of this season's alpine ski and snowboard equipment sagged. Cross country ski equipment is a bright spot in the hard goods category with 14% growth season over season...

Sales of carryover gear continued to account for a significant portion of equipment sales in November. Carryover accounted for 30% of skis, 23% of snowboards, 21% of ski boots, and 23% of snowboard boots sold August to November 2008. Compare that to last season's August to November results when carryover sales accounted for just 20% of skis and 21% of snowboards sold and millions fewer dollars spent.

However, sales of current year model alpine ski equipment sagged heavily with most ski categories down significantly. In fact, excluding carryover sales, current model alpine ski sales are down about 16%. Ski prices are up across the board but dollar sales of skis (including carryover) are down almost 7% despite the increase...

Parents didn't slow their spending on equipment and apparel for the kids in November. Overall, junior's equipment sales increased 12%; junior ski sales were up 21% in dollars, junior snowboard sales increased 1% in dollars. Parents were not skimping on apparel for their kids either, junior apparel sales increased 7% and a surprise in the numbers was sales of junior snow suits that increased more than 40% in units and in dollars...

Chain stores' equipment sales continue to sink with total decreases of 21% in dollars and 19% in units. Alpine ski sales are down 24% and snowboard equipment sales decreased 22%. Chain stores equipment sales accounted for just 11% of all equipment sales in the U.S. snow sports marketplace from August to November. Apparel sales made up half of all chain store snow sports sales August through November 2008.

Sports Authority by my house has already taken down their entire ski section and moved in Watersports equipment. They did this mid-December.

Junior ski sales up 21%, snowboard sales up 1%. Interesting. Worth noting.

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

Warren Miller on the Yellowstone Club

New West brings this article from Warren Miller on the Yellowstone Club - the haven for the uberrich in Montana near Big Sky:

Lately I have read numerous newspaper articles about, “the haven for the rich and famous at the Yellowstone Club in Montana. Its’ gated community guards the super rich from being bothered by less fortunate people.” I signed on as the director of skiing at the club two years before the first lift was installed because its 14,000 acres of private property would continue to provide a wilderness experience for my children and my grandchildren. I bet my over-half-a-century reputation as an extreme sports movie producer that my own vision of the Yellowstone Club would someday become a reality. It has done that and then some...

Almost every member of The Yellowstone Club is a self made, very successful person and can’t avoid being Economically Stratified. Can they pay more for a cup of Starbucks coffee than you can? Do they still drive all night to go skiing close to where they live when they don’t have time for their Montana vacation? Yes, and they do that on a lot of weekends.

What would happen if one of the wealthiest people in the world showed up at Vail or Aspen with his wife and children? They would be mobbed by people wherever they went! The privacy that every member of the Yellowstone Club has earned by their hard work is highly treasured by them.

I have less of a problem with the Yellowstone Club that sits on private property, not leased USFS Land, than the Vails and the Aspens of the world that are public resorts and charge rates that the public cannot afford.

If the rich want to isolate themselves in their own castles to keep the riff raff from bothering them, who am I to object, so long as they do not use public land and public financing to do so. I like the concept of private, exclusive resorts, golf courses, etc. If you can afford it, buy it. Just don't use shady means like BLM land swaps to do it. There is plenty of that sort of stuff going on and I am left to believe the Yellowstone Club was on the up and up, just like Beaver's Elk Meadows proposed resort is.

I have written a lot about the increasing price of skiing and the negative effect it has on the sport. On gentrification of ski towns. On escalating commutes for ski workers. On low wages. On all of the visa'ed workers because your average US worker won't take the low wages.

I don't dislike resorts or the rich by any stretch. I just think that many of the macroeconomic decisions by the resort industry as a whole are hurting families and making skiing such an exclusive sport that you have to make $150k a year to do it. Yellowstone Club ups the ante on exclusive from $150k a year to owning at least a multimillion dollar home. You have to be worth $10M or more.

I agree with Warren Miller in defending the hard working folks that have earned their wealth and defending their right to own property wherever they see fit, be it on a golf course, next to the ocean, or at a ski resort in Montana. It is quite dissimilar from thousands of moderately rich folks take over a town, force out the locals with high real estate prices, and swamp a public resort with escalating traffic and high prices. But that is the industry model.

Posted by Justin at 11:51 AM

Chairlift Catches Pants, Hillarity Ensues

A little humor for you from Vail:

Wardrobe malfunctions don't just happen to celebrities. A 48-year-old skier was left hanging upside down, half naked on a chair lift at the Blue Sky Basin at the Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado. His pants and underwear were apparently caught in the ski lift, leaving him bare bottomed and exposed.

Fortunately, the man, who has not yet been named, was not hurt.

How Did It Happen? Vail Snow Job?

The Vail skier, being called the naked skier by online searchers was hanging upside down for approximately seven minutes, a Vail spokeswoman Liz Biebl said. (Associated Press) The Smoking Gun reports it was 15 minutes. He had fallen through a raised chair lift and his his pants got caught on the chair when he fell, according to FOX.

Specifics about how the man could have ended up hanging from the chair were not released by the Blue Sky Basin in Vail, Colorado. More details about how the Vail skier started his New Year as the naked skier, were reported by The Smoking Gun and the Vail Daily.

The chair was not lowered as it should have been and the Vail skier fell through the gap. A child who was with the man is shown seated in the chair lift, as the man dangles beneath the chair lift, suspended in place by his right ski.

Photo Fall Out

The photo of the so-called naked skier, who was really only half-naked, resulted in a suspended job for the photographer, Marty Odom. Odom was not working in a professional capacity when he shot the photos, although he is a professional photographer.

He was at the Blue Ski Basin in Vail, Colorado skiing and he took the now famous photos of the naked Vail skier with his own camera. His images of the upside down skier were published in the Vail Daily, and Odom's employer, SharpShooters claim the suspension is due to the non-compete clause he signed.

Odom was doing what any other trained photographer would do, get the shot. The man was being helped, although not yet down from the chair lift when the photos were shot. History and pop culture are filled with priceless photos taken by photographers in the right place at the right time.

Posted by Justin at 10:48 AM

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)

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)

November 21, 2008

Ski Deals Abound

MSNBC has the lowdown on some good deals:

Those who shop early and aggressively stand to save considerably. Vail Resorts, a company with five luxury properties in top California and Colorado skiing destinations, is offering two money-saving promotions for travelers who book early. The "baggage bailout" deal gives guests a $50 credit when they stay four nights or more and book by Dec. 1.

Avid skiers can also purchase the Epic season pass for $579 until Nov. 15. The pass, which is good for unlimited and unrestricted skiing at Vail Resorts, is a huge savings over a typical $644 seven-day lift ticket.

Under $600 for a season pass at Vail. That is a sick deal

An analysis in a recent issue of the National Ski Areas Association Journal found that strong snowfall often trumps lagging consumer confidence and economic factors. During the 1981-82 season, when the country was experiencing a deep recession, robust snowfall helped the industry rebound to 50.7 million visits from the previous season's dismal number of 39.7 million visits. On the other hand, the industry suffered its second-worst season on record in 1990 when a recession and limited snowfall kept skiers away from the slopes.

"Good snow has the ability to trump all other realities," says Michael Berry, president of the NSAA, a trade organization based in Lakewood, Colo. Berry hopes that early snow will launch the season but doesn't expect business to surpass last season's banner year, during which there were 60.5 million visits to ski areas. As resorts try to drive visits with discounts, Berry says consumers should take advantage earlier rather than later.

Pray for snow.

Posted by Justin at 10:49 PM | Comments (4)

November 08, 2008

Politics and Utah Ski Industry

You have got to be kidding me:

SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay-rights activists and others seeking to punish the Mormon Church for its aggressive promotion of California's ban on gay marriage.

It could be a heavy price to pay. Tourism brings in $6 billion a year to Utah, with world-class skiing, a spectacular red rock country and the film festival founded by Robert Redford, among other popular tourist draws.

"At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one," said gay rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.

"They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards," he said. "You don't do that and get away with it."

Salt Lake City is the world headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts about 62 percent of Utah residents as members.

The church encouraged its members to work to pass California's Proposition 8 by volunteering their time and money for the campaign. Thousands of Mormons worked as grassroots volunteers and gave tens of millions of dollars to the campaign.

The ballot measure passed Tuesday. It amends the California Constitution to define marriage as a heterosexual act, overriding a state Supreme Court ruling that briefly gave same-sex couples the right to wed.

The backlash against the church - and by extension Utah - has been immediate. Protests erupted outside Mormon temples, Facebook groups formed telling people to boycott Utah, and Web sites such as mormonsstoleourrights.com began popping up, calling for an end to the church's tax-exempt status.

He is calling for skiers to choose any state but Utah and for Hollywood actors and directors to pull out of the Sundance Film Festival. Other bloggers and readers have responded to his call.

"There's a movement afoot and large donors are involved who are very interested in organizing a campaign, because I do not believe in frivolous boycotts," said Aravosis, who has helped organize boycotts against "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger's television show, Microsoft and Ford over gay rights issues.

"The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand," he said. "At this point, honestly, we're going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state."

Seriously? This is supposed to intimidate Mormons HOW? A cursory understanding of the history of the Mormon Church would enlighten him that Mormons tend to be less than threatened by what happens outside of Utah. The boycott might affect some tourist businesses, but the Utah Ski Industry and the Sundance Film Festival are not run by the Mormon Church. So to get back at Mormons, attack Utah. To get back at Mormons, attack the Utah Ski Industry.

Dude, if you want to go after the Mormons, you gotta bring more than just a bunch of pissed of homosexuals to that kind of party. You gotta start by martyring someone. Mormons have been through more than just a boycott or two. I have family members from generations back that pushed handcarts to Salt Lake to flee religious persecution. And to have a bunch of California gays talking about hate and a hate STATE... that my friends would be Missouri. That is a hate state. Tell the gays to leave California for Massachusetts by handcart and when they get there, to talk about hate states.

Please take your dollars and stay away.

Posted by Justin at 04:40 PM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2008

Affordable Skiing Article from Europe

Great Article from a new site in the UK--talkskiing:

The advice here is fairly obvious: choose a less well-known resort or one which has a reputation for being inexpensive. In other words, do not give in to the temptation of booking the penthouse suite at The Lodge in Vail, Colorado. Doing so would set you back over $6,000 per night and whilst the accommodation is truly magnificent, you can probably do without a massage centre and swish piano bar for a couple of weeks.

Quiet, inexpensive resorts which nevertheless offer world-class skiing include Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria. This resort is a less obvious choice than Les Arcs in France for example. If you choose to stay in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, you will be able to ski on over 120 miles of well-maintained slopes. The cheapest time of year to visit the resort is at the beginning of the season, although there are usually some good deals to be found towards the end of the season as well. As a general rule, avoid booking a skiing holiday over Christmas and New Year as this is one of the most expensive periods of the ski season. Similarly, the school holidays at Easter and February half-term should be avoided. If you are able to leave booking until the last minute you may be able to pick up a bargain, particularly before Christmas or in January, after the schools go back.

You should also try researching the ski resorts of Eastern European countries, such as Slovenia and Bulgaria. These resorts often provide great value for money as well as fantastic skiing conditions. If you don't fancy Eastern Europe then why not try Andorra? Although it is a country that you may not associate with a winter break it is a great, and, best of all, very cheap, destination for a skiing holiday. The resorts are much quieter than in other European resorts and you will find unavoidable extras, such as lift passes, surprisingly reasonable. At the time of writing, there was a lovely chalet suitable for up to five people on offer for under £350 per week, available in the beautiful village of Encamp, Andorra.

Lots more, but a quick rundown on European resorts is never a bad thing. Most of the article is directly applicable to the States.

Enjoy.

Posted by Justin at 11:50 AM | Comments (1)

Orbitz Top 10 Ski Resorts

Orbitz published their list of the top 10 ski resorts but it appears that they just published destination resorts as opposed to some of the real gems that lack some of the night life. Here is their list:

  • 1) Lake Tahoe
  • 2) Breckenridge, Colorado
  • 3) Park City, Utah
  • 4) Vail, Colorado
  • 5) Aspen, Colorado
  • 6) Keystone, Colorado
  • 6) Winter Park, Colorado
  • 8) Whistler, British Columbia
  • 9) Banff, Canada
  • 10) Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

I would have added Alta-Snowbird to the list, not just for those two resorts, but for both little and big Cottonwood Canyons sporting 4 resorts within 20 minutes of each other. The skiing is better on the West side of the Wasatch because of the amount of snowfall from Lake Effect.

I also would have added Big Sky, Montana and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Both offer massive mountains and Jackson just replaced their tram.

From what I understand, Mammoth is a heck of a place to ski. with both size and ample snow. But it is tough to make a top 10 list because you leave something off every time. Of my favorite places to ski, Alta is top of the list.

Posted by Justin at 10:26 AM | Comments (3)

November 05, 2008

The Edge of Never

More shwag--The Edge of Never:

In the world of big-mountain skiing, Trevor Petersen was a legend. Appearing in countless films, magazines and photo shoots, his ponytail flying behind him, he was the very embodiment of the freewheeling spirit of extreme skiing in the 1980s and early ’90s. Then it all came to an end. On February 26, 1996, while skiing in Chamonix, France—the so-called Death Sport Capital of the World—an avalanche swept Trevor away. His body was found sitting up in the snow as if gazing at the mountains he loved.

Nearly a decade later, Trevor’s fifteen-year-old son, Kye Petersen, a rising star in his own right, traveled to Chamonix to ski the run that took his father’s life and, with the aid of some of the world’s greatest ski mountaineers, to become a member of skiing’s big-mountain tribe. There to chronicle Kye’s story was William A. Kerig, a filmmaker with a dream of his own—to create a film about the soul of big-mountain skiing and the band of mountaineers who ski the steepest, wildest, most dangerous terrain in the world.

In The Edge of Never, Kerig gives us not only a ripping adventure tale about a young man coming of age but a frank and subtle portrait of the extreme skiers who "live big" in the face of death and risk everything to experience the fullness of life in the mountains.

I am 40 pages in and just got the book two days ago. I am really enjoying it and the prologue alone had me hooked.

I got yelled at by my wife for reading while the kids were trying to get ready for bed last night. “It must be nice that one of us has time to read.” I ignored her because I was too busy reading.

Posted by Justin at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

MSNBC Article on Ski Bookings and the Economy

MSNBC has an article on the economic downturn and the impact on the ski industry:

The good news for the Mathes — and anyone else who wants to go skiing — is that the penny pinching might not be so bad this year thanks to the creative measures ski resorts are taking to combat the slumping economy.

Extra nights lodging, ski rental packages, cut-rate lift tickets, stay-and-ski deals, upgrades — all are part of the promotions resorts are using to lure people to the mountain.

Of course, there's always going to be a portion of the population that's going to ski no matter what; snow's falling, they're headed for the hills.

For the rest of us, skiing is a luxury, something easily cut from the budget when things get tough. Paying rent or skiing? There isn't much debate.

Ski resorts are aware of the competition for consumer money and they're doing everything they can to hold onto their share...

Even luxury resorts, which normally don't feel the economic sting quite as bad, are taking measures to keep their numbers up.

The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek has taken the unprecedented step of extending some of its discount offers to the holidays, a time when the hotel fills up without much effort.

It is an excellent year to vacation if you can afford it. Gas prices are almost half what they were a year ago. It helps me a ton since I drive most of the time.

Posted by Justin at 12:16 PM

October 17, 2008

New West Story on Gentrification of Resort Towns

From the New West Blog:

A tough economic climate means a steady stream of recent college graduates willing to endure low wages for a free ski pass, but these economic cogs in the wheels of ski resorts’ winter economies still need a warm bed and running water. These days, housing seasonal workers in towns with dwindling pools of rental units is reaching crisis stage.

Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about the dearth of seasonal rental housing in Park City. The article neatly condenses into a simple sentence what’s been going on, for those who haven’t watched it occur in front of them.

“Much of the seasonal housing stock has been converted to more lucrative nightly rentals for tourists or sold to year-round residents as real-estate prices soar.”

As gentrification extends to every back-alley cabin and shag-carpeted rental condo, it’s the workers on the lowest rung of the employment ladder that are most affected. When real estate prices skyrocketed in recent years, landlords and deep-pocketed investors cashed in, remodeling and selling older, low-end condominiums, the lifeblood of the rental market in most mountain towns. New owners who financed purchases with no money down had to increase rents to cover their mortgages, while skid housing was demolished to make way for new construction...

At Big Sky Mountain Resort, some seasonal workers are housed at the Whitewater Inn nine miles down the resort’s access road, getting a free shuttle to their jobs and meal discounts. Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado bought a former Club Med to house winter employees slopeside. In Telluride, many resort employees live in rent-controlled apartments owned by the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has an inventory of apartments and condos, but is able to house only about 120 of its 900 winter seasonal workers. The rest of its employees are left to fend for themselves on the free market while earning around $8.50 per hour.

Affordable housing is huge. Driving 100 miles on snowy roads each day to work at your $10 an hour job and earn a free season pass is what ski bumming is about these days.

Not much we can do about it, but it certainly is the trend in the industry. Low wages, no housing.

Posted by Justin at 12:11 AM

October 16, 2008

The Economy and Ski Season (h/t Alpengluhen)

Interesting commentary on the Economy and ski industry:

Most of the customers stated that they were thinking of pairing back their season for financial reasons. Destination resorts seemed to be big losers, with the following reasons:

1. Cost of airline tickets has gone up significantly
2. Cost of flying with gear has gone up
3. Most resorts have pushed their pass prices up again
4. Their stock portfolios have sunk radically

Which brought a renewed interest in the local resorts. Several folks were asking if it was worth buying a season pass, and just driving up. How long the snow stays fresh, etc. It's been interesting. Could this year see the rise/return of the local resort vs the destination resort?

I'm conflicted on this one. On one hand, having a larger money flow in for classes would be a nice change (I currently just brake even for teaching, which is why I have two jobs). On the other hand, it will mean larger crowds, and less fresh snow for me. Tough call.

As an aside, most of those mentioning #4 as their primary reason for skipping their trip(s) were shocked to hear our responses. Several of us have been playing the stock market for awhile and have invested heavily. Two of the guys in the shop are working there because they've already made their millions and now want to do something fun and rewarding. It's was fun to break people's perceptions of 20/30 somethings with a ski job not knowing anything about stocks.

I won't get too political but more than one person at Brian Head has mentioned that Barack Obama will be horrible for the ski industry. It is evident that prices are so high that only the affluent can afford to ski. Certainly only the rich can afford condos and second homes at ski resorts.

Barack talks about raising taxes on the "rich" making more than $250k per year. That is going to cause them to cut back on the ski resort homes and on their vacations. We have to keep in mind that skiing is a luxury item and it is the kind of thing that can be eliminated in bad economic times or when taxes/gas prices/airfare/etc. go up.

I am selfish. I own a second home that will not sell at Brian Head. The housing market is in the tank. Stocks are down. The economy is slowing. I am scared that I will not be able to sell my condo after Obama is elected. And he will be elected based on everything we now know.

Posted by Justin at 12:34 PM | Comments (10)

April 01, 2008

Opening Day, NBA Playoffs, and the End of the 2007-08 Ski Season

A little time to reflect on the last ski season. This year, I skied Beaver Creek for the first time, skied Wolf Creek for the first time in three years, and got my usual days in at Brian Head. I got in about half as many days this season as last--12 versus 25--but enjoyed it far more.

Couple great memories for me. First was
Jarrett skiing his first black diamond
. He isn't even in the same ballpark as Jake, but that is a function of being 7 versus 11. But he discovered a love for skiing this season and now looks forward to it. I am excited about this year and looking forward to going from having two skiing boys to having three kids that rip it up when Lindsey gets a couple years older.

Second was Jake and me going to Wolf Creek with Tim, Erich, and JP. It has been far too long since I took at trip to Wolf Creek and this trip magnified how Jake has improved from our last trip three years ago when he was a Wolf Pup. When we hiked Alberta Peak and he left me behind, I had a new sense of humility and some pride that all the time and money that I have spent on gear and passes and gas and hotels and condos has paid off. We have something that both boys enjoy and that helps us bond.

Finally, there was my trip to Beaver Creek. I have rarely enjoyed a ski day that much.

I am going to try to get one more weekend in before the season is over.

Posted by Justin at 02:46 PM

March 23, 2008

14 Year Old Dies Skiing Heavenly

Bad news from Heavenly:

A 14-year-old girl died Thursday afternoon following a ski accident at Heavenly Mountain Resort, authorities said.

Emily Clothier, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., apparently died from blunt force trauma after hitting a tree, although an exact cause of death was pending, said El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell.

The girl was wearing a helmet and was practice skiing with the Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation, Lovell said. She was found by her coach who was skiing about one minute behind her, he added.

The accident happened on the Nevada side of the ski resort at about 1:30 p.m., Heavenly officials confirmed...

The girl received immediate medical treatment at the scene and then was taken by CALSTAR helicopter to Barton Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2:39 p.m., Lovell said.

The accident occurred in the ski resort's Stagecoach area. The girl skied off the Stagecoach trail and into a wooded area, according to Heavenly. The resort has begun a routine investigation of the accident, Pecoraro said.

Even helmets do not protect 100%.

When we were at Wolf Creek, helicopters were flying overhead searching for the two snowboarders that got lost (and were not found). Remember that it is a dangerous sport. Trees. Tree wells. Blizzard conditions. Cold. Cliffs. Icy roads. There are lots of dangers.

Talk to your kids about safety. Remember safety yourself. Stay in control and stay safe. Especially be safe about alcohol and drugs. Save the crack smoking for the condo. Every time some a-hole is getting on the lift in front of me and is drunk or I smell the pot smoke, I think about getting clipped from him and tearing an ACL or busting my dome.

Posted by Justin at 12:02 PM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2008

Powder Skiing Advice from Craig McNeil at Rocky Mountain News

Good beginner advice on skiing pow:

I call "bottomless snow" - conditions where so much snow accumulates that there's no "bottom" or "base" layer. In other words, if you push your ski pole down through the surface layers, it just keeps going. Lose a ski or fall in such conditions, and you'll find yourself wallowing for what might seem like an eternity as you try to get back on your feet.

Where most green and blue runs are groomed, you'll find bottomless conditions on ungroomed black and double- black runs. And that's fitting because, in snow so deep, it's almost impossible to move on less-steep runs; ski a run that's somewhat steep and has a continuous pitch or you'll come to a grinding halt.

And herein lies the challenge for the common skier. It takes confidence, know-how, technique and strength to successfully handle such snow depth...

Tips for success

* Keep your feet together. When your feet are together, they cut the snow as one. When they come apart, either at the beginning of a turn or at any time throughout the arc of the turn, you're headed for trouble because it's easier to lose your balance and fall...

* In deep snow, you must ski off the fall line (down the slope, making continuous turns) in the same manner as a snowboarder. Traversing across the slope only shows a lack of confidence in your technique or timidity in your ability...

* Use a powder ski, which can range from 75 millimeters to more than 100 millimeters underfoot. All-mountain powder skis are wider underfoot and provide greater flotation on the snow. These skis provide more "float" and can make turn initiation and completion much easier in the deep stuff. If you don't have a pair in your quiver, rent them from a ski shop...

* The principles of tipping to the little-toe edge remain the same and are actually more effective in deep snow. Tip the foot in the direction you want to turn and extend your legs through the arc of the turn...

* Using your ski pole is one more way to help maintain balance. Your pole plant, which should be made down the fall line, is your cue to release the skis from the previous turn.

I am so spoiled. Unless there is powder to be had, it is barely worth putting the gear on. I don't like going fast, I like going fast enough through 2' of pow. It is even better on steeps in pow. But it is an aquired taste. I was talking to Jake about our first powder day. There was a two day storm that dropped 4'. We went out and the groomers were great because they were soft and you carved so well. Then we got off the beaten path and got buried. I postholed down and carried his skis while he did the same.

The art of parallel turns and carving as well as rhythm is what is important. It is like dancing. Turn, 2, 3, Turn, 2, 3. Like a Waltz. You pick your rhythm and speed and the motion with your arms and skis becomes second nature. Keep the feet together. Keep them parallel. And stay balanced front to back. Sometimes, that even means adjusting your bindings (if they are adjustable).

Posted by Justin at 11:18 PM

February 19, 2008

Jarrett's First Black Diamond

I took Jake and Jarrett out on Saturday at Brian Head. Jarrett is skiing Jake's old K2's which are probably about 10 cm too big at 125. We are working on parallel turns, but he is still in the wedge / snowplow / pizza stage.

It was really incredible for me to take him out this last time. I have had six years of Jake skiing with me almost every trip. To the point where I don't even enjoy going out unless he is with me. We talk trash to each other and make fun of ourselves and other skiers. We both really learned together because when I got started again in 2002, I hadn't skied in 9 years and wasn't that good even then. It brought back a bunch of memories of Jake and I going up to Sunrise so many times. There was probably a foot or so of powder that we took Jarret down and it reminded me of Jake and me skiing Phoenician at Sunrise on our first real powder day together. Both of us postholing down after about the fourth wreck in the first 50 yards.

Jarrett's experience wasn't a lot different than Jake's. I remember Jake crying and saying "I can't. I can't. I want to go home. I just want to go home. I hate skiing." Jarrett had perhaps the hardest wreck I have seen in a while, right onto his shoulder. After he got over the initial shock and back to the chair, I told him that we have to take the chair back up because The Plunge is on Dunes and it requires a lift ride to the top to ski back to the base. By the time we got to the top, I had convinced him to take another run, this time on a blue. And we finished the day skiing groomers with a little bit of packed pow for another half a dozen runs. He got back up and kept going. And went home and told mom how much fun he had.

After we took Jarrett back to the condo at about 2:00, Jake and I skied the rest of the day. We were laughing about Jake and all the stuff we had done when we sucked. =) I spent most of the trip back to Phoenix daydreaming and thinking back about Jake learning and where he is now. And I kept thinking about what it is going to be like when Jake is 15 and Jarrett is 11. When we are hiking and skiing Wolf Creek and Alberta Peak or the Knife Ridge. And thinking about how exciting it will be when Jarrett is able to keep up on a powder day. Then when he really starts getting it. Making parallel turns and using his poles.

And then I got thinking about all my complaints about Brian Head and how Jake and I have graduated beyond what it offers. But how it is perfect for Jarrett. And why I ski. Is it just about a rush and me and pow and steeps? Or is it about having Jake there by my side, riding the lifts, talking, connecting, and bonding? We learned together and we keep learning together. And for the first time, Tera and Lindsey stayed for 3 days and it was enjoyable. Lindsey stayed out of stuff, hung out, slept in a bed instead of the playpen, and didn't want to come home. And it won't be too long before she is skiing groomers at Brian Head for the first time.

Posted by Justin at 12:16 PM | Comments (1)

January 28, 2008

New Ski Journal Out

The new issue of the ski journal is out. If you haven't read my review on TSJ before, it is pure eye candy. They have absolutely the best ski photos you can find and pages and pages of them. Not a typical ski magazine, TSJ cuts way down on the ads and pimping and delivers a coffee table magazine to show off to friends when they come over.

Wallabies. UFOs. Hoh Chi Minh trails. Dark Matter. Urspruenglichkeit. Frosted and feathered hair. What any of these have to do with skiing is anyone's guess, unless you pick up a copy of The Ski Journal issue #2.2, now shipping to stores and subscribers. From Australia to Alta, the French Alps to Schlap-istan, the 1960s to the present and all points between, the newest issue of The Ski Journal continues the transportive vibe clearly established with the success of the magazine's first two issues.

Aussie Tony Harrington is one of the world's foremost ski and surf photographers. Via his words and stunning alpine images, he adamantly answers the question that plagues him on chairlift rides throughout the world: "How come you can ski that well? There's no snow in Australia!" Turns out the world is wrong. Very wrong. And if you've ever wondered what kangaroo tastes like (hint: not chicken), this story is for you.

In a lengthy interview, French freestyle newschooler Candide Thovex reveals he’s done with competition. “We are not robots,” he says, referring to the limits of the human body, a sentiment he’s acutely familiar with following a near-paralyzing injury last spring at his home resort of La Clusaz. Candide also discusses his future, memories of the past decade, and why he won’t be singing classic rock tunes any time soon.

Other 2.2 standouts: Jake Moe reminisces the decades of love in Sun Valley; Jill Adler profiles the soulful Alta Lodge and its 90-year-old owner, Bill Levitt; six essays on various "Lines in Skiing"; three decades of images by legendary shooter Hank de Vré; a review of the documentary "Steep"; a profile of Theory-3 filmmaker Jeff Thomas; and much more.

Seriously, subscribe. Get rid of the megamagazines that are cluttered with nothing but ads for overpriced gear and puff pieces about the spendiest resorts. This is the one ski magazine that is worth getting.

Posted by Justin at 01:38 PM

Some Statistics on Ski Injuries

Some new figures on ski injuries:

Is the rate of skiing injuries increasing?

Thanks to better equipment, the overall rate of reported skiing injuries has declined by 50 percent over the past 40 years, according to Shealy.

Is the rate of snowboard injuries increasing?

Yes, nearly doubling, according to research, which dates to the 2000/01 season. The rate was nearly 7 injuries per 1,000 visits compared to 3.37 in 1990/91.

What are some trends regarding injuries?

Broken lower legs, once one of the most common injuries to skiers, has decreased by 95 percent from 35 years ago. And after years of an increase in the number of knee injuries, especially ACL, the International Society for Skiing Safety Congress reported that since 2003 knee injuries have been on the decline. The reason for the 35 percent decline in serious knee injuries is believed to be due to the increased use of shorter skis. However, the number of mid-shaft tibia fractures has in-creased over the past 20 years after dramatically declining through the mid-1980s. The reason for the increase in tibia fractures appears to be a function of ski-binding-boot systems. Researchers believe that those numbers could be reduced if more people had their skies inspected by qualified ski technicians.

Where do most fatal acci-dents happen?

Well-groomed blue cruiser trails where the average speed of skiers is 25 to 40 mph...

Recently a man reportedly died at Steamboat after fal-ling into a tree well. How common is this?

About 5 percent of all skiing/snowboarding fatalities are caused by people falling into tree wells, which are created where the boughs of low-hanging conifers create wells below them, mostly in un-groomed areas on the edges of groomed trails. The snow is like quicksand, the more the victim struggles, the deeper they bury themselves and usually suffocate, especially if falling in head first, which usually is the case. Colorado accounts for 17 percent of these kinds of fatalities in North America, trailing British Columbia (24 percent) and California (19 percent). Over the past seven years, snowboarders were twice as likely as skiers to be involved in these accidents.

When do most of the tree well accidents happen?

During or just after big snowfalls when skiers and snowboarders venture off of the groomed trails in search of powder. December and January have more of the docu-mented cases due to the loose and unconsolidated snowpack conditions generally associated with early season.

The article also has some interesting statistics on helmet use.

Have the increased use of helmets decreased the number of serious and fatal head injuries?

Helmet use been estimated to be about 40 percent of users and has been increasing about 5 percent annually over the past several years. While the use of helmets reduces the number of head injuries by 30 percent to 50 percent, that decrease is generally limited to the less serious injuries. However, according to Shealy’s research, there has been no significant reduction in fatalities due to head injury over the past nine seasons despite the increase in helmet use. Still, non-helmet users were greater than two times more likely to have died of head injuries among accidents in which helmet use was known. Just more than one-third of the deaths involved those wearing a helmet, with about half of them also suffering fatal head injuries.

Why no reduction in fatalities?

There are several reasons. Helmets are designed to protect your head up to 12 mph, however, most collisions with trees involve the skier/boarder traveling at least twice to three times that speed. Studies have shown that those wearing helmets ski faster than those without helmets. For non-helmeted skiers, 23 percent of all potentially serious head injuries are more serious than a mild concussion. For helmeted skiers, 67 percent of their potentially serious head injuries are more severe than a mild concussion. Another reason is that two-third of fatalities by those who wear helmets are due to multiple causes or injuries. For those who die while wearing a helmet, only about one-third have a head injury as the first cause of death. Basically, the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the ability of the helmet to prevent death.

Always wear a helmet and always ski in control. Know your abilities. The most dangerous place on the mountain is the average blue cruiser. Dumbass kids racing out of control. You don't have to be the idiot to get hit by one. I have hurt my knee twice (thankfully not an ACL) getting hit by someone uphill from me not being able to avoid me because they are out of control. And my brain bucket has saved my dome several times. Helmets are just good things to have, but they work best when you are in control.

Posted by Justin at 10:42 AM | Comments (2)

January 10, 2008

Memorial and Donations for the Victims of the Ski Bus Accident

The Arizona Republic has details about the memorial service for the Deer Valley High School victims of the bus accident:

A memorial service for Deer Valley High School students Jasmine Bowden, Erica Sheffey and Marc Rasmussen is being held Wednesday at the Community Church of Joy.

The service starts at 1 p.m. at the church, 21000 N. 75th Ave. in Glendale, and it is open to the public.

The three students were killed in a bus accident as they returned from a ski trip in Telluride, Colo. on Jan. 6.Six others died and at least 23 were injured in the accident, which happened in southeastern Utah.

Wednesday is a scheduled early release day for all Deer Valley Unified District schools.

Those wishing to make a donation to help with funeral or hospital expenses can make a deposit at any Wells Fargo Bank branch. The "Families of Deer Valley Memorial" account number is 3878909518.

Please offer a small donation to help the families. This is a truly tragic thing that happened and it could be any one of us as I said in what Caroline described a "dark" post earlier this week. And offer them your thoughts and prayers as well.

Posted by Justin at 03:38 PM | Comments (1)

Shaun White, Bode Miller Videos on Sportskool.com

Got an e-mail from a reader, John (and he makes number 6), about (Sportskool.com has some cool instructional videos including some by Bode and Shaun White. I liked this on on skiing trouble situations:

Posted by Justin at 02:25 PM | Comments (2)

January 08, 2008

Reflections on Bus Accident that Killed 9 in Southern Utah

I just drove through Mexican Hat in a blizzard the weekend before Christmas as I was coming home from Denver. My grandfather has extensive business that he does in Monticello and Moab and I have been through the stretch several times. And I spend countless hours and miles driving on snowpacked and icy roads during ski season.

This hit close to home. I thought about orphaning my kids or worse, losing one of them in an accident. Driving on bad road conditions in the middle of the night, tired after a long day of skiing. And the best skiing means the worst road conditions. Blood in the snow. People screaming. No light. Snow and rain falling. Desolate area, no cell reception.

This reminds me to keep my emergency road kit ready. Road flares. Blankets. Flashlight. Bungee cords. First aid kit. Tarp. Some canned food AND THE CAN OPENER. Bottle opener (in case all the beer didn't break during the wreck j/k). Matches. And I love having OnStar. I know it doesn't work a lot of places, but at least it offers far better reception than a regular cell phone.

But the Arizona Republic reported this, which is what makes America, especially rural America great:

Rose June, a clerk at the San Juan Inn, said she rushed to the scene to distribute blankets and towels to people on stretchers. She said many on the bus seemed to be in their 20s.

"They were saying, 'Where's my friend? Where's the ambulance?' " June said. "I tried to keep the rain off their face."...

Danny Palmer, funeral director at San Juan Mortuary in Blanding, about 40 miles northeast of Mexican Hat, came to the scene. He spent two hours helping victims and watching rescue efforts, including those carried out by passengers hurt in the crash.

"People that probably needed their own medical attention were helping those who were more serious," Palmer said. "It was quite inspiring."

Thank you to the people of the Four Corners area that helped save lives and reduce the suffering of those that were affected. Prayers go out to the families, and to the parents of the three high school students that were killed. Erica Sheffey and Marc Rasmussen died at the scene. Joseph DeBolskewas a senior from Saguaro High School.

Posted by Justin at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

January 07, 2008

Eight Die in Major Ski Bus Accident in Four Corners

Thoughts and prayers for the victims of a major bus accident in the Four Corners area as they were returning from a ski trip:

A charter bus carrying people from a Colorado ski resort ran off a wet road and rolled several times down an embankment in far southeastern Utah, killing eight passengers and injuring about 20 others, authorities said Monday...

“When the vehicle was overturning, the roof of the bus split open and multiple occupants of the vehicle were ejected,” he said...

Roden said the bus was en route to Phoenix after a ski trip to Telluride, Colo.

A manifest showed 51 passengers were on board the bus when it crashed about 10 miles north of Mexican Hat, in the Four Corners region where Utah meets Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Rescue crews from all four states were sent to help.

The closest hospital was 80 miles north in Monticello. San Juan Hospital received more than 20 people, chief executive Craig Preston said. Ten to 13 still were being evaluated while others with more serious injuries were sent elsewhere.

I had considered driving to Wolf Creek. This is an extremely remote area on or near the Navajo Reservation. Monticello and Cortez are the closest towns and I am betting their hospitals are not even close to being able to handle this amount of traffic/injuries.

Prayers go out. This was a nasty storm and snow and ice had to make things even more difficult.

Posted by Justin at 08:15 AM | Comments (3)

December 29, 2007

A Little Night Poaching

Poach v. - to ride a closed run, a closer area, or to ski without a valid ticket.

Texas Ski Pants n. - wearing blue jeans while skiing

Kodak Courage n. - To do stupid sh** simply because there is a camera pointed at you

I have been whining because I am getting bored taking green runs at Brian Head. Well, I figured out how to entertain myself. Topless night poaching during a snowstorm in Texas ski pants. Video quality sucks because it is completely dark. But commentary is great. Not great conditions, but we have a location that you can drop into from the car and pickup down below. I didn't get to ski Loveland Pass and do the whole hitchiking thing while in Colorado last week, so this was at least worth doing.

Posted by Justin at 02:50 PM

December 11, 2007

Starting the Season and My Neck is Killing Me

The snowstorm that was supposed to dump 2-3' on Brian Head never got completely on track. Turned out to be right around 1'. That said, it helped a ton. BH is about 20% open, not counting the new terrain that cannot open due to the bridge delay. Heard from one of the ski patrol that there is a problem with one of the lift towers on Chair 2 or else Giant Steps would be open providing top to bottom skiing. They are waiting on a part.

I had two things happen that I am not super pleased about. I cut over from Blackfoot towards the Giant Steps run that had not been groomed and had some nice soft pow. Had to take a lower line than I wanted and just raked across a rock and a stump. Nasty gashes. Early season conditions don't like brand new skis. But it didn't get to the core, so a little wax should help.

The second bad thing happened on the last run of the last day. We were coming down and getting ready to grab a bite and roll home. I have a brand new set of K2 Silencer twin tips and was screwing around skiing switch. Almost down the hill. Bam, caught an edge and went down on a man made groomer, backwards. Slammed the back of my head into the slope. And to make things worse, I wasn't wearing my helmet for the first time in forever. Had on a hat instead. I literally saw stars and everything went quiet. My head is killing me and my neck is aching.

The worst falls are never on steeps (unless you are jumping off cliffs or skiing above your ability). They are on groomed greens when you catch an edge. Falling on steeper terrain means that you are hitting the ground at enough of an angle that it is a glancing blow. This was brick wall stuff.

I haven't blogged it so far, but I was 280lbs by the end of last season. I am a naturally big guy at around 6'2" or 6'3". But 280 is just huge. I decided at the end of last season that I was gonna lost 50 lbs over the summer. I started the ski season at 225lbs this year. Last Thursday, I bought new ski pants and a new jacket since none of my old gear fits me. And last season, my K2 Silencer 168's couldn't hold me at all. Way too small. Not anymore. My entire body feels different and I am a whole different skier. I went from XXL pants and jacket to wearing an XL jacket and size LARGE PANTS. And both of these are too loose.

Posted by Justin at 04:32 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2007

Think Snow - Nike Extreme Video (h/t Ben Carr)

Welcome to the La Nina year in the Southwest. Ben Carr sent me a link to this video from Nike ACG that is a must watch. That'll be me in February.

Posted by Justin at 10:16 AM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2007

Great Tips on Skiing/Travelling in Megeve (h/t Megeve Mike Beaudet)

Mike Beaudet runs a private ski tour and instruction company based out of Megeve, France. Interesting concept that is missing in the states. Instead of donating $500 for a 4 hour "private" lesson to a resort, plus paying the cost of your lift tickets and gear, you pay what is essentially a private instructor (poacher) who does private lessons and helps facilitate the transaction, plus provides expert coaching. Mike is a Level 3 Certified PSIA instructor, plus has all the European certs, etc., but instead of making $10 an hour plus tips (maybe $15-20 for a Level 3), he does private bookings and group lessons. He saves you enough on the trip to more than cover his instruction fees, plus knows all the local restaurants and MULTIPLE AREA RESORTS, meaning that he can help you find the best lines at a dozen resorts instead of being locked in. Anyway, enough pimping for Mike...

Mike is doing articles at About.com on skiing and this one is a must read if you plan on skiing in the Geneva area at any of the many resorts:

From Megeve you can easily ski four ski areas in less than a 25 minute drive, (subject to weather and road conditions)! If you’re willing to push your daily drive to one hour you can ski in Italy and get to French ski areas that will give you access to Swiss Alps areas!

A nice little restaurant, at the end of the day, in each ski area you visit is not to be resisted and allows you to taste the local fare which can change due to the specificities of each region and valley!

When renting your car insist that you take possession on the Swiss side "sector" of the Geneva Airport and NOT the French side! When booking online be sure to select Switzerland as your destination country to ensure your rental is at the Swiss side.

This is most important as the car that you hire will be equipped, standard, with: snow chains, a ski rack, and a Swiss Auto Route Pass. This will save you in drop-off charges and tolls, ease of transporting skis, and driving distance as the French side is much farther to get into and out of than the Swiss side is to the destination ski areas.

Should you rent on the French side, all of the above is an extra! Also, try and gas up when possible in Switzerland as it less expensive.

Add in that Mike can find discounts on gear rentals, lift tickets, and certainly food and hotel accomodations, and it is worth talking to him before you travel.

If you are from the states, for comparable airfare costs, you can ski Europe for comparable money as skiing in the Rockies (and comparable travel times from the East coast). And that is with the premium on the Euro due to the Dollar's drop in exchange rate. With some help and planning, you can ski Europe with private lessons, transportation, lodging, food, and an expert guide for far less than it would cost anywhere in the states, even at a budget destination. Have some wine and enjoy some great food at off mountain prices, plus ski a variety of resorts.

I keep saying I am going to Europe to do just that, but it looks like another season is lost for me travelling. Just too much going right now to take the time. Next winter, I am certain that short of financial catastrophy, I will head to Europe for a week. I am also considering a summer trip to Chile. That is actually even more reasonable if you are willing to "slum" it, you can do it for next to nothing. Hostel style living in Chile, but upscale in Europe.

Posted by Justin at 10:08 PM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2007

Tips Up - The Ski Journal's Latest Release

The Ski Journal has a new issue out that includes a couple of the best ski photos I have ever seen. It always does and it is so hard to describe how good the photography in it is. The first 20 pages are "Tips Up" that is nothing but incredible photos.

Check page 64 for a great article on Arizona Snowbowl.

The article says it best. The entire debate comes down to belief. I don't think anybody can be swayed one way or another on whether reclaimed A+ water is a good idea or snowmaking is a good idea or the expansion should occur. And when you really come down to it, usually people don't have a problem with just one part of the plan. It is an all or nothing thing. They either want it or they don't.

The Ski Journal is well worth subscribing to. It isn't nearly as filled with ads as most of the ski magazines. Actually, there are hardly any. It belongs on your coffee table and the combination of the photography and the quality of the magazine give it a completely different vibe.

Posted by Justin at 08:32 AM

November 04, 2007

Chi Tribune has Rundown of Ski Area Improvements in the Rockies

The Chicago Tribune has a list of the major Rocky Mountain ski areas and their improvements in today's edition. A sampling:

Locally popular Arapahoe Basin (888-272-7246; http://www.arapahoebasin.com ) nearly doubles its size with the addition of Montezuma Bowl, located on the backside of the existing slopes. Its 36 new runs range from intermediate through expert in difficulty and offer terrain featuring groomers, chutes, glades and wide-open bowls...

Down the Interstate at Beaver Creek the new Riverfront Express Gondola connects the ski area to the town of Avon...

New proprietors have taken over at Steamboat. Intrawest, owner of Canada's Whistler Blackcomb, bought the resort from cash-strapped American Skiing, and the purchase has ignited a flurry of development. Mountain additions include new lifts, regraded terrain, additional snowmaking, improved parking and redesigned trail signage. Around the base, real estate projects seem to be sprouting faster than dandelions in a spring meadow...

Read the rest. Big Sky, A-Basin, Brian Head, and Alta all have new improvements that I am going to try to hit this year. I might get to Steamboat, but this winter is pretty packed and it is looking like another year of staying mostly in Brian Head until the condo sells.

Posted by Justin at 09:02 AM

November 03, 2007

Ann Arbor News has a Different Take on Affordable Skiing

Jim Carty has a great take on affordable skiing at the Ann Arbor News:

You could, incidentally, get four tickets to a Tiger game, with four cokes and four hot dogs for $40 this year ... just like you can get a Colorado Pass for around $400, or less than the cost of five single-day lift tickets to Vail.

If you adjust for inflation, I'd guarantee that four-for-$40 baseball deal is either as cheap, or cheaper, than you would have paid for a similar combination in 1960.

But unlike our apocryphal baseball purist, Ms. McClure ignores the fact that in many ways, skiing has never been more financially accessible.Season passes are, at most resorts, at an all-time low. Air fares and equipment are historically cheap and car ownership is at an all-time high. It's easier for a kid in Detroit to drive to Mount Brighton or fly to Vail than it was in 1960 or 1990.

The issue isn't really price, though, it's that ski areas and the people who run them do nothing to court urban, or even young, skiers because the big money is in attracting couples who have a combined family income of $250,000 or more and talking them into either paying $500 a night for a room, buying a $50,000 timeshare or fractional, or - if they have the bucks - spending $500,000 or more on a studio slopeside condo.

Is that elitist? I'm not sure. To me, elitism is when you actively limit access to a select few. It's still possible to ski just about anyplace outside of The Yellowstone Club for a pretty reasonable price ... if you plan ahead, buy used equipment and pack a lunch.

I'm going to do some more thinking on this one and update with a few more links later in the week, so check back then.

Agree. He hits a few points I have made for the last two years. First, Season Pass deals are all over. Second, the ski areas aren't doing enough to market to Urban Areas and middle class folks. And third, their biggest concern is keeping the wealthy folks that drop the big money happy and they don't want swamped with too much traffic or lower end customers.

I spend a lot of time highlighting pass deals (Colorado Pass, Big Sky Frequent Ski), lower cost resorts (Wolf Creek, Brian Head), and how to buy gear at the end of the season and on e-Bay. Skiing is accessible if you do all of these things, but you still gotta do pretty well financially to ski even then. But if you do these things it moves the financial threshold from $250,000 per year family income to around $100,000 per year. Still quite a hefty income category.

Just do the math. Family of four. Gotta have coats, ski pants, gloves, goggles, helmets (hopefully), thermals. I know my gear costs around $500 per person and you cannot buy this stuff used. I buy stuff at sales and am always looking for end of season deals, but a good jacket is still $125-150 and a pair of ski pants is at least $50. Gloves are $25 for a good pair. A set of good thermals is $30-40 for a cheap pair. Helmet is $50-75. Goggles are at least $40. And all this is low end to middle quality gear. We are pushing $500 for just the clothes. Let's assume that you own instead of rent. E-bay boots and skis and bindings and poles are going to run another $400 for anything even servicible. Let's call it $750 for per person for a family of four.

Then you have lift tickets. For a week, even getting a pass deal, let's say that you get a Colorado Pass for $400 per person. $1,600 bucks for four. Then you gotta stay somewhere. If you stay in a hotel in the next town, it may run $75 a night, but you have to rent a car. That is cheaper than a condo. Let's assume a week's car rental for a 2WD Camry is $200. Then the hotel is $500 for a week. Stop at Costco from the airport and get your food for a week instead of eating on mountain. We won't count that. Just the $150 you spend on an occasional energy drink, Mountain Dew, burger, slice of pizza, etc., in the lodge. Total of lift tickets and hotel is $2,500. You fly Southwest and get a steal from wherever into Denver. $100 a ticket. That is another $500 after airport taxes (and because I like round numbers). $3,000.

You have $3,000 for equipment (one time, but another $500 a year for replacement stuff that gets worn out or for gear the kids outgrow). Add in $3,000 for food, lodging, car rental, and airfare. We are at $6,000 for a week of skiing (all inclusive).

Now, do the projections. For a family of four at the top 10% of all income earners in the US threshold which is around $120,000 GROSS INCOME (again round numbers), that works out to spending 5% of your total gross income to take your family for a week of skiing, cutting every corner and lowballing it all the way. The only way you can do it consistently is to live in Reno, Seattle, Denver, or Salt Lake City, or any of the other smaller mountain communities where there are few if any jobs that pay $120,000 a year. If you live close, you can avoid most of the travel charges and use your Colorado Pass a lot more.

You cannot make affordable skiing affordable to most folks. If you are cheap like me, you can take your family skiing on $120,000 a year. Otherwise it is day trips to the local resort in Wisconsin or Michigan. You are not getting the Colorado Pass type deals.

I still think that the Sierra Club and rich folks don't want the resorts overcrowded.

Posted by Justin at 12:36 PM

October 31, 2007

Reading for the Preseason - Instant Karma: The Heart and Soul of a Ski Bum

Got a copy of Wayne Sheldrake's book in the mail the other day as now more and more PR folks are using the power of bloggers to spread the word about their products and bloggers like me are using the power of our blogs to get free stuff.

The book is a little dark, especially in the beginning. I guess I never really thought about why folks become ski bums. Usually they are running from something. Maybe it is an ex and a bad breakup or maybe it is a bad childhood or other problems. I think the details sometimes are hard to listen to from people that you think are just free spirirs. Then I think about my uncle Lynnie. I still remember him with a can of Animal Beer in his hands, and usually a dozen in his stomach teaching his nephews to fish and hunt and camp and cuss. He always had a van of some sort and you never knew he was coming until he would show up. Just to stop in and stay a day or as long as your driveway had room for a van. Then just as quick, he would say goodbye and be gone again. He died a week before my son Jake was born. Barely 40. He loved the mountains. You never ask these people what makes them tick because they will have 20 stories for you and never really answer your question. But you will enjoy the 20 stories and forget you asked one.

I wondered about the title--Instant Karma. As I read the book, all of the places seemed so familiar. Wolf Creek. Treasure. Alberta. Even the parking lots at Wolf Creek. The name of the book comes from a story about poaching runs without a lift ticket and the consequences of losing most of a ski season because of a wreck that day. I remember skiing Wolf Creek with Jake (Big, not Little) and Erich and taking lap after lap on Alberta with a couple guys from Summit who were there because an epic blower had skipped the north but dumped on Wolf Creek. The guy was telling me that he was skiing on yesterday's ticket, but as long as you get past the main lift first thing in the morning and get to one of the side lifts (like Alberta), there is usually only one lift operator working it and they never check tickets. Wolf Creek simply stamps the date on the front of their lift ticket or a special word jumble for the day and most times they never check. About midway through the day after cutting fresh line after line through the glades, ski patrol is waiting at the top for him. I was riding the lift with him when it happened. Not a complaint. Just, dude, can we cut through the glades on the way down. It was the last run of his day. But he wanted to make the most of it.

While lots of folks debate the existence of "God" with a Capital G, I always acknowledge and pay tribute to both the snow gods and the football gods. I don't believe that I can change the universe with simple actions. I cannot influence storms to change track. I cannot convince the gods of physics to have that long pass land six inches beyond a receiver's hands. But I never leave that to chance.

We are all so lucky to enjoy skiing. To enjoy life. I enjoyed the book and it brought out a lot of memories, not just of skiing, but of the faces and people that I have met along the way.

Posted by Justin at 04:14 PM

October 30, 2007

Preparing the Kids for the Season

Went to the condo a couple weeks ago with Jake and Jackson. Every year they outgrow their stuff. I keep buying stuff big and even then they outgrow it. Both hit a major growth spurt this year but it looks like both are good on the boots for another year or two.

Here is my gear checklist:

  • Skis - both are in 150's this year with Jake on his new K2 Juvy 150's and Jack on his Salomon 1080 Thruster 150's. Jarrett is gonna either be on Jake's K2 125's or on the 1080 Fish 130's.
  • Boots - Jake has new Nordica Supercharger 26.5's and Jack has a year old pair of Rossi 26.5's. They actually have the same size feet. Jake is gonna be a big kid. Jarrett is rolling in Jake's Nordica GTS 23.5's.
  • Jackets - Question is whether the trickle down effect from Jack to Jake to Jarrett happens this year or next. TBD.
  • Helmets - Jarrett needs a new one, but again trickle down may happen. Jack and Jake both have Giro Bad Lt. helmets and all of us have the Skull Candy headphones to go along with them.
  • Thermals - again, gotta check. We got tons of them, but it depends on how much the kids have grown.
  • Gloves, misc... - All should still work.

I have dropped 45 lbs since last season. I got pretty big at 275. I was a high school O-lineman and wrestler and it finally caught up with me that I needed to drop considerably. I am down slightly under 230. I have been a 2XL guy for forever but went in to Sports Authority and was trying on XL pants and jackets and they were the right size. My 2XL stuff is like a tent. Debating what to pick up, but got the new Skiing Mag with all their gear stuff and I may spring for some new gear... Just that I can't use it.

This is the nice thing about being a regular. Maybe I have to buy a Jacket, helmet or some thermals and I have three kids outfitted. With almost brand new gear. Every year it is a little bit of stuff, but with three of them, hand-me-downs rock. Plus I e-Bay all the equipment in April when prices are rock bottom. That helps. It certainly keeps costs manageable.

I just can't wait to get Lindsey geared up and skiing. Girl stuff is so cool. I hate to say it, but it really is. Even for women. It used to be that everything was unisex or else it was the old school one pieces in hot pink or jackets with huge fur collars. Now, they have more and more cool stuff.

Posted by Justin at 12:42 AM | Comments (1)

A New Focus for the Season

I got borderline depressed last week when I got the news about the hand. I mean literally depressed. I had a psychologist appointment on Friday morning about 18 hours after I got the x-ray done and could see the bone fragment in the film and well before the doctor confirmed what I already knew. Not quite stick me in the hospital depressed, but more like up my dosage of Welbutrin depressed.

So here are the thoughts going through my head over the last five days:

  • If this is the worst God is gonna give me this winter, say a thank you prayer. This is probably the biggest thought. It sucks, but it could suck so much worse. I mean in perspective, this doesn't even suck that much once you get over the initial shock of it.
  • It is my right hand. Sucks to be in a cast. Until I think about my cousin Nat and her husband Jeff who got me into Jeeping. Jeff of the Rubicon that pulled my crappy old Wrangler X out of the sand even though I was sporting the 33" tires, lift, and all kinds of toys. Rubicon means business. Jeff lost his hand in a blasting cap accident when he was 21. We are the same age. He never so much as complains.
  • At least it is not an ACL. AT LEAST IT IS NOT AN ACL.
  • I gotta suck it up and keep making the trip to Brian Head despite the fact that I will be relegated to the lodge or condo. Jake, Jackson and Jarrett deserve that. I can probably sneak in a run or two with them if I am careful and smart.
  • My psychologist has been warning me about overdoing it with all the stuff I have going on right now. Tickets to three major sports. Kid in Pop Warner. Wick in the playoffs. Business stuff. Work stuff. Patent work in my spare time. This is my chance to slow down and get back some perspective.
  • Chicks dig scars. OK, maybe not, but I will surely get better at lying about how it happened. I wish I didn't have this stupid blog that captures things and basically tells the world about my life. Then it would be so much easier to make up something cool about breaking it in Double A right before September call-ups and it ending my dream of playing first base in the Bigs. Something cool like that. My step brother Josh used crap like that to pick up chicks in bars all his life. =) (Jer will confirm that and will probably leave some comments here about it.)
  • AT LEAST IT IS NOT AN ACL.
  • How much Vicodin and Percocet can I get for it. Dude, that stuff rocks.

I have an appointment with the ortho tomorrow and I am sure that he will do surgery almost immediately. Cut the damned thing and get me healing. The sooner the better.

Posted by Justin at 12:22 AM

October 28, 2007

Rising Cost of Skiing Article from Tacoma News Tribune

The Tacoma News Tribune has a story about the rising cost of skiing:

According to an NSAA survey, 46 percent of skiers and boarders have a household income of $100,000 or more. Just 17 percent of all U.S. households fall into that same category.

Some people would rather see lift ticket prices increase rather than drop.

“I hear people telling me they want tickets over $60 because it will keep the crowds down,” Kircher said.

At Tahoe’s Squaw Valley USA, a season pass is $1,770. When the resort considered a $299 season pass for those who purchase it a season in advance, regular customers shot down the idea.

“They’re afraid we’d be jammed all season and the mountain would get trashed,” said Squaw Valley spokeswoman Savannah Cowley.

Rachel McClure of Zumiez, a chain of action-sports stores, argued in her master’s thesis at Arizona’s Prescott College that not only is skiing an elitist sport, but also so is hiking.

The subject of her thesis was the need for youth to spend more time in the outdoors.

“A lot of people in urban environments can’t even get to the mountains to ski or mountain bike, let alone ski,” said McClure, who helps run the University of Washington winter sports program.

Freakin' Urban Environmental Hippies. I got an idea, how bout you whine about the rising cost of skiing, then try to shut down the only ski area within 4 hours of the 6th largest city in the country:

Sierra Club is working with the Navajo Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe and Dr. Paul Torrence, Professor of Chemistry at Northern Arizona University, to stop the proposed expansion of the Arizona Snow Bowl and to prevent the use of reclaimed water to be sprayed on the ski slopes.

I am crying tears of sorrow for the urban hippie environmentalists that are sending their money to the Sierra Club to fund the Snowbowl lawsuit while Prescott grad Rachel McClure of Zumiez is writing her hard luck story about the rising cost of skiing.

Skiing is expensive precisely because of the Sierra Club. They are funded by rich city folk that want "pristine" outdoors that can only be achieved by keeping costs so high that urban folks cannot afford to go into the outdoors. If people go skiing, it destroys the environment, therefore we want to make it impossible to open new resorts or expand existing ones so that fewer and fewer people can afford to ski.

No hypocrisy here.

Posted by Justin at 09:31 PM | Comments (1)

October 23, 2007

Skiing with Your Kids

I am the father of three, two of which are already skiers. Jarrett far less so than Jake. Jarrett is 6 and this is probably his first "real" winter of skiing. He got a couple of days in the last two years, but he never really got into it.

So here are some lessons learned from my experience as a ski dad with Jake that we get to work on with Jarrett:

  • Nothing ends a ski day quicker than being cold. If you are gonna drop $60 on a lift ticket and ski rental for a little one (even one Jake or Jacko's age), spend the money on good clothing for them. Preferably bibs which you can buy a size or two too big and just shorten the straps buying you as many as three seasons.
  • Make sure that you are clear on the purpose of the day. If the snow is good, you probably want to spend the extra money on putting them at the kids camp, even if they are fairly seasoned skiers. Until the last two years, I would drop Jake at kids camp on epic days.
  • Did I mention keeping them warm? Let me say it again... warm. Buy good gloves and socks--not the cheap cotton gym socks they wear with their skate shoes either. One of the regulars at Brian Head recommends panty hose because it is thin, lets your feet breathe, and will keep you warmer. Hand and foot warmer pockets in the gloves and the accompanying warmers are a good idea. So is hot chocolate periodically.
  • Never take them on runs above their ability. You want them to gradually build confidence.
  • If you are not the patient type, get the kiddoes lessons. It is worth the money and it is far more fun to ski with them once they are in the green-blue range comfortably.
  • Bring games or the old X-box to the condo with you along with plenty of movies. If you like to have a drink or chill or do grown up stuff at night, keep them occupied with the stuff they like to do at home.
  • Earplugs should always come with. Maybe the kids need them from the racket in the condo or maybe you need them because extremely tired kids snore, but you want to make sure the kids get a good night's sleep.
  • Plan meals to keep the kids happy and bring lots of snacks. I stop at Costco and get a case of individual Oreos and Granola bars.
  • Helmets are a must. Start them young and make them wear a helmet.

I made some serious mistakes with Jake. Like him screaming at me that he cannot do it and make it down because it is too cold or the run is too steep. Matter of fact, there I was ready to choke him and pissed because my ski day was getting ruined and he needed to suck it up. And he was 6. The problem with oldest children. They are like first cars. You are poor and want to do mechanical work which usually results in breaking stuff. You can always sell a car though. I was lucky not to ruin Jake on skiing by being a bad ski dad.

But don't let that discourage you from bringing the kids with you. 6-7 years old is a good time to start them. Earlier if they are OK staying in the kids camp. By the time they have 3-4 days of skiing, they will be able to hit most of the good blues and you can ski with confidence with them.

Jake is bordering on whooping my butt at it and the day is coming soon. But it is because I took him almost every time I went skiing since he was 6. Focus on small things and using good technique and they will learn it young. Now if I could just stand his sass and little mouth. But I taught him most of the smack talk too, so I am reaping what I sow.

Posted by Justin at 12:37 AM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2007

Injuries and Workouts Article at Rokovoko

Rokovoko has an interesting article on workouts and injuries to check out. Interesting stuff on an ACL injury:

Stay in shape, stretch, train, eat right, be cautious, and guess what -- injuries still happen sometimes, as Steven Cohn, of Bethesda, Md., found out a few years ago skiing at Whitetail in Pennsylvania.

“I was carving turns down the mountain,” he recalls. “I was pleased about the natural, fresh snow, my body’s performance and ski equipment. Suddenly, my forward visibility was limited by the rapid decent of the terrain before me. I was airborne. Not a problem. However, in direct line of my landing stood three young ladies … chatting (probably about their cell-phone reception) in the middle of the trail.”

Among the thoughts that flashed through his mind, Cohn says, were “What the #*?!” and “avoidance mid-flight maneuver.”

“I tried the later,” he says. “My landing was harder than anticipated. My left leg (downhill) didn’t get the message and didn’t hold its edge. I fell forward and toward my left. My bindings didn’t release and I felt and heard two distinct pops in my left knee. Ouch! [Deleted expletives.] That was special! I was dragged off the mountain and given an ice pack. After being asked to sign liability release forms ... I got in my car and my wife drove me home.

“The following morning I visited the neighborhood hospital. The physicians confirmed my diagnosis of a torn anterior crucial ligament (ACL). The next week was spent obtaining second-through-seventh opinions. Some physicians advised to learn to live with a locking knee or a knee that had unlimited swiveling capabilities. Some advised me to wear a knee brace. However, without surgery there would be no more skiing. Others said they could operate and rebuild the joint. I’m an active guy and wanted to ski again.”

My mom does Canine Agility and about four months ago tore her meniscis. She is having trouble with her ACL after the surgery and her knee is severely weakened. We were talking about strengthening exercises last night as I was coming home from the Condo.

Check out Highly Obsessed for Adam's horror story about Canadian healthcare and his ACL injury.

Posted by Justin at 06:05 PM

September 24, 2007

First Snow in UT and CO (h/t Jon Wade and First Tracks Online)

First Tracks Online links to this story:

Salt Lake City, UT - A strong cold front combined with moisture from a Pacific storm to bring the first snows of the season to Utah's ski and snowboard resorts overnight. As temperatures in Salt Lake City dipped to the mid-40s this morning behind the front, snow was falling at elevations above 7,000 feet, decorating even the base areas of the higher-elevation ski areas with a fresh coating of snow. The system left up to eight inches upon the Wasatch Mountains before it's scheduled to start exiting the state later today.

Jon Wade over at Steamboat Springs Blog sends this little note:

It rained all day yesterday and I awoke to this beautiful sight...

According to CBS News in Denver Eisenhower Tunnel was closed last night due to a brief but intense snowstorm. Let it snow.

I checked the Kraft Family Webcam at Brian Head and there was a skiff of snow on the mountain there too.

Posted by Justin at 02:15 PM

September 14, 2007

Helmet and Season Pass Use (h/t First Tracks)

This from FTO regarding helmet and season pass usage:

Among the most prominent trends noted in the 2007 National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) National Demographic Study is the continued aging of the visitor base, with strong growth in skiers and snowboarders aged 45 and older. The fact that older participants are being retained in the sport in significant numbers is a welcome trend for the ski industry, while at the same time raising concerns about introducing the next generation to the sport.

The average age of participants has risen steadily from 33.2 in 1997-98 to 36.6 in 2006-07. Specifically, since 1997-98, the proportion of visitors aged 45 to 54 has increased from 14.0 percent to 19.4 percent; the proportion of visitors aged 55 to 64 has almost doubled from 4.6 percent to 9.4 percent; and the proportion of visitors aged 65 and older has also almost doubled, from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent.

Age differences across different regions of the U.S. are dramatic. The Midwest has the youngest visitor base with a median age of 22, followed by the Southeast at 28, Pacific West at 32, Rocky Mountains at 39 and the Northeast at 40.

This year’s study also indicates a continued increase in helmet usage. Overall, 40 percent of survey respondents were wearing a helmet when interviewed, up from 38 percent last season and 25 percent in 2002-03.

Season pass usage also continues to rise. Thirty-one percent of respondents owned a season pass this season, up from the 26 to 29 percent levels during the prior five seasons.

First, I am a huge proponent of helmet usage. I like my grape. My kids wear helmets. I make them. They have never really skied without one, so it becomes second nature. And with the cool helmets now days and the add-ons like my Skull Candy ear phones, skull caps, and so forth, I actually prefer having my helmet to the years and years of wearing a hat.

It is also good that the sport is retaining older skiers. These folks buy real estate, spend more, and usually are bringing their kids skiing with them, helping the long term viability of the sport. And folks are skiing enough and resorts are pricing passes like the Colorado Pass low enough that folks view season passes as a good investment.

All of these trends are positive for the sport.

Posted by Justin at 08:55 AM

August 31, 2007

Megeve Mike Has More Info on Skiing Europe

Mike Beaudet is an American expat that runs a private ski school in France specializing in ski tours for Americans and Brits. Upside is he speaks both French and English and being that he is American and certified as both a French and PSIA ski instructor, he brings a wealth of knowledge and a ton of experience both instructing and guiding skiers.

Mike sends this update on skiing the Alps:

I often talk to my American clients and friends that fly into Geneva International Airport (GVA) from most any city off the East and West Coast of the US. They tell me that it is less expensive (much cheaper), and takes less time to ski in the French Alps than to fly and then drive 3 hours to some of the better known resorts in Colorado and Utah. The flight is only 6 to 7 hours! A short 1 hour drive from Geneva will get you to Megeve and you’re on the ski slopes.

I have a Private Ski School " Ski Pros Megeve " in Megeve, France and can assure you that even with a dollar at $1.35 to the Euro;


  • The cost of lift passes are half what you would pay back home in the US.
  • Ski Equipment rental is less... even for top of the line models.
  • Food on the hill is unique, has taste (tastes good) and at about $28. for two, including wine, won’t ruin you.
  • The hotels (at the bottom of the slopes and center of town) can be reserved for anywhere from $148. And up!
  • A taxi transfer from the airport to Megeve will cost about $160 per person or you can take a bus for a quarter of the cost and get to the same place, in the same amount of time.
  • People are super friendly and the atmosphere is like nothing back home.
  • Private ski lessons are half the price that you would pay in the Rocky Mountains.
  • A good supper, (and plenty of it) at a good restaurant can start at $25. Including wine, desert and tips!
  • It is not just the price there is a lot more… it’s easy to get to also!
  • You can ski several ski areas in short drives ( 20 min. ) frome any one area. Where else can you go to ski into one, two or even three different countries in a ski trip if not in a day?

I tried to free up some time to travel to France last year, but got crazy busy with work. I am hoping to get over to Europe (for the first time) this year. I am also hoping to go to Chile next summer, and have enough airline miles to do one or the other. I want to take Tera to Europe with me, but since she does not ski and that is the main reason I am going, she would be crazy bored. Jake will for sure be going so that he can ski with me. Spoiled little brat. =)

Check Mike's website out and drop him and e-mail if you are interested in skiing Europe. He can score some awesome deals since he works closely with the local resorts and can get you a guide, passes, hotels, meals, and so on for considerably less than a travel agent can.

Posted by Justin at 12:03 PM

August 30, 2007

Condo Rental Etiquette

It is Labor Day weekend and I am heading to Utah on another holiday. There will be countless other folks up there to see the leaves changing colors hoping to enjoy one more mini-vacation before the weather turns cold. I want to highlight some of the things that have happened in the two plus years that I have owned my condo that have just pissed me off. If you own or rent a condo, here is a little lesson in how not to be a gigantic a-hole to the other people that use the condo complex:

  • Don't drink beer in glass containers near the pool. I know this is retarded to even have to mention it, but glass containers near a pool are bad news. I have seen too many people do this to count and usually it is at night when management is no where to be found. And they are always renters.
  • If you are gonna get trashed, do it in your own unit, not in the hall or the pool.
  • Don't run up and down the halls. Walk. Running makes way more noise and the walls are usually paper thin.
  • Stay in the same unit as your kids. If they are so rotten that you cannot stand to stay in the same unit with them, they are gonna be even worse if left alone.
  • Don't cook fish or anything else that smells nasty. It smells up the entire floor. If you want to have a fish fry, use the barbeque outside or at least make sure you open all your windows. In the winter, it is too cold to open the windows, so just don't do it. I don't want to know what you had for dinner.
  • When you bring a group, make sure that the kids know which room their friends are staying in. At midnight, having some idiot ring my doorbell while I am in my boxers (which are usually not the good sexy kind with hearts and silk) and making me climb down the stairs to hear "Uh, I thought this was Bobby's room) is enough to make me want to beat you and then find Bobby and beat him too.
  • Don't leave your trash outside your door. Take it to the garbage. Again with the whole smell thing.
  • Don't make out in the hottub. Have some class. You got a room, use it. My kids don't want to see that--or maybe they are old enough that they do. Either way, I don't want them to see it.
  • Close the damned windows and leave the heater on low when you leave. Don't freeze up the complex and bust pipes because you are an idiot.
  • Put your pool towels in the dirty linen bag. Don't just leave them by the pool.
  • If your dog doesn't fit in a medium sized women's handbag, leave it at home. If your dog is named Kujo or Killer or Mauler, etc., as opposed to Bit Bit or Fe Fe or Gigi (as Lindsey's favorite toy poodle is) then you are good.

Now, for the worse offenses I have seen at Timberbrook:

  • A couple guys rented a unit with no credit card on deposit and then set a tire on fire in the garage, which of course filled with dark black smoke and evacuated the entire building.
  • Someone got the shietes and crapped all over the men's restroom and didn't clean it up. They wiped some of it up with a pool towel, simply smearing it.
  • Someone took that a step further and took a dump right in the middle of the floor randomly, probably on a dare.
  • Some kids were using a potato launcher to hurl water balloons at their friends 100 feet down the hall.
  • Some renters broke into a bunch of the ski lockers and stole several snowboards.

This is such no brainer stuff. I figured that people that can drop a grand and a half for a week condo rental would have at least half a clue on how to conduct themselves. I expect the kids that come up on their school ski trips to be little spoiled pricks, but not the average renter.

BTW, best group of kids ever to stay at the complex--kids from Saddleback Church in CA. They literally could be seen every evening after the mountain closed walking to a Bible study in the clubhouse. They were polite and they had plenty of supervision. Two weeks later, from Huntington Beach, some kids ski club came up and half the kids were drunk.

My worst offense of etiquette--Jeremy and me watching the Broncos-Pats playoff game two years ago.

Posted by Justin at 11:02 AM

July 14, 2007

South America Info from Unofficial Andes - Las Lenas

New blog on my blogroll - Unofficial Andes.com which has some good stuff on South America including this post about Las Lenas:

Las Lenas was opened in 1982 and has since become the premier Argentinean ski resort. There is no town within an hour of Las Lenas but there are plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Most people who come to ski Las Lenas stay at one of the hotel/apartments that are located right at the base of the mountain. However, if you are looking to stay for the season or are on a budget you can try and land a bed in one of the gringo ski bum apartments.

Terrain
Las Lenas is known for having some of the most extreme lift accessible terrain on the planet. From the top of the Marte chairlift you can access hundreds of chutes descend in all directions that open up into wide-open faces. Below this there are groomed runs which fan out on Las Lenases front side. Grooming here, like most South American resorts, is OK at best. Don’t be surprised if you see a major wipeout on every lift ride. This is largely due to low intermediate skiers skiing on very inconsistent groomed runs. If you don’t mind hiking or are one of the nut jobs who enjoy it, Las Lenas will offer you truly spectacular runs which seem to go on forever. If you dont feel like hiking, Las Lenas also provides heil-skiing and cat-skiing.

Nightlife
The Nightlife in Las Lenas goes on 7 nights a week till around 9 a.m. If you are looking to party as much as ski Las Lenas is the place for you.

I still want to take a trip to South America, but money just ain't there right now. From what I understand, a week trip down there and a stay in the apartments (read hostels like accomodations) is dirt cheap. Transport, lodging (with 20 sweaty dudes in bunks), lift tickets, and food can be had for under a grand. Portillo has bunks for around $80 per night.

Las Lenas offers apartment style accomodations that if you sleep 7 in a huge apartment, the price per day for lift tickets, transport, and lodging runs around $600 per day FOR SEVEN PEOPLE. That is about $85 per person to stay and ski. Food is extra. Not sure if they have other arrangements for individuals to share housing like Portillo's dorms, but Unofficial Andes probably has more info.

Posted by Justin at 12:04 PM

July 10, 2007

Skiing in Iraq

Some just plain crazy stuff:

Despite all the negative news coming out Iraq, there is a glimmer of hope. It’s early days, but an investment and construction boom underway in the largely unreported, relatively peaceful northern part of Iraq, has led to a wave of development proposals, including the country’s first modern ski area.

Neighbouring Iran contains about 20 ski areas and has a long history of winter sports dating back to the era of the Shahs and the first half of the 20th century. Despite the image of both nations as desert countries, Iran actually has several entries in the list of the world’s 20 highest ski areas.

The many ranges of the Zagros mountains extend along southern and western Iran and into northern Iraq. Many peaks exceed 3000m (9,000ft), with the highest point being Zard Kuh at 4548m (14,921 ft).

The rumors of a ski resort for Iraq come on a wave of development projects in the relatively peaceful Kurdistan sector in the north of the country, which has been protected by a no-fly zone since 1991. Although this “nation within a country” still has many deprivations for most of the population, foreign investment and money from wealthy Iraquis is going in to new malls, housing developments, casinos and mosques at levels measured in the billions of dollars.

A New York Times article “Pointing to Stability, Kurds in Iraq Lure Investors,” on 27th June 2007 notes that The Kurdistan Regional Government is investing $325 million in a modern terminal at the Erbil International Airport to handle, officials hope, millions of passengers a year, and a three-mile runway that will be big enough for the new double-decker Airbus A380.

“We’re not saying Kurdistan is heaven,” Herish Muharam, chairman of the Kurdish government’s Board of Investment told the NYT. “But we’re telling investors that Kurdistan can be that heaven.”

Get them Hummers uparmored for the trip to Northern Iraq. This is gonna be a slightly difficult sell for the Kurdistan Tourist Bureau. I am booking my trip now.

UPDATE:Jeremy sends this update:

I am thinking that the avalanche would probably need a few aftermarket upgrades to make that trip possible. Does chevy offer a "gun turret" option for that year, or is that only available on the 07' and up Avalanches?

I think the other major problem would be all of the hoodlum Iraqi snowboarders smoking hash and blowing sh*t up. Nobody wants to share the slopes with snowboarders carrying a-k's, grenades, and RPG's. Bad part is if the resort takes the alta approach and bans snowboarders from the mountain, it's jihad time buddy!!!!!! Waiting in long lift lines sucks. Waiting in long lift lines with suicide bombers..... probably sucks a little more. On the bright side, I am thinking that the Iraqi national team will probably win that olympic event where the skiers shoot at targets, hands down every time...

Jer hits the nail on the head. I am adding the gun turret and up-armor on the Avy now and buying Kevlar body armor.

Posted by Justin at 11:40 PM | Comments (1)

June 18, 2007

Hokey Websites for Resorts

The whole Interweb thing is gettin' awful popular nowadays. But 2003 was a long time ago. In web years, which work kinda like dog years, 4 years is about three lifetimes ago. But 4 years ago was the last time Sunrise updated or redesigned their website and their design pretty much sucked 4 years ago too. I actually think their design was done about six years ago because I remember the page being roughly the same as far back as 2001.

I want to use my forum as a quick shout out to the worst designed and oldest web pages for resorts that I have found. Maybe encourage them to hire some college kid for $10 an hour (which is almost double what they pay their lift operators and ski instructors) to do some updates. I mean it ain't expensive to do some site updates every once in a while. And adding a webcam isn't really a site update. I am not talking crazy flash animation like Vail, but rather some simple, clean site design.

Some are much worse than others, and the last two really aren't that bad. Not meant to offend anyone, except for the designers of the first two sites because I consider it personally offensive that they can go around calling themselves "Web Designers". Here are the worst two with a couple of other suggestions (but I will update with reader input):

  • Sunrise - oh, where to start. The use of tables with thick borders that serve absolutely no purpose. Then you have randomly sized pictures and announcements that have absolutely no theme. The background is just the same image over and over that serves no purpose either. In short, this looks like a web page that some kid taking Web101 at the local high school designed as a pet project. I hope that he got a D or F for it. I have a 10 year old and a 12 year old brother that collectively could do a better job. And since it is the 5 year anniversary of the 500,000 acre Rodeo-Chediski fires, I will suggest that the tribe hire Leonard Gregg who should be learning some good vocational skills in prison after he felt the unemployment situation on the rez was so bad that he decided to start the largest wildfire in Arizona history to secure some part time employment as a firefighter. How about creating a non-casino job for one of your tribe members?
  • Wolf Creek - not nearly as bad as Sunrise, but still in major need of an overhaul. What is up with the color scheme? Whoever signed off on these colors needs shot. But at least the links work. I don't like the redundant use of navigation on both the sidebar and the bottom of the page, especially that the links are not in the same order.
  • Rock Dodge - not a bad site, for having a copyright in 2002. I don't really like their use of tables and I hate them using white text in colored table cells. But they have a consistent color theme. Their navigation links are too small to see and get around on and the white text contributes to that.
  • Brian Head - Their new summer site is not much to look at. They did a redesign last year of their winter site and I am not a huge fan of the light green text against a dark green background. Again, minor quibbles. Their navigation is easy to use. This site was just redesigned this last year, but their old site was not bad at all. I really wish the site had more information about the new ski lift improvements.

The last two don't even belong in the same category as the first. Brian Head's and Red Lodge's sites are well laid out and well designed, except for the color schemes. And even at that, they could be much worse.

Please Wolf Creek and Sunrise, fix your crappy sites. There are lots of folks that design web pages for a living and do it pretty cheap. Give it to a college class as a class project. But it is time. Well past time. Sunrise can afford to pay lawyers to put their competition out of business (Snowbowl) with all their casino money, why not spend a little on the resort website?

Posted by Justin at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

May 14, 2007

Bode Says F-U to US Team, Would Rather Party

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Former Olympic medalist and World Cup champion Bode Miller is leaving the U.S. ski team, ending his contentious relationship with the federation that oversees the sport in this country.

The fiercely independent Miller has been at odds with the association for years, and there long had been rumblings that he would leave the team. U.S. officials have been unhappy with Miller's late-night partying and his outlandish public comments...

The 29-year-old Miller won two silver medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, but was shut out at the 2006 Turin Games despite being a favorite in nearly every Alpine discipline. He was criticized for spending too much time in local clubs...

Miller told U.S. men's coach Phil McNichol of his decision to leave the team following a meeting at the headquarters of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association in Park City.

"Bode is a great athlete and we hope he will continue to have athletic success," U.S. Alpine director Jesse Hunt said in a statement released Saturday by the federation. "We had a serious discussion with Bode about his responsibilities as a team member, and he later advised us he was choosing not to join the team."...

"There have been a lot of specific issues out there -- the RV, alcohol issues and so forth," Kelly said in a telephone interview. "None of those were talking points in this meeting. This was about the philosophy of the team, what it means to be a member of the team."...

"In my mind, I'm better than any other racer," he said. "I've been racing against those guys for five, 10 years. Given equal conditions, I feel I can beat those guys any day."

He criticized the association for not coming to his defense at the Turin Olympics instead of offering a public apology for him.

"Everybody parties," Miller said. "There's too much emphasis on winning."

Miller entered the Turin Olympics as a major focus of attention, as much for his attitude as his talent after saying on CBS' "60 Minutes" program: "If you ever tried to ski wasted, it's not easy."

Although a flop on the slopes, he left the Games in an upbeat mood.

"It's been an awesome two weeks," he said at the time. "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."

As a skier, Bode is phenomenol. As a person, he leaves much to be desired. As a teammate and representative of our nation, he is a piece of trash.

He has a show on Sirius and spends his time talking about how much he likes European culture and prefers it over the US. A man that travels the world, shows no respect for his sport or the uniform he wears for the US, and would rather show up wasted than dedicate himself to upholding his reputation as a role model and most recognized US athlete in the sport is perhaps the reason why the world views Americans with so much disdain. Bode has it all. Money, fame, and so on. Yet instead of feeling privileged and greatful to his fans and country, he chooses to party his way through life.

What happens when he leaves skiing and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to respect him? What happens when he fails to be a great athlete and is nothing more than a wealthy, famous American that does nothing but party?

Bode is Tara Reid, Paris Hilton, Courtney Love, and Robert Downey Jr. all rolled up into a skier. It is a disgusting waste that such a great athlete offers my kids who love skiing absolutely no role model at all.

Jeremy Bloom is someone to look up to. Bode is just an a-hole kid blessed with a lot of athletic talent. Maybe Dennis Rodman is a better comparison.

Posted by Justin at 12:33 PM

May 08, 2007

Changes in the Ski Industry

A few months ago, I posted about the top skiing innovations. There is an article in the Spokane Review (registration required) that talks about some other things that one futurist sees coming:

In his new book, "The History of Modern Skiing" (University Press of New England), Fry addresses the past: "Americans produced many of the innovations that transformed the sport — including the chairlift, the metal ski, the plastic boot, the modern ski pole, snowmaking and grooming, professional head-to-head racing, the waxless cross-country ski, the freestyle movement, and snowboarding."

He offers only one look ahead: "There are strong indications that some skiers who took up snowboarding will be going back to wide, short skis that can carve a turn. That was the big attraction of snowboarding in the 1990s — you could arc a pure curve turn on the snow. Now, you can do that with skis."

Here is where it gets interesting for me:

Imagine a skier from 50 years ago surveying the scene in a modern lift line. What would he think of iPods wired into jackets? GPS wrist units? Cell phones with cameras? Digitally scanned lift tickets? Polarized contact lenses designed to cut snow glare? PDAs that allow skiers to check in at the office while they're on the lift? These innovations have shaped the sport and will continue to do so, believes Jim Carroll. Carroll, a noted futurist who lives outside Toronto, says the concept of a work/life balance is a major trend that will continue.

He shares this story: "An engineering company was trying to hire this engineering student in British Columbia, near a bunch of (ski) resorts. He turned their offer down. They called him back and were mystified. He said, "You talk about your 9 to 5 culture; that would mess with my powder time."

The way younger people define themselves has changed, Carroll says. "They don't tell you what they do for a living, but what they do." Carroll sees a ski area in the future "with a lot more people hanging out at the hill with a little portable office, doing their thing."

I cannot imagine skiing for me as being a once a year trip to a resort using my vacation time. Telecommunications has come so far. It enables me to work from home or from the condo seamlessly. I can catch a couple of runs during lunch and check in with the office on my cell phone. (I still don't have a Blackberry yet) Even resorts are getting in on the concept and expanding their business centers to allow folks to keep in touch while on the mountain.

I think that I am a part of several of the new trends in skiing. I am in my early 30's. I work remotely via high speed internet and am a huge consumer of technology. I am a twin tip skier (though not much of a jibber). All of these things are part of the trends we are seeing on the mountains. These things are good for skiing because they help replace the baby boomers with new participants.

I guess the real question is--what will things be like for the industry when Jake is my age in 20 years? I assume that by then I will have had both knees replaced from years of skiing abusing them. I will be semi-retired and live in a nice resort town. Probably wearing a sweater with trees on it and trying to look cool. I am hoping not bald. I try not to think that far in advance though...

Posted by Justin at 12:45 PM

May 05, 2007

Say Goodbye to Independent Ski Schools

Seattle Weekly has this article about local non-resort ski schools:

It sounds like the plot for a bad Jason London movie: A ski mogul with an eye on the bottom line takes over a local resort and cancels contracts with the community-based ski schools that have traditionally served the slopes, then asks the ski bums to join the corporate ranks. Lessons double in cost. Longtime skiers and snowboarders are outraged. The National Forest Service washes its hands of the matter. Will the underdog community schools yield to big business? Can snow-loving families afford the increased cost of lessons? Will the feds step in?...

In a letter sent two weeks ago to a handful of schools that have served the resort since its inception (Crystal refuses to comment on matters directly related to the decision), Kircher states that cutting ties is the result of tough times in the ski industry, with problems including increased fuel costs, lack of qualified staffing, low customer-retention rate, and erratic weather. Herein, Kircher writes: "In times like these we are forced to come up with new and creative ways to manage our business," later adding that the change, "[w]ill allow us to create standards of excellence based on specific skiing/riding models and customer service models." The letter concludes by inviting schools to "[b]ecome part of our family and share the Crystal Mountain experience," an offer the now-unemployed instructors took as an invitation to work for Crystal's in-house school...

For Kevin McCarthy, president of the White Pass ski area (located west of Yakima on Highway 12), which cut ties with its concession schools shortly before he started running things in the early '70s, consolidation is simply good business. "Why give business that's occurring on your property to someone else? You need every penny you can get. They're making a good call." he says.

It is akin to owning a movie theatre and letting someone set up a vending boot inside your theatre and sell popcorn and soda without giving you a cut. Resorts make a huge portion of their money (and an even larger portion of their profits) off of their ski school. Ski schools have little long term fixed assets associated with them meaning that most of their cost model is variable costs as opposed to fixed. This allows flexibility to increase or decrease costs according to demand. In short, this is a necessary and smart business decision, but it hurts locals that don't want to make the $9 an hour that most resorts pay their instructors.

Something that really bothers me though is this:

Further complicating matters is the fact that Crystal is located on government land and operates under a "special use permit" issued by the National Forest Service. In addition to a percentage of Crystal's profits going to the National Treasury, this means that the NFS has a significant say over business decisions that are made at Crystal and other local slopes, to the point that the resorts must seek approval for details as specific as the color and style of their buildings.

But in the case of the spurned schools, the NFS has chosen not to interfere. "Things we do have say over are safety and what kind of services are provided," says Washington's Forest Service director, Rob Iwamoto. "Obviously, ski school is one of those—but how business is arranged isn't one of those. In general, who provides [the ski-school service] is a business decision. We just expect a level of service to be provided. We are not there to micromanage a business."

You mean any time a business makes a decision that someone is unhappy about the government must choose whether to interfere or not? Well, it is on forest service land that the ski resort has a special use permit for. So surely the special use permit gives the government the right to choose whether to interfere with business operations. The article should have mentioned that the government also chooses not to interfere with ticket prices or food prices in the cafeterias. Typical Seattle type attitude. Before the government concerns themselves with local ski instructors, we need the government to choose to interfere with the price that I pay for a latte from SBC or Starbucks or choose to interfere with how much Windows or MS Office costs. (SBC, Starbucks, and Microsoft being Seattle based companies)

No, the only thing the government needs to choose to interfere with is the amount of THC that is soaking in to this man-ponytail wearing, latte sipping, Seattle based, hippy brain. Damn, dude, put on a flannel, put on some Pearl Jam, and either chain yourself to a tree or protest the World Bank's next conference bro. You gotta be somewhat objective and the use of a single word detracts from the point that the situation sucks for the folks involved. But no business has a "right" to exist. The government does not have an obligation to sit as the judge of which of the two competing business models should be allowed simply because the ski resort happens to be on public land.

Posted by Justin at 08:34 AM | Comments (2)

May 02, 2007

Get Your Lazy Butt in the Gym

About.com has a good article on offseason workouts for skiing:

The most efficient and thorough strength workout is on Nautilus type exercise machines. "Nautilus" has become a generic term for any brand of exercise machine that isolates individual muscle groups. These machines are usually grouped so that moving from one machine to the next is a progression, or circuit of working related muscle groups.

These circuit machines have become very popular and you will surely find them if you belong to a YMCA, or most any modern health or fitness club.

At first the machines may seem a little complicated or torturous looking, but be assured after a short while you will get the hang of bouncing from machine to machine for a some good strength training.

Then more info about specific exercises. Worth reading for some generic info about a good all around workout routine for building the muscles that enable stonger skiing.

I have a couple of very specific weak points. First, and I don't know their exact name, the muscles that oppose the calf muscles on the front of the shin are weak. This causes pain and soreness after a long ski day because you are constantly using your lower legs to shift weight on your skis. Second, my quads get fatigued late in the day.

I have decided for a variety of reasons (read my fat ass) to begin a consistent workout routine. Our local YMCA is brand new, cheap, has great childcare, and is a few miles away. I am trying to spend four days per week there. It is a month now and I certainly feel stronger and more fit. I am also walking and biking more.

I ain't exactly serious enough be calling Victor Conti for the cream and the clear yet, but I am hoping that I can build working out into my pattern during the week. It takes some dedication, but I genuinely feel better lately.

Posted by Justin at 03:04 PM

April 16, 2007

Much Love for Vermont April Dumps (h/t Sparkie at Say Anything Blog.com)

First off, Sparkie over at Say Anything Blog.com posted this and offered the following caption:

Killington, Vermont - Noon on Saturday. That is not manmade snow either. The last two thurs/fris up there have yielded 24” and 18” respectively. Currently that area is about 8” into a 30” dump scheduled to end sometime tomorrow. The skiing on Saturday was f**king brilliant. The only thing like this I can remember recently was 2001 when that area got approx 48” during the first week of April. Anyone on the eastern seaboard who skis - Monday/Tuesday might be a sweet time to come down with a ‘48 hour flu’. Wink wink.

Say is my first stop in the morning as far as blog reads and Sparkie offers some great commentary. Never knew my boy was a two planker who suffered from similar bouts of the flu as your truly.

vermont.jpg

Posted by Justin at 11:12 AM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2007

Settling in for the Off Season

This weekend is the last ski weekend at Brian Head. I talked to Tera yesterday about making one last trip up, but this weekend won't work. Jarrett has a field trip to the zoo tomorrow, she has to work, Jake has AIMS testing to make sure No Child Gets Left Behind. All of the fun things that we put off for the last six months are catching up with us.

It was a great season. The skiing wasn't great and the snow didn't come down in nearly the amount we wanted (half the average annual snowfall for Brian Head), but this year was better than last and we made several trips that were very enjoyable. Jarrett got his first couple real days skiing in and Jake and Jack got at least 20 days (they don't mind light coverage and hard packed conditions because they don't have to pay to get p-tex work done or for waxes).

So now it is time for my offseason routine. Here is what I have going on:

  • New workout program at the local YMCA. Started a couple of weeks ago because I am fat and out of shape--well, I am in a shape, but round is the wrong shape.
  • Suns Post-season. This should keep me busy until June when they win a title.
  • Wickenburg football season. Wick is coming off back to back seasons when they went deep in the playoffs including a state title loss to Coolidge this last season. I am once again working the chains and spending my Friday nights watching football.
  • ASU Football. Dennis Erickson. Great returning talent. USC at home on Thanksgiving Day. Roses would be nice, but even the Sun or Holiday Bowl would be an upgrade.
  • Cardinals Football. Despite my better judgment and my bitterness over the last 20 years of underachieving (except for 1998), I renewed my season tickets.
  • The Annual Cards Training Camp Trip. Every year in August, we head to Flag for a day.
  • Maybe a Diamondbacks game or two. I am still upset over the loss of purple and teal in the unis.

Got some work projects to catch up on, some house projects, and am getting ready to open another business this coming spring. Lots on my plate, but it is always good stuff. The condo needs two things done still--the closet doors hung upstairs and the downstairs bathroom finished. Not a lot of work to do, so next season should be even more enjoyable. All the work is done, so there will be more time for skiing and relaxing.

All in all, I am looking forward to the summer and fall and cannot wait for the snow to start coming down again. I will keep updating and posting throughout the summer with more information related to my doings as well as skiing.

Posted by Justin at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

April 10, 2007

Statistics on Utah Skier Visits

I have added a new page with detailed statistics of Utah skier visits from the state's Demographic and Economic Analysis Department. Check out the new page and info. Here is the chart:

Some interesting info, but Skier Visits have increased dramatically since 2001.

Utah still lags far behind Colorado as a national ski destination, but the state has a ton to offer. I rec'd an e-mail today that said the following:

I was lucky enough to ski Breck in January and Snowbasin in March. What are your thoughts on Snowbasin? Skiied it on a Wednesday and Thursday. No lift lines and the two gondolas were awesome. Different atmosphere than Breck.

Check the stats for Snowbasin:

  • Vertical rise: 2,959 ft (902 m)
  • Average yearly snowfall: 400 in (10 m)
  • Total lifts: 12
    • 1 Tram
    • 2 Gondolas (high speed detachable)
    • 1 Quad chair (high speed detachable)
    • 4 Triple chair
    • 1 Double chair
    • 1 Magic carpet
    • 2 Hand rope tows
  • Total lift capacity: 14,650 people per hour
  • Skiable area: 2,650 acres

Compare this to Breck that receives roughly five times the number of skier visits on the same acreage. Here are Breck's comparable stats:

  • Vertical rise: 3,398 feet (1,036 m)
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 300 in
  • Total Lifts: 29
    • 2 high-speed 6-passenger SuperChairs
    • 7 high-speed quad lifts
    • 1 triple lift
    • 6 double lifts
    • 1 8-passenger gondola
    • 4 surface lifts
    • 8 carpet lifts
  • Total lift capacity: 37,880 people per hour
  • Skiable Area: 2358 acres

Utah is nearly untouched. Colorado gets 12M + skier visits per year to Utah's 4M. Alta-Snowbird is absolutely massive and Snowbasin, Solitude, Brighton, and the West Side resorts getting half as much traffic as Park City.

Long story short--Utah has far fewer people than Colorado and the resorts are much less crowded. Down side is that the nightlife is lacking (save Park City) and the beer flows like water--but it has the same alcohol content and tastes like water too. Utah has a very different feel than Colorado, but as far as pure skiing, I prefer Utah. No, I take that back--I prefer Alta, and it happens Alta is in Utah. I have yet to try Snowbasin, but plan to early next year. Just been spending almost every day at Brian Head this season.

Posted by Justin at 03:44 PM

April 08, 2007

The Year That Was in Utah

The SLC Tribune has an article on the year that was in Utah:

"We got some good early snow," he said.

But starting in November, a high pressure ridge parked itself over the West until about February.

That weather pattern acted as a bubble, forcing snowstorms to other areas, he said.

Utah's loss was Canada's gain, as many storms shifted to the north, McInerney explained.

Meager snowpacks, which reached about 50 percent of average in northern Utah, are not only bad news for skiing, but they also spell trouble for the Salt Lake Valley's water resources in the summer.

This season sucked in a bad way for me. Early snow, but no mid season snow at all. I finally had my place done and Brian Head got 225" of snow (and a huge chunk of that came in March). Normal snowfall is over 400".

But take what you get and thank the Ski Gods for the wonderful sport. It still was a ski season and the laws of averages mean that sooner or later we will have another 600" winter like two years ago.

Posted by Justin at 11:21 PM | Comments (1)

April 07, 2007

Viewer Mail

I have taken a principled stand against Global Warming Hypocrisy as well as the infringement of Native American Rights upon property owners with the following posts:

Today I rec’d the following e-mail [excerpted for length}:

Without taking up too much of your time, I just wanted to express my sincere regret for your lack of education, and the poor-upbringing your children must be getting from their male role-model if those pictures on the website are in fact them.

As I write this message and look at a picture of a family in front of a trail map sign, I want to specifically state that I do not feel everyone in the US must finish grade school, high school, or go to college to be “educated”. The problem lies when one speaks strongly and they do not have any education about the subject they are speaking to, but ascertain claims as if they were experts.

However, from your telling of the recent Casino situation, global warming, to your details about the Arizona Snowbowl case, its very clear you have never studied anything related to ecological functionality, culture, the history of the US, and specifically Native American History.

Sir, your racism is reminiscent of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. You are one of the micro-reasons racism still exists as your white supremaced attitude leaks through almost every article I’ve read on your blog in the last couple of hours.

I’ll see what my SOAN 630/680 class thinks of this blog in the coming week or two as we may focus a case study on your particular blog as a real world example of neo-colonialism, as well as bounce this off the others at the environmental justice center in Washington that I work with specifically to address such issues as you raise in these articles.

Perhaps we’ll be in contact in the future. Until then I hope your readers distinguish the horrendous hateful tone you express in this blog through the beauty that is skiing, and readers recognize that this perspective is no more than ultra right wing conservative GW Bush type propaganda, hidden under a veil of skiing, creating a neo-colonial platform for white folks to continue to hate Indians so YOU CAN GO SKIING (!?).

Wow. Please read my hate filled racist blog about skiing.

My response:

While you may disagree with my tone, opinion, or writing style, the purpose of my site is to encourage discussion of issues that are important to me and to the sport. And in that respect, I have accomplished my mission. People are reading my site and it is encouraging discussion. While we may disagree on the issues, I appreciate the fact that you believe my opinion is so hateful, racist, neocolonialist or whatever that you would choose to include my writings in your class. I cannot encourage discourse without taking sides and without writing passionately about the issues that I care about. Your note demonstrates that our political system is about making your voice heard, whether that be at the ballot box or in the general discourse. Perhaps you mistake passion with anger, racism, hate, etc., but they are merely rhetorical tools that draw attention to the cause. Without my site, folks would be less informed about the issue. You may not like what I say, but it is precisely the impact of blogging that allows the average citizen to make their voice heard.

I encourage you or your students to post comments in an appropriate manner that attacks my positions without attacking me or my family. I also would appreciate if you make your comments about the issues, not about the upbringing of my children.

Thanks for reading my blog and for your feedback.

This is the response. No debate on the merits of the Snowbowl decision or Global Warming, but rather, to attack me as a Racist, Neocolonialist puppet of the Right Wing Hate-mongers like George W. Bush.

Let's get back to the issues. Like it or hate it, the Snowbowl case is not about Native American history, it is about the San Francisco Peaks and the role of the executive branch of government to administer their lands. Global Warming is about the impact of climate study and the quality of the science on the political system. It is about how we as Americans change our habits or impact our economy to fix a problem that we are not even sure how much is man-made.

Nope, this is really about me and how I raise my kids.

Posted by Justin at 01:54 PM

April 06, 2007

Some Jackson Skiing to Tide Me Over During the Offseason

Dude, this is just sickness. Check it.

Posted by Justin at 10:15 PM

April 02, 2007

How to Stop Global Warming - Hollywood Style (h/t Rob at Sayanything)

I am not gonna let this go. I am disgusted by the elitist "do as I say, not as I do" style of Environmentalism by the wealthy in the US. This story is exactly the attitude that makes me want to vomit everytime an actor mentions "Global Warming" and the need of average Americans to cut back while they continue to live their priviledged lifestyle. People that live in 20,000 sq. ft. glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

This story about John Travolta from the UK should highlight how hypocritical Hollywood is about Global Warming. But at least they gave Al Gore an Oscar, right...

His serious aviation habit means he is hardly the best person to lecture others on the environment. But John Travolta went ahead and did it anyway. The 53-year-old actor, a passionate pilot, encouraged his fans to "do their bit" to tackle global warming.

But although he readily admitted: "I fly jets", he failed to mention he actually owns five, along with his own private runway. Clocking up at least 30,000 flying miles in the past 12 months means he has produced an estimated 800 tons of carbon emissions – nearly 100 times the average Briton's tally.

"It [global warming] is a very valid issue," Travolta declared. "I'm wondering if we need to think about other planets and dome cities.

"Everyone can do their bit. But I don't know if it's not too late already. We have to think about alternative methods of fuel...

Travolta's five private planes – a customised £2million Boeing 707, three Gulfstream jets and a Lear jet – are kept at the bottom of his garden in the US next to a private runway.

travolta.jpg

Posted by Justin at 09:53 AM | Comments (3)

March 30, 2007

Vail Resorts and the Colorado Pass

I have several other posts about the Colorado Pass, but now that it is nearing the end of the season, it is the best time to start thinking about and/or purchasing your season pass for next year. I want to cover the Colorado Pass again, as well as highlight what I think about the CO Pass, Vail Resorts, and the impact of the two on affordable skiing in general.

First, the Colorado Pass--last year the pass ran a little under $400 (even less if you bought early) and got you unlimited skiing at Breck, Keystone, and A-basin plus 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek. Compare that to roughly the same price (regular price) for a season pass at Brian Head that is for one resort as opposed to three plus two more with bonus days.

Second, Vail. Well, it is Vail. Ten days at $85 a day peak price is more than double the cost of the pass. Hell, even a week at Vail is more expensive than the pass.

I am on a ton of mailing lists, but VRI is has a new Colorado Pass Club that gets you all kinds of offers and discounts. It is important to be an informed consumer and look for deals. If you do that, VRI has about the best deals in the industry. Their lift tickets and prices aren't cheap, but when you use the CO Pass it makes skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breck, and so on actually LESS EXPENSIVE than at many of the smaller resorts around the country... and you are skiing at the finest resorts in the world for reasonable prices.

Utah has nothing that even comes close to the CO Pass. A season pass at Alta is several hundred dollars more than the CO Pass and just covers Alta, and so on. I am big on keeping skiing affordable and Vail Resorts is certainly doing their part.

Posted by Justin at 02:48 PM | Comments (4)

March 26, 2007

New Link - Reclaim the Peaks.com

I can't do justice to the entire Snowbowl debate, but I want to direct your attention to my new link--Reclaim the Peaks.com that is run by the Snowbowl Ski Club.

Arizona has two resorts. One owned by the White Mountain Apache tribe, Sunrise, and Arizona Snowbowl. Snowbowl leaves some things to be desired. It is small. The snow coverage can be lacking. Lift lines suck on busy days because the college kids swamp it. But it is one of two resorts serving the two fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country as well as the country's fourth largest county:

WASHINGTON - Maricopa County gained 696,000 residents between 2000 and 2006, the largest numerical increase of the nation's 3,141 counties, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This increase surpasses the total population of all but 15 U.S. cities.

Pima County added an estimated 21,362 residents from 2005 to 2006 to end up with 946,362 as of July 1. It grew that year at a rate of 2.3 percent, placing it ninth among Arizona counties in growth rate.
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, has 3.8 million residents, making it the nation's fourth largest county.

"The dramatic increase in Maricopa County's population is the main reason Arizona became the nation's fastest-growing state between 2005 and 2006," said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon, referring to the state population estimates released last December. "Maricopa's growth has been remarkable, adding nearly 3 million residents since the 1970 census."

Maricopa County also added the most people - nearly 130,000 - from 2005 to 2006, the bureau reported. It was followed by Harris County, Texas; Riverside County, Calif.; Clark County, Nev.; and Tarrant County, Texas.

Pinal County ranked as the second fastest-growing county in the country from 2005 to 2006 among those with a population of more than 10,000. The county had an estimated 270,000 people and saw a 12.9 percent increase.

But Ski resorts and recreational opportunities do not need to expand just because the state is exploding with growth.

Reclaim the peaks is accepting donations for legal appeals and this issue is about far more than our local resort. This case has major implications for the entire industry as well as for all federal land.

Posted by Justin at 01:45 PM

March 24, 2007

Rocky Celebrates

I grew up in Billings and went to school at Highland Elementary, just about a mile from Rocky Mountain College. My first job ever was delivering papers for the Billings Gazette. Matter of fact, I started college at Eastern Montana College (about two miles away). Today, the Billings Gazette has an article on Rocky Mountain College in Billings winning a national ski racing championship:

Rocky Mountain College saluted its national championship men's ski-racing team Friday afternoon with a reception in Prescott Hall's appropriately named "Great Room."

Friends, fellow students, faculty and administrators gathered to hear written statements from Gov. Brian Schweitzer, senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and congressman Denny Rehberg congratulating the Bears on winning their second United States Collegiate Ski Association championship in three years.

"As a ski coach I never thought I would hear that kind of recognition," Rocky coach Jerry Wolf said of all the kind words flowing from Helena and Washington, D.C. "I was just trying to put together the best team I could and the fastest team I could to try to win."

And win they did, in Winter Park, Colo., sweeping the giant slalom, slalom and combined standings in topping the 19-school field when the competition concluded on March 10.

Good times. Rocky is about a half a mile from my mom's house. Congrats on winning a title.

Posted by Justin at 07:00 PM

March 19, 2007

The Sierra Club and the Environmental Movement's War on Skiing

Today, a reader called me a racist for being a little sensitive to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Snowbowl.

I am truly saddened by the messages written by Justin, the facilitator of this so called ski-blog. The fact that such racism can be freely exchanged in this manner is so indicative of the institutionalized racism of American society. Unfortunately those that bask in the privledge to ski that can't see how privledged we are to connect with the snow and mountains in this way, when so many other social ills are rampant in many peoples day-to-day lives, are missing the soul of this sport.

Recreation to some, a way of life for some folks like myself, I sincerely hope you can stop and check yourself Justin, at some point, and look to the history of Native Americans, how this country was founded, and what this case truly represents in the grand scheme of things.

This isn't about Snowbowl. Snowbowl is a relatively small resort, but this is a step in a much larger direction.

Colorado Wild's Ski Area Citizens Coalition contains the following messages about expansion:

With skier numbers essentially flat nationwide for the past twenty years, any ski area expansion and concomitant marketing for the limited pool of skiers must steal skiers from other ski areas. This in turn pressures other ski areas to also expand or otherwise “improve” their ski area, in short, the “ski area expansion arms race”. In approving one ski area expansion proposal after another, the Forest Service continues to promote more and more expansions – and their concomitant environmental damage – just so other resorts can regain the “Newer, Bigger, Better” marketing edge. Any look at SKI or other popular skiing magazines illustrates the marketing of expansion terrain.

Ninety percent of ski terrain in the western U.S. is on public lands. On the White River National Forest (home Breckenridge and ski area icons Vail, Aspen, and more) between 1985 and 1999, skier visitation increased 28%, yet skier acreage has more than doubled (a 107% increase). The trend has only grown since then with Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, Breckenridge’s Peak 7, and other expansions planned at Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. The Forest Service refuses to assess the nationwide impact of their policy promoting ski area expansions despite virtually no growth in skier visitation nationwide in two decades.

In an interview with Newsweek reporter Daniel Glick (author of the book Powderburn), former Vail Resorts principal Leon Black described how publicly traded ski resorts must attain a 15% return on investment to satisfy investors. With skier numbers nationwide stagnant for two decades, ski areas must either steal skiers from other ski areas to increase revenue, profit from real estate sales, or horizontally integrate by purchasing successful local businesses. The Peak 8 lift is the epitome of the former fueling the ski area arms race, where one ski area gains a marketing edge advertising newer, bigger, and better, only to be followed by the next resort seeking to gain it back.

Hate for the ski resort owners, but love for the sport. Ski Resorts are destroying the sport by expanding and providing better terrain. It isn't just Colorado Wild, but dozens of other groups that turn out to stop any expansion at all. There is no necessary expansion. Lift 8 at Breck--not needed.

The Denver Channel has info on the 1998 fires at Vail:

A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted four people on eight counts of arson for a series of eco-terrorism fires set at the Vail ski area in 1998...

The Two Elks Lodge and other structures on Vail Mountain were burned to the ground on Oct. 19, 1998. Damage was estimated at $12 million...

A group called the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, claimed responsibility for the fires and said it was done to protect the habit of the lynx. The FBI describes the group as one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist organizations. ELF says harming people is not its intention...

Gerlach and Meyerhoff had both been indicted in Portland, Ore., in December. Gerlach was accused in the toppling of an 80-foot electrical transmission tower in December 1999 and in a fire that year at an Oregon meat company. Meyerhoff was accused of setting fire to a lumber company and a tree farm in the state in 2001.

Overaker was indicted in January on federal charges stemming from fires at two ranger stations, a lumber company office and a meat company in Oregon. She is also accused in the toppling of the transmission tower in 1999.

Rubin was indicted in January in connection with fires at a lumber office in Oregon and wild horse facilities in Wyoming and California.

I am not comparing the Hopis to ELF by any stretch. The Hopis have legitimate concerns about snowmaking on their sacred peaks. Here is the problem though, the Snowbowl snowmaking debate brought out the same kinda nutjobs that set fire to Vail:

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson got a nasty surprise after attending a candidate's forum where his support of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl was a point of contention.


Vandals had littered his car with toilet paper, and placed a urine-filled commode on top.

Donaldson took it as an extreme example of opposition to using reclaimed Flagstaff wastewater to make snow on the nearby mountaintop...

After the event, Donaldson said he was confronted by members of a group opposed to the snowmaking plan, including Kelvin Long and another Save the Peaks member, Klee Benally. Both said they have no idea who might have put the toilet on the mayor's car.

"We don't have control, at least I don't have control, over people's actions and ... a lot of people are upset over this issue. It's not surprising that something like this would happen," Benally said.

We have a legal system for a reason. We don't allow terror, threats, or intimidation. So I am a racist for seeing this entire thing as an assault on skiing and on civil discourse in general. I am a racist for watching folks threaten ski resorts because our sport does not conform to their environmental agenda--no matter how radical their agenda is.

Again, the Hopis were a pawn in this game by the Sierra Club and others. The Hopi tribe did not vandalize the mayor's car. We all can assume that it was some 20something student at NAU who wanted to make a "statement" of protest. This is what ELF and other radical environmental groups justify as being necessary to "save the environment". They could give a damn about Native American Oppression and racism. They will stand behind an obscure religion because they understand the fact that this has far larger implications than just at Snowbowl. This provides them with new ammunition to stop ski area expansion and possibly close resorts down when their permits come up. That is their agenda.

Posted by Justin at 04:25 PM

More on Al Gore and Global Warming - From the WSJ

I hate to rant about Global Warming and the environment, but it has become such a hot topic with the Oscar nominations, Nobel Price Nominations, etc., as well as the constant "skiing is doomed" rhetoric. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting read on Al Gore-mania and the Environmental reality of Gore's own policies as well as the scientific reality of his scare tactics:

The media are finally catching up with Al Gore. Criticism of his anti-global-warming franchise and his personal environmental record has gone beyond ankle-biting bloggers. It's now coming from the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean, his hometown paper that put his birth, as a senator's son, on its front page back in 1948, and where a young Al Gore Jr. worked for five years as a journalist...

The Nashville-based Tennessee Center for Policy Research was skeptical that Mr. Gore had been "walking the walk" on the environment. It obtained public records showing that for years Mr. Gore has burned through more electricity at his Nashville home each month than the average American family uses in a year--and his consumption was increasing. The heated Gore pool house alone ran up more than $500 in natural-gas bills every month.

Mr. Gore's office responded by claiming that the Gores "purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero." But CNSNews.com reports that Mr. Gore doesn't purchase carbon offsets with his own resources, and that they are meaningless in terms of global warming.

The offset purchases are actually made for him by Generation Investment Management, a London-based investment firm that Mr. Gore co-founded, and which provides carbon offsets as a fringe benefit to all 23 of its employees, ensuring that they require no real sacrifice on the part of Mr. Gore or his family. Indeed, their impact is also highly limited. The Carbon Neutral Co.--one of the two vendors that sell offsets to Mr. Gore's company, says that offset purchases "will be unable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . . in the short term."

$500 per month just to heat your pool? Ah, but his company provides carbon offsets so Al can sleep well at night and continue flying his private jet around the world to tell us common people what we need to do to save the earth.

I keep pointing these things out because the common theme lately is that Global Warming is going to destroy skiing as we know it. The truth is that skiing truly has become a sport that only the wealthy like the Gore's or Kerry's or Kennedy's or Schwarzenegger's can afford and they continue to fly to resorts in their Gulfstreams and drive their H2's. If the world is at the point that the powerful elite treat the environment this way, destroy our sport by pricing it out of reach, and preach to us about the "Environment" and "Global Warming", maybe the destruction of the sport as we currently know it isn't such a bad thing.

Wind power and green tags and so on have no impact on the habits of those that can afford the higher price tag attached. Paying an extra $5 for a wind powered lift ticket when you are already paying $80 isn't a big deal. Fact is that these "save the Earth" feel good policies are driving prices up further, which prices the middle class out of skiing that much more. And the folks that are purchasing the happy nice nice wind powered green this or are not changing their lifestyles and can readily afford a higher price. There is nothing green about buying your way into environmental compliance by purchasing some fake offset credit.

Now I don't want to say that the money going into wind power isn't a good thing, but how do we know how much of the green tag proceeds fund wind power and how much go to overhead or profits (and even non-profits make a profit for their administrators). It is a big scam that lets the wealthy preach to the rest of us and justify how they live their lives as they price us out of our great sport.

Posted by Justin at 01:33 PM

March 16, 2007

Last Chance to Buy American

That is American Resorts. There are only three resorts left and American is considering selling the two in Maine leaving only The Canyons.

American Skiing Company announced that its Board of Directors has authorized the Company to conduct a strategic review of options for its Sunday River and Sugarloaf resorts, both in Maine, including the potential sale of the resorts.

"As a result of our recently announced resort sales, we've received a tremendous amount of interest in our remaining resorts. To ensure we maximize the value of these assets, we will commence a review of options for our Maine resort properties," said ASC President and CEO B.J. Fair. "With respect to The Canyons, we are continuing our efforts towards successful and favorable resolution of the litigation involving the resort," added Fair.

Mr. Fair also noted that American Skiing Company would only pursue a sale of one or both resorts if the valuation and terms presented from a potential buyer were favorable.

And why not? They are barely a ski company anymore. Why not bail on the other two?

Posted by Justin at 10:51 AM

March 11, 2007

For Adam at Highly Obsessed - Vlad Radmanovic Snowboard

Adam over at Highly Obsessed posted an open letter to Vladomir Radmanovic, the Lakers player who was recently fined $500,000 for his snowboarding accident:

On Friday, you admitted that your recent shoulder injury wasn't a result of slipping on the ice after all; rather, it was due to a spill you took while learning to snowboard for the first time. First, I want to commend you on finally telling the truth. You panicked at first, causing you to lie about the nature of your injury, but common sense prevailed. Well done!

Vladdy (can I call you Vladdy?), you seem to be getting a lot of flack for snowboarding when you're in the middle of a five-year, $30 million contract that pretty much explicitly says, 'don't go snowboarding'. In fact, I believe the last words your coach told your team were "You guys take care of yourselves. This is a time when things can happen." But that is neither here nor there; I'm here to tell you to ignore the critics! By learning to snowboard, you have gained cred in a commnity that buddies like Kobe and Phil could only dream of. You are finally on your way to your true calling. It's time to ditch your basketball career and hit the slopes, buddy. And we in the snowboarding community are ready to welcome you with open arms.

Adam, we got one up on your letter. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has this little nugget on his blog about the recent Suns-Lakers game:

Did you catch a glimpse of the "Go Suns" snowboard near the Lakers bench on Sunday? It was not-so-subtle shot at Vladimir Radmanovic, who lied to his team about how he suffered a separated shoulder before acknowledging a snowboarding accident and being fined $500,000.

It was the work of Suns superfan Michael Levine, whose regular displays of affection for the Suns are well-known to those who sit near him. He also has created such props as Raja Bell and Tim Thomas masks, "Trix" cereal boxes, Tim Duncan pacifiers, Milwaukee Bucks hunting gear, Braille signs for the officials and the classic "I'll have the mango salsa" sign for Chris Kaman.

Levine said that the Lakers coaches, athletic trainer, Smush Parker and Ronny Turiaf all laughed at the snowboard Sunday. So did everyone else who got the gag. The Lakers and the snowboard sign will be back April 13. Will Radmanovic?

I am offering right now to buy Kobe a season ski pass at Aspen if it helps. I heard he just loves Colorado and three years ago spent a ton of time in the Aspen area. Matter of fact, the Lakers let him have time off so that he could travel back and forth. Not sure if it was for business or pleasure...

Posted by Justin at 04:00 PM

March 08, 2007

Bite Sized Wisdom from a Ski Review at Weather.com

A bite sized nugget from reviews.onthesnow.com about Wolf Creek--but really about skiing in general:

I read a lot of these negative reviews and wonder if these people really even like to ski. Some have valid complaints about poor service, bad attitudes by the staff, crappy facilities, etc. Most just seem to be looking for something to complain about. Bottom line: Skiing is not for whiners, pessimists or wimps. It's always going to be cold. There will usually be lines and traffic and you'll have to walk a little ways to and from your car. The food will always be more expensive than at home. Your boots will never feel like your house slippers. Snow conditions will not always be perfect and the sun won't always be shining, but if you truly love to ski, then none of this will matter to you. All that will matter is standing on top of a mountain and trying to decide which way and how fast you're going to go down it.

Well said.

Posted by Justin at 11:01 PM

I Read Books

So I am on a recent ski trip with my buddy Tim. As is usual custom, Tim wants to quote or describe his laundry list of philosphical reading and asks over and over, "Have you read so and so?" No, dude, I have kids.

I need books with lots of pictures. I read more philosphical writings of Elmo and Big Bird than anything. So when my buddy Matt at The Ski Journal sent me their new hardback Frequency-The Snowboarders Journal book, I was stoked. Massive Big Mountain photos. Yeah it is snowboarders, but when you are hitting 55 degree slopes, it is awesome whether you are on skis, a snowboard, an old inner tube, rollerskates... whatever. Pictures are good. Especially pictures of big mountain skiing and snowboarding. The articles are great reads too, but the pictures... The hardback is just beyond awesome and the magazines are perfect for the coffee table as a conversation piece.

I am adding a link to Frequency over on the side next to the Ski Journal and both are worth checking out. They have an editor and staff blog for both and both are awesome reads.

Posted by Justin at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)

March 06, 2007

Global Warming Heats Up Ski Resorts in Europe

This article in the UK has an interesting side effect of Global Warming:

Brothel owners in Bulgaria are blaming global warming for staff shortages.

They claim their best girls are working in ski resorts because a lack of snow has forced tourists to seek other pleasures.

Petra Nestorova, who runs an escort agency in Sofia, said: 'We have hired students, but they are temps and nothing like our elite girls.'

What isn't global warming effecting?

Posted by Justin at 03:58 PM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2007

Skiing Innovations Column

This column is worth a read, and talks about the innovations that have improved skiing over the last several years:

  • Inexpensive season passes: Nothing changed the face of skiing in Southern California, Colorado, and other markets faster than the bargain passes. When the price went from thousands to hundreds, skiers who used to make two trips a year started making three and four because lift tickets were no longer a factor in the decision.
  • High Tech ski parkas and pants
  • Snowboards
  • High Tech underwear: This is the aspect of getting ready to go skiing that nobody talks much about, but the changes in these key items of apparel have been remarkable. No longer scratchy, clingy, or uncomfortable, they fit well and keep you warm with fewer layers.
  • Helmets: I'm the only one in my family who does not own a brain bucket, which makes for some challenging conversations at family holiday dinners, since I am a supporter of helmets. I usually wind up with some lame copout like "I haven't found the right color, or size,'' but the bottom line is that most skiers are quite comfortable wearing this plastic chapeau and get a feeling of safety.
  • 4WD, cruise control and road improvements
  • Computer-generated ticket sales, allowing virtually any combination of multi-day passes, plus refund vouchers:
  • Ski area food service
  • Sorels
  • Non-skiing or snowboarding activities, including dog-sled rides, skating ponds, snowmobiles, and nature hikes on snowshoes

What about shaped skis and twin tips? High speed Quads? In Car DVD Players? iPods?

All in all a pretty good list. I like the idea of 4WD, Cruise, etc., having an impact on skiing. I cannot imagine making the 8 hour drive to BH without the Avalanche to make it up the mountain in the middle of a snowstorm at night.

Last trip to BH, we came in during a major snowstorm (a 2 footer) at night and cut fresh tracks up the mountain with 12" on the ground and not a plow in sight. Travis (who we met as he struggled to put chains on in the dark on his 2WD Toyota Tacoma) was about halfway up the canyon. We stopped and shined the headlights on his back tires for him and helped him get his chains on. He was unsure whether to head up or head back and get a motel room. We followed him slipping and sliding his way up the hill.

Makes me thankful for the Avy. The think is a rock. 130,000 miles on the 2003 and almost all of them have been ski trip miles. Trips to Loveland, Wolf Creek, A-Basin, Big Sky, Sunrise, Snowbowl, Alta, and just general driving around the West has taken its toll on my big black truck. The back window has Brian Head, Alta, and Big Sky stickers and the license plate is a derivative of "Black Diamond". The DVD player and monitors, Sirius Satellite Radio, and iPod controls make it entertaining and the heated leather seats loosen up the back for the long road trips home after skiing. The covered bed and ski racks hold plenty of gear. Side Pockets over the tires hold flares, blankets, jumper cables, tow ropes, tie downs, and occasionally food and drinks. Best Vehicle I have ever owned.

Get a 4WD truck if you ski a lot. It will save you.

Posted by Justin at 12:55 PM | Comments (1)

March 04, 2007

Deseret News Has New Vocabulary For Skiers/Boarders

Deseret News has a new list of ski terms for 2007:

As part of its winter at Westminster program, Westminster College held a skiing/snowboarding jargon contest in January and February, inviting its skier-students, as well as the general public, to submit skiing and snowboarding words that aren't in the dictionary to a Web site called Addictionary.org.

When the smoke had cleared, some 70 words and phrases had been submitted, topped by the winning entry, "Chowda," sent in by Alan Miller, who won a couple of ski passes, although no dictionary, for his effort.

Chowda — to fall on one's face, causing one to "chow on some powda."

A sampling:

  • Free refills: skiing/riding the same run over and over because it's snowing so hard your tracks keep filling in.
  • "Sorry, dude": how a snowboarder says hello.
  • Sup: how a snowboarder really says hello.
  • Still spill: to make it to the bottom of the run successfully and then fall over for no explicable reason.
  • Texas stretch pants: blue jeans.
  • The kind: really, really good; almost perfect.
  • Touron: mix between tourist and moron.
  • Two foot flu: condition that strikes employee/student after it has snowed 2 feet.

First, I highlighted my favorites. Second, "The Kind" probably transcends skiing and snowboarding. For information on what "The Kind" really stands for, you might want to check their website. But I will spoil it for you--it is a marijuana reference. Actually, they changed their pro-pot website to an anti-war website. I mean, get baked and bash the Bush Administration as being akin to Nazi War Criminals and talk about the WTO conspiracies all over a latte...

This highlights the hilarity of Utah and of Deseret News. There are two newspapers in Utah--Deseret and the SLC Tribune. Deseret is the Mormon run paper and SLC Trib is the non-Mormon (and previously militant non-Mormon). It makes sense that the editors at the Deseret News let that one slip by. I don't think they quite got it. I am not going to knock Utah too much, but there is a sense of Mormon Myopia that you get in Utah. Best snow on Earth, but all kinds of strange quirks about the state that just make it so easy to make fun of.

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

March 02, 2007

A Good Waxing

Jake and Jackson asked me how come dad and I got our skis waxed twice already this year and they don't remember ever having theirs waxed. I'm selfish...

Jake comes over and says look at my bases and showed them to me. He literally told me that he thought they needed some P-tex. He hears me talk about getting my stuff tuned and now he thinks he knows something. And yeah, they needed some P-Tex. =)

The dude in Brian Head Sports hooked me up this last week. First, I had a powder day emergency with my new K2's. I showed up 30 minutes before the lifts opened and had no bindings. He sold me a set of Salomons and had them on within 20 minutes. Next day, we got Jake and Jacko's skis tuned and he hooked us up on them too.

Note--tip the folks at the gear shops too. Especially when they give you good service. They work for next to nothing so that they can ride all winter and an extra $20-30 goes a long way. After I tipped him the first time, he remembered me and will take care of me from then on. Not because I tipped him, but because I appreciated the work he did. If you are gonna drop $500-600 on skis, don't be too cheap to tip the guys who work on your gear. Tip $5 when you get a wax. Just little stuff. If you see the guys in the lodge, buy them a drink or a lunch. They keep your gear working and lots of times they will point out stuff that you may not know.

Posted by Justin at 09:58 PM

February 28, 2007

Learn Some Etiquette

This last weekend was sick. Pow everywhere. But weekends bring out the gapers. Here are some tips to keep you from getting dirty looks and having me mutter cuss words under my breath:

  • Jumps are for folks that can hit the jumps. They are not for you to lollygag around. If you cannot get adequate speed to make it up to the crest of the jump without backsliding down it, stay off of it.
  • The person downhill always has the right of way, but if you are going to traverse because a run is beyond your ability, traverse safely, look uphill, and make a consistent pattern so that folks can tell what you are going to do.
  • Know what you are doing in pow. Don't block the packed areas and make folks that do know what they are doing stop in flat areas. I got cut off by a kid on a flat who had no clue and was laying crossways on the packed part of the trail instead of moving.
  • Beginners should stay on beginner's lifts. If you cannot get on and off of the lift, don't get on a lift that only serves advanced terrain.
  • Know the mountain. Know where you are going. Visualize your lines and be smart about it. Try to avoid dangerous intersections where folks are skiing at radically different speeds.
  • NEVER EVER STOP AND WAIT IN A BLIND SPOT. If you are downhill of a jump or drop off or you are around a blind corner, folks cannot see you. Clear the area right away.
  • Slow down when there is traffic. If you want to be Bode Miller, don't pound back a 12 pack and make sure to go somewhere away from slower skiing folks. There are plenty of places to go fast. Don't do it where there are kids and don't cut people off. Give them space to make turns.
  • Tell people when you are coming beside them. "On your right" or "on your left" goes a long way towards keeping folks safe.
  • Don't smoke in lift lines or in the middle of places where folks are waiting. There are plenty of places to give yourself cancer. I saw one a-hole that was in the middle of the lift line who was smoking with one hand and had a beer in another trying to get on the lift with his 8 year old kid.

Know your limits and be courteous.

Jake was making fun of these idiots that were traversing across the downhill side of a jump and looked like they just graduated from Learn to Snowboard School. He told me, "Dad, they are gonna get killed. What idiots. Why are they in the terrain park?"

Why don't they teach these sort of lessons before they even let folks step into their bindings?

Posted by Justin at 08:14 PM | Comments (2)

Global Warming and Godwin's Law

For those of you unfamiliar with Godwin's Law of Internet Discussions, I am posting wiki's summary:

Godwin's Law (also known as Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is a mainstay of Internet culture, an adage formulated by Mike Godwin in 1990. The law states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."[1]

Godwin's Law does not dispute whether any particular reference or comparison to Hitler or the Nazis might be apt. It is precisely because such a reference or comparison may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued,[2] that overuse of the Hitler/Nazi comparison should be avoided, as it robs the valid comparisons of their impact...

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's Law. Thus Godwin's Law serves to impose an upper bound on thread length in general.

Just a primer for Ellen Goodman's article in the Boston Globe in which she makes the following statement:

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

I add this to Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel's Statement from December on her blog:

If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming. (One good resource if you don't have a lot of time is the Pew Center's Climate Change 101.)

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather.

This is scary stuff. And this is not scientific stuff either. The Scientific community should not run around intimidating scientist that offer alternative viewpoints or compare them to Holocaust deniers.

Global Warming Alarmists want us to believe that Global Warming is caused almost completely by man, is going to lead to massive hurricanes and rising ocean levels, is going to continue exponentially, will destroy the polar icecaps, cannot be reversed, and requires massive changes to our way of life or the entire world is in danger. And if you deny it, you are a Holocaust denier and should be ridiculed or stripped of your scientific credentials. I don't like scare tactics and while the science supports the existance of Global Warming, the rest of the Alarmist's argument is a political statement, not good science.

Again, I will point to things that we can do to save the Earth that do not require Global Warming to doom the planet as a motivating factor. First, we can recycle. Second, we can conserve electricity and gas. We can do tons of things to do that including car pool, turn lights off, use low energy lighting. We can drive cleaner vehicles. We can drive vehicles that fit with the size of our family, not with the size of our genitals.

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Posted by Justin at 11:05 AM

February 27, 2007

Returning to Skiing

An article in the Denver Post describes what it is like to return to skiing after snowboarding for 16 years:

I stuck with it, having no idea that snowboarding would eventually dictate everything that happened in my life, from my career to the places I chose to live.

Sixteen years later, something funny happened. I noticed I wasn't snowboarding that much.

The perfect excuse to try skiing again came when I got an assignment from Ski magazine to write a personal essay about going back to skiing after my 16-year hiatus as a boarder. The idea for the story was that I would ski for a couple of weeks and take a few lessons with the goal that I would eventually ski Highlands Bowl and see if I could get into the same kind of terrain I could manage on my snowboard.

I headed out with a pair of women's specific mid-fat skis in a 153 (the same length as my board) and a fairly soft boot that was a lot warmer and more comfortable than the vices I wore as a ski instructor. The funniest thing happened:

I loved it.

Independent foot movement comes in handy when you're doing stuff like turning down a steep fall line, riding over variable terrain or traversing from one side of the mountain to the other. Better yet, these skis felt like a snowboard - only better. They were easy to turn, easy to carve, but a lot more stable and agile than my board is. I found great satisfaction in traversing to places I had dreaded going on my board, places that were simple to get to with a pair of poles. It was like being born again, rediscovering old terrain in a whole new light. I ended up skiing Highlands Bowl on my second day back, arching turns down the wide-open face of G8 and smiling so hard it made my face hurt.

I took my niece Elaina (12) skiing with Jake and Jackson last weekend. Dad and Mom both snowboard and when we stopped by to get her, my cousin Jeff was scoping my new K2's.

Twin tips, hourglass shape, wider, shorter. These are all things that we can thank snowboarders for. Snowboarding has been innovating clothing and lots of other stuff that has major benefits for skiers too.

Today's skis are radically different from those ten years ago. Skis let you traverse instead of hike. They let you move more freely. There is still this mentality that skiing is somehow uncool because everyone and their dog including 60 year old men want to snowboard. And maybe the old skis and the old style were uncool. But it was the very invention of snowboarding that has brought around the changes that are making skiing novel and cool again.

Posted by Justin at 12:18 PM

February 20, 2007

Silverton Heliskiing a Possibility

The Denver Post has an article about Silverton's EIS including heliskiing and the resort looking at options:

Tucked into the several-hundred page environmental review the Bureau of Land Management delivered to Silverton Mountain in September 2005 - a six-year analysis that ultimately approved unguided skiing on BLM land surrounding the privately owned ski area - was a single sentence allowing for future helicopter skiing. It was largely unnoticed.

But as Silverton's snow safety crew expands the mountain's offerings onto distant mounts such as Storm Peak, helicopter-access skiing at the expert-only ski hill is a growing possibility. Silverton Mountain owners Aaron and Jenny Brill are negotiating with several helicopter operators to begin ferrying guided Silverton skiers to the farthest reaches of the area as well as help conduct avalanche control work.

The area's snow safety team is already using helicopters to access distant snow fields that typically require a two- to four-hour hike. The idea is to enlist paying customers to offset the snow-safety helicopter costs, Aaron Brill said.

"So after the heli might be in town for a morning control mission for us or the county ... we want to be able to fly a round of skiers from the top of the lift to the other side of the valley," said Brill, who envisions single-ride heli drops to runs that would take hikers as long as four hours to access, leaving the closer runs for hiking skiers.

Posted by Justin at 09:12 AM

American Selling Two More Resorts - This Makes 5 This Year

American Announces they are selling Pico and Killington to pay down debt:

MONTPELIER, Vt. --American Skiing Co. has agreed to sell Killington and Pico resorts for $83.5 million, four days after it announced the sale of Mount Snow in southern Vermont and New Hampshire's Attitash ski areas...

The Park City, Utah-based American skiing said the sales of resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire for $157 million, and planned sale of Steamboat resort to Canadian resort operator Intrawest Corp. for $265 million will allow the company to repay its $190 million in bank debt and $115 million in junior debt.

The sale of Killington and Pico, which is expected to be complete in 45 days, will leave American Skiing with Sugarloaf/USA and Sunday River in Maine and The Canyons, its flagship 3,700-acre resort in Park City.

If you are interested in buying a resort, this is what we call a "Motivated Seller".

Posted by Justin at 09:08 AM

February 19, 2007

Snowboarding History

I read the following article entitled "Snow Business" about the history of snowboarding. The article is certainly cynical and reminded me of a post I did last year Where Did the Rebel Factor in Being a Snowboarder Go. You can read more in last week's Skiers versus Boarders - From the Boston Globe.

I want to quote a couple of things from the article:

Today's snowboarding commercials depict stylish, attractive, athletic teenagers whipping through heavy powder on steep, backcountry terrain. The kid in the old Snurfer ads looked to be sliding down a hill with the grade of a nursing-home wheelchair ramp. Worse, in his bulky sweater, knit cap with the dangly puffball, and heavy woolen mittens, he looked about as extreme as Ralphie from A Christmas Story... Then in the late-1970s, a prep-school reject, college dropout, and Wall Street burnout named Jake Burton bought woodworking equipment with a $125,000 inheritance and started building his own version of Poppen's Snurfer in a friend's Vermont barn. Burton began selling snowboards out of the back of a station wagon. "I had to sell the sport as much as the board," he told Esquire last year...

Jake Burton still owns Burton Snowboards, the company he founded, and it has made him very, very wealthy. Burton Snowboards sells more than $100 million worth of snowboards and snowboard gear every year. Tom Sims entered into a lucrative licensing agreement in 2006. Never before have a sport's pioneers profited so extravagantly from its success...

It wasn't just the manufacturers that quickly cashed in. Local snowboarding star Craig Kelly, a Mt. Vernon High grad, was earning a six-figure salary by 1989, and became the subject of a lawsuit between Burton Snowboards and Sims Snowboards. Both companies argued that Kelly had agreed to endorse their snowboards and both companies asserted that his endorsement was worth $1 million...

But the marketing—first snowboards, then clothes, and now the HP Pavilion dv2000t Notebook—has driven this sport more than others, making millions for snowboarding's pioneers. Like a dad inventing a toy for his daughters, nothing could be more American.

But with snowboarding, more so than any other professional sport, it has always been difficult to tell just where the marketing ends and the sport begins.

Now for my buddies that snowboard and also love believe in open source software, movie and music downloading, using patents and trademarks to force out competition is wrong (see Amazon one click buying), and that industries should encourage innovation by constantly improving products not suing their competition--have a read of the testimony of Vanessa Price, an intellectual property attorney for Burton Snowboards:

My name is Vanessa Price, and I am the Intellectual Property Specialist for the Burton Corporation... Despite vigorous measures to protect our intellectual property through trademark and patent registrations, Burton has seen significant counterfeiting recently... Burton is deeply concerned about the rise in theft of our intellectual property since we do not have the resources it takes to combat or offset the effects of large-scale counterfeiting.

In recent years, Burton has expanded to include Gravis Footwear, Analog casual apparel, Anon Optics, and R.E.D. Protective Gear. However, this growth and popularity is not without a significant downside. Our industry has gone through considerable consolidation in recent years. Most of the snowboard manufacturers are seasoned competitors. Believe it or not, snowboarding has matured. Competition is keen and profits are shrinking, even as the sport grows in popularity...

As the Burton brand grows, we face significant challenges to our intellectual property rights. Burton has taken all available and appropriate steps to register our trademarks both in the U.S. and internationally. Currently, we maintain more than 60 trademark registrations in the United States alone. We have taken the additional steps of registering our trademarks with the Customs officials in the U.S., Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong, PR China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. Unfortunately, filing with Customs offers very scant protection, especially in recent months, where Customs officers are concerned more and more with national security. Burton also holds patents worldwide relating to our snowboard technology, including snowboard boots, bindings, snowdecks, and snowboards. However, despite these measures, we see growing evidence that our brand is suffering from counterfeiting and illegitimate sales...

Clearly IP theft is a significant and costly problem and there are too few tools available to combat it. The tools that are available are expensive and ineffective. The persons who profit most from counterfeiting are rarely caught or punished. The most serious threat they face is a confiscation of their fake goods. What are sorely needed are effective laws and vigorous enforcement mechanisms.

This is what Burton stands for. Massive profits. Copyrighting, trademarking, or patenting everything. Charging other companies massive royalties for using anything that Burton holds the patent on. And using that massive money to sign endorsement deals with anyone and everyone that even thinks about snowboarding professionally so that they have virtually no competition.

Burton is the RIAA and MPAA of the snowboarding industry. Profits for Jake Burton are more important than the good of the sport. Using patents and licensing of even the smallest innovations forces companies to pay Burton royalties for every snowboard their competitors sell, driving prices up. And further, because smaller brands cannot profit to the extent Burton does, and because smaller brands can't afford to keep Vanessa Price on staff as an IP Attorney, Burton simply uses their massive amount of capital to acquire any company that is a competitor.

So if you snowboard to stick it to the man or to be cool or to rebel against corporate greed and your day job where you have to dress up when you go to work, understand that your money spent being a rebel goes to the biggest corporate whore of all. And all the while, you think you are making a countercultural statement. And Burton is out suing folks to shut down anyone that doesn't pay their little monopoly.

Copyleft, Open Source, etc. Download off of Bittorrent while your sport is doing everything they can to choke out innovation with IP attorneys just like the RIAA was when they shut down Napster.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what kind of patents Burton files then forces competitors to pay to use, check this out:

The present invention is directed to a highback for controlling a gliding board, such as a snowboard, through leg movement of a rider. The highback may be used with a component, such as a gliding board binding, a boot or a binding interface, that interfaces with a rider's leg and is supportable by the gliding board. The highback is comprised of an upright support member including an upper portion that is movable relative to a lower portion thereof for setting a desired forward lean of the highback. The support member may include a pair of mounting locations for mounting the highback to the gliding board component...

For ease of understanding, and without limiting the scope of the invention, the inventive highback to which this patent is addressed has been discussed particularly in connection with a boot or binding that is used in conjunction with a snowboard. It should be appreciated, however, that the present invention may be used in association with other types of gliding boards. Thus, for purposes of this patent, "gliding board" refers generally to specially configured boards for gliding along a terrain such as snowboards, snow skis, water skis, wake boards, surf boards and other board-type devices which allow a rider to traverse a surface.

Doesn't that pretty much cover every binding ever made? Here is a complete list of patents Burton holds or has filed. Have a read.

Posted by Justin at 02:14 PM | Comments (3)

Ski Journal is Out

The new edition of the Ski Journal just arrived.

My wife gets the new mag from the mailbox. “What kind of magazine is this? There are no articles. It is like all pictures.”

She apparently is looking for some Cosmo ski quiz on how to find your soul mate or what kind of sexual positions skiers like or whatever they print about Britney or Justin or Tom Cruise in the trash magazines she reads these days. It is rude to drive, talk on a cell phone, smack the kids, all while holding a latte—and try to read at the same time. I am waiting to get home the check it out.

“It is a coffee table magazine,” I explained, “and this is their first edition.” She continues thumbing through it trying to see what a coffee table ski magazine is supposed to look like. All she keeps saying is that the pictures are awesome.

Score one for mankind. Coffee tables used to be for setting down my bowl of Cap’n Crunch, resting my feet on, and for the Xbox controllers and TV remotes. I gotta figure out which one of the three to move, but the new Ski Journal is going on mine.

Posted by Justin at 01:53 AM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2007

It's a Fire Sale

It's a FIRE SALE. ALL RESORTS MUST GO GO GO. SLASHING PRICES IS OUR BUSINESS.

American is selling another one:

SALT LAKE CITY — American Skiing Co. said Friday it agreed to sell Vermont's Mount Snow and New Hampshire's Attitash ski areas to Peak Resorts Inc. of Missouri.

American Skiing will sell the two resorts along with Grand Summit Hotels at both locations for $73.5 million, said Dave Hirasawa, the company's investor-relations manager.

Peak Resorts also will assume $2 million in debt and other liabilities at Mount Snow and Attitash, the company said.

Add this to Steamboat's sale last year. It is a fire sale baby. I am thinking about buying a resort. I am scraping together my nickles and dimes and might have enough to pick up my own resort. Anybody got an extra $50M laying around, let me know.

Posted by Justin at 09:16 AM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2007

Skiers versus Boarders - from the Boston Globe

Yeah, my K2 Silencers and Atomic Stomps are pimped. Twin Tips rock and may be the biggest advance skiing since shaped skis. And based on skier numbers and the resurgence in skiing, they may be even bigger. Interesting article from the Boston Globe:

These days a new question has proponents on both sides in the following argument: Are snowboards or free riding on twin tips the coolest way to hit the slopes?

Conventional thinking has it that snowboarding went from establishing a beachhead in the stronghold of skiing to dominating the slopes.

Compared with skiing, snowboarding was hipper, mellower, newer, younger, more rebellious, more fun (certainly the boots were more comfortable).

But that is changing my friends.

But then something else started to develop, subtly at first: The advent of free ride skiing on twin-tip skis.

Free riders cruise the same terrain as boarders, but coming off a ramp or pipe wall, fly higher and do tricks with more variety, owing to the fact that they can move their skis independently.

A free skier might hit the ramp moving forward, sometimes skiing backward and looking back over his shoulder. The freedom of free riding begins with the fact twin tips can ski backward and forward equally well, setting up a variety of trick possibilities.

The appearance of free riding may be interesting in itself. But then consider a National Sporting Goods Association survey showing the trends in snowboarding, and skiing might have taken a counterintuitive turn. To wit: from 2004 to 2005, the number of skiers rose nationally nearly 17 percent, from 5.9 million to 6.9 million. During the same period, snowboard participation fell 10 percent, from 6.6 million to 6 million.

Perhaps more significant is that this constitutes the first drop in snowboarding since there was snowboarding.

Is two planking it cool again? Well, from a guy whose kids and baby brother ride twin tips, yeah. I watched Winter X with my oldest son and Tanner Hall rips it up. I know Shawn White is a pimp and Olympian and all, but the skiers were going higher and hitting the pipe harder than the snowboarders. Well, the half pipe since I am sure that Snowboarders can hit other pipes much harder. (subtle knock on snowboarders)

As a skier, I have been subjected to ridicule by my snowboarding friends that thought only snowboarding was cool and skiing was so last decade. Well, the tables are turning and I am on my second set of twins and my kids are jibbing and throwing down.

Check my Where Did the Rebel Factor in Snowboarding Go> from June of last year.

Posted by Justin at 11:23 PM | Comments (3)

February 13, 2007

Green Article of Mine Appears in UK Environmental Site

I wrote an article that appears on the grownupgreen.org.uk website about environmental issues in America. The last paragraph has a favorite quote:

It is important to separate the fluff that most companies use in their “environmentally friendly PR articles” with the substance of what we can actually do to have an impact on our precious resources. Recycle paper, plastics, and aluminum. It is simple. Teach your kids to do it when they are young so that it becomes a habit. Shut off your lights when you are not in a room. Save water. I can’t fix Green House Gases. Hell, I don’t know enough about them to know how to fix them even if I could. I don’t need to believe that Global Warming is going to destroy the Earth to know that recycling and saving resources is a good idea. Too many folks spend too much time talking about Kyoto and dealing with things at the Macro level that they stop focusing on teaching people about simple things they can do at the Micro level to impact our environment.

I have a hippie uncle who sold everything he owned and built a tree house where he lives. Literally. No joke. Being green doesn’t mean you have to be hippie that lives in a tree house. We don’t have to worry about Global Warming in order to know that saving gas or electricity or water is a good thing. We don’t need impending crisis to convince us to take these simple steps. Simple things are more important than PR opportunities or hysteria.

I am not a Global Warming alarmist. Whether the Earth is warming or not, we just don't have enough evidence to suggest that it is human caused versus being caused by the Sun, and we also have considerable evidence that the Earth has gone through repeated cycles of warming and cooling. I think it is naive to attribute global warming simply to greenhouse gases or to assume a human cause for natural occuring events.

That said, you cannot drive by an old coal burning power plant and think that fossil fuels are good for the environment. You can't sit in Phoenix or LA traffic where visibility is less than 10 miles due to air pollution and think that the H2 next to you with one person in it commuting to work is a good thing. You cannot drive by a landfill and see the products of our consumption sitting atop previous throwaway items. But perhaps worst of all is the pollution we don't see that is happening in China from their powerplants and poor industrial and environmental policies. They are polluting worst of all because of their rapidly expanding economy that serves our growing desire for throwaway consumer goods.

So places like Vail and Aspen sell green tags or use wind power. As if to say that Global Warming is the end of the world. It isn't and won't be. But it isn't the biggest threat we face. We face a very real threat of increasing cancers and asthma from air pollution. We face water shortages because of poor water use and algae blooms from fertilizer and chemical runoff. Our oceans are losing their fertile fishing areas due to pollution. We throw away more and more each year and our way of displaying affluence is to buy bigger and bigger SUV's.

Global Warming (if it is indeed human caused and if it is primarily caused by greenhouse gases) is something that the entire world is responsible for collectively. Consumerism and wastefulness are things that individuals own. Consuming water, electricity, gasoline, and so on are individual decisions that we each have the power to change.

Posted by Justin at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

February 06, 2007

And I Thought Getting Hit by a Snowboarder Sucked

Weirdness on the slopes at Sugarloaf:

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) - Dr. Ray Stone had no warning before he was knocked off his feet last month while skiing down the Haulback Trail at Sugarloaf/USA. "My first thought was, 'What hit me?...a (snow) boarder? drunk skier? linebacker?'" Stone wrote in a letter to The Irregular, a weekly newspaper in Kingfield.

It was none of the above. A whitetail deer attempting to cross the trail crossed paths with Stone as he was making a turn.

"I just never saw this deer coming," Stone said Friday. "I was going pretty quick down the top half of Haulback, arcing from left to right and all of the sudden I just got knocked right off my feet and I was falling."

Posted by Justin at 11:29 AM

February 05, 2007

How I Want to Go Out

The Denver Post has this article on the death of a pioneer in avalance study:

Alta, Utah - A world pioneer in avalanche research died Thursday in Colorado while doing what he loved best - skiing.

Edward R. LaChapelle, considered the grandfather of American avalanche science, spent his final morning powder skiing. Within an hour of reporting chest pains, the 80-year-old died.

LaChapelle's legacy will long outlive him, experts said Saturday.

His decades of research on the slopes of Alta ski resort laid the groundwork for avalanche control in Utah. He authored the U.S. Forest Service's first avalanche handbook and developed a beacon to locate buried skiers.

A heart attack after spending the morning skiing at age 80. It is always sad to hear about someone passing. You always hope that you go out on top enjoying your life to the fullest and having lived a long and fruitful life.

Better than most Americans. Dead at 40 because they have a cheeseburger lodged in their coronary artery. Face down in a basket of fries. Spilled 44 oz. X-Large Coke all over the table in front of 'em and it takes 30 minutes for the 16 year old kid to notice they are dead when he finally comes out to mop up the mess.

Here's hoping we all live to 80 and our last day is a powder day in Colorado.

Posted by Justin at 10:16 AM

January 24, 2007

I Sound Like a Broken Record

I got to reading some of the stuff I have writen about the sport:

  • Wages for workers suck
  • Housing at resorts for workers is almost nonexistent
  • Middle Class families can barely afford to ski
  • Resorts have to import workers because of wages and housing conditions
  • GLOBAL WARMING, WAR IN IRAQ, GAS PRICES, END OF THE WORLD, OZONE LAYERS, TERRORISM, GAY MARRIAGE, ABORTION, VOLCANOS, GIANT METEORITES HEADED FOR EARTH (ok, that was a movie I think)

I added the last because we need to keep in perspective that skiing is not the only thing going on in the world. It is my escape from these other issues. I have to remember that while I complain about average Americans not being able to ski, my skis alone cost more than about 2/3rds of the people on Earth make in a year.

It ain't all powder days and bluebird conditions. It ain't all high speed quads and gondolas. I absolutely love the sport and hate going off on tangents about how unaffordable it is or rising prices of this or that. I just don't want to see the sport keep going on a trajectory towards a point where my kids can't afford to take my grandkids skiing anymore because prices are so out of reach.

If you love the sport, you will want to ensure that our kids and grandkids can continue to ski for a reasonable price and enjoy the sport we love. So many articles talk about Global Warming destroying skiing as we know it. I say who cares about Global Warming because if prices keep rising, none of us will be able to afford to ski anyway. Vail and Aspen write briefs for lawsuits about Green House gasses, but you don't hear them talking about affordability. That is the single largest threat to the industry in my opinion. And someone (especially guys like Jake Burton and the major athletes in the sport) needs to beat that drum more.

UPDATED:

Let me add this Page 23 of IntraWest's FY2006 Financials:

2006
(in Millions)
2005
(in Millions)
Resort Operations Revenue $936.1 $806.6
Resort Operations Expenses 847.4 707.0
Net EBITAD $88.7 $99.6
2006
(in Millions)
2005
(in Millions)
Real Estate Development Contribution $147.6 $67.6
Interest in Real Estate Expenses 27.6 35.4
Net EBITAD from Real Estate $175.2 $103.0

Like I said, resorts make their money off of real estate but that value only increases because of the presence of the ski area. Not that $100M off of operations isn't significantly profitable, but resorts write off huge chunks of debt servicing and depreciation on ski operations to offset the profits. When a resort makes twice as much off of real estate development as they do off of skiing, it makes it tough for the resorts without real estate to compete. And the reason that real estate is going up is scarcity of resources and exclusivity of the sport. If charging more for a lift ticket keeps lift lines short and only attracts the affluent folks, these folks spend more per skier visit than the riff raff and are the only ones worth selling a condo project or home lot to, and real estate development is where the real money is at. Your average middle class person has nothing to offer the resort since they don't spend money on other services, are often day trippers, and don't buy real estate. Prices differentiate between the right consumers and the wrong ones. Hence $83 lift tickets.

Posted by Justin at 02:24 PM | Comments (6)

Skiing for a Family of Four

I want to expand further on the rising cost of skiing and pricing families out of the market. I want to post the real economics of skiing for a family that isn't addicted like I am and doesn't have season passes, their own equipment, and a condo at a resort. I am going to talk specifically about Brian Head, which represents a good "budget friendly family resort", but these costs are fairly representative.

Cost per Day Cost for 3 Day Weekend
Lift Tickets $50 per person = $200 $600
Rentals $25 per person = $100 $300
Condo Rental $200 $600
Food (and remember how expensive resorts are) $100 $300
Gas to and from the resort (rough guess) each way = $50 $100
--------- ---------
Total $1900

Now, remember that you can stay at a hotel in town and eat at Taco Bell, so maybe we can cut a few hundred dollars out of the budget for food and lodging. For that matter, you could drive a Prius hybrid and get 45 miles per gallon (however snow really sucks for passenger cars). We start cutting those costs and you are still over $1000 for a three day weekend of skiing for a family of four. You can make the argument that this is on par with Disneyland or the other major attractions. Maybe this seems reasonable. But this is FOR ONE WEEKEND of skiing. I can't imagine going to Disneyland three or four times per year, but I can certainly imagine going skiing more than one weekend per year. Most of that cost is in lift tickets and rentals. If you want to ski Aspen, you better double that number or possibly more. And again, this demonstrates the value of the Colorado Pass, discounts, owning gear, going to small resorts, and cutting costs.

In our case, we own our equipment. A good set of adult skis bought on E-bay runs $250 plus another $150 for bindings and mounting. Boots run $150 for a low end cheap pair, but probably more like $250 for adults and $100-150 for kids. So for each adult, we are talking at least $600-700 for skis, boots, and bindings and these are E-bay prices for new equipment. Kids gear is cheaper so that number is more like $300-400 per kid for their skis, boots, and bindings. So for a family of four, let's say $2000. Then you have coats and ski pants. Plus gloves, face masks, walkie talkies, helmets, hats, long johns. Figure it is at least $300 per person for these items when they are bought on sale in April when things go on clearance. That is another $1200.

Rough estimate is $3500 for gear, plus another $300 or so per year because kids outgrow stuff or you lose stuff. Then you have season passes which in my case run $200 per kid plus $300 per adult. Figure that is roughly $1000 per year. On top of that, you still have to eat and have a place to stay. We have our own condo, so we cook most times (which helps tons).

Prices are going to keep rising unless there is some competition, and honestly I don't know if competition will even help. Skiing already competes with other sports and other entertainment for our budget dollar. If average Americans can't afford the sport without major sacrifices, how do we keep the sport from getting out of reach?

Posted by Justin at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

January 23, 2007

New Magazine-The Ski Journal-Takes on Day Trip Resorts

The Ski Journal is a subscription financed venture that is not filled with the advertising 10 page glossies and pimping for the big resorts that seems to haunt the big publications. Call it a coffee table magazine filled with big pictures and stories that are not tainted by the need to please the big money advertisers.

This week's issue takes on four day trip areas including Jeremy's favorite, Bridger Bowl, Montana.

Condos, alpen-malls and lift-serviced snowshoe trails – resort development has overrun many of North America’s classic ski haunts. Here are four which strive to remain true to their local base while dealing with the challenges upgrading and competing. Featuring Bridger Bowl, MT Alpental, WA Powder Mountain, UT and Mad River Glen, VT.

I have to add Wolf Creek, Colorado to the list. In a recent article in Transworld Magazine, they stated the following:

If you call Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area during business hours, you’ll actually get a live voice; call after 5:00 p.m, and you’ll be greeted by what sounds like an answering machine—there’s no automated voicemail system here. The venerable resort tallied around 216,000 skier visits in 2004/05—record-breaking numbers for Wolf Creek, but small potatoes compared to nearby heavyweights like Vail and its 1.5-million skier visits.

This grassroots appeal—along with an annual snowfall of 30 to 40 feet—is the very thing people love about Wolf Creek. Recently a proposed development in the middle of the resort has stirred a heated battle between resort operators, the Forest Service, Texas-based developers, the county, residents of several nearby towns, and a slew of environmental groups.

As proposed, the Village at Wolf Creek would include around 2,200 housing units—enough for up to 10,500 people—and 222,100 square feet of commercial space on 300 acres of land inside the Rio Grande National Forest. The land, acquired by Texas-based developer Red McCombs in a 1986 land swap with the Forest Service, is surrounded by acres of federal land, including the 1,600 acres that comprise Wolf Creek. The resort currently has no base-area town, and visitors head to nearby Pagosa Springs and South Fork—towns with a combined population of less than 1,000—to sleep, eat, and rent gear.

If you read my entries regularly, you will notice that I have several longstanding opinions:

  • Skiing and snowboarding are becoming increasingly exclusionary sports due to rising prices of gear, lift tickets, lodging, etc. This is making our sport the sport of the rich and super rich and pricing families out of the industry.
  • Mega-resorts that cater to big city affluent folks (read the Vails and Aspens of the world) dominate the landscape of the sport because of their tie ins with ski magazines, marketing outlets, and the big money folks that run the sport.
  • Small resorts are finding it increasingly difficult to expand or offer better terrain, snowmaking, etc., due to the economic disparity between the big resorts and small and due to the fact that most ski areas lose money on the skiing operational aspects of their business, but make money off of ancillary services such as Real Estate, Development, and Commercial businesses that cater to the affluent.
  • Housing, Wages, and Benefits for workers in the industry remain poor which further increases the gap between the wealthy folks that can afford to ski and the rest of the folks that have to work as waiters, lift operators, or hotel workers to get their season pass at the local resort.
  • When you drop $83 per day for a lift ticket and that is more than most of the employees at the resort make for that day ($9 per hour X 8 hours per day = $72), you have an industry that is priced beyond the reach of a growing number of consumers.
  • The economic forces that allow ski resorts to charge $83 are simple supply and demand. There are not enough resorts, enough runs, enough lift capacity, enough good terrain, or enough snow to support more than 60M skier visits per year and the big resorts already have their share of the affluent folks that everyone wants because they are the ones that fuel the bottom line. So the smaller day trip resorts without condos to sell, hotels to fill, shops to sell gear, and the other economic advantages of the majors, fight for the scraps of day trippers on a budget.

Ironically, the populist party lead by folks like Ted Kennedy, John Edwards, and John Kerry give their "Two Americas" speech over and over, yet they participate in a sport (see Michael Kennedy's death at Aspen in 1998 and John Kerry's snowboarding in 2004 prior to the election) that most of the people in that "other America" can not even dream of enjoying. Add in the fact that environmental groups move to block every single expansion of every single resort in an attempt to keep the world "pristine". With no expansion, resorts will continue to raise prices and the demanding and wealthy public will continue to pay it.

This is what two Americas is, my friends. One America where the rich have their own sports like polo, yachting, and increasingly skiing; another America where the rest of us save for months to afford to take day trips to places like Wolf Creek, Colorado, where we can afford to ski because they offer a no frills experience for under $50 per day. A sport where in order to snowboard, people have to steal gear since a new board and bindings run over $600. Wolf Creek, Alta, Bridger Bowl, A-Basin, Loveland, Brian Head, Arizona Snowbowl, among others, are the antidote to this world. All have lift tickets for around $50 or less. Most are no frills areas with minimal night lifes and minimal or affordable lodging.

I am not saying that we need to not allow them to ever expand because it will change their character, although some suggest just that sort of thing. I am suggesting that we indeed allow them to expand, but in measured and reasonable ways--things like adding snowmaking or installing new lifts or opening new terrain. We allow them to develop their areas, and even build reasonable base areas and condo developments. These condos and base areas help support the sport and keep these places in business. Many locals and environmentalists don't want any growth because it will change the character of their favorite spots.

I want more people to enjoy the sport. I want more folks to be able to afford to ski. I want my friends to go and to be able to afford to go more often. I want middle class people to take their kids. But strangely, a lot of the affluent folks don't want us at their areas unless we can afford to be there. As if my dad skiing on my hand-me-down skis and wearing my hand-me-down jacket diminishes their enjoyment of the sport of the super rich.

Let them keep polo and yachting. I want skiing back for the rest of us.

Posted by Justin at 01:03 PM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2007

New Sprint Snowzone

More companies are reaching out to increasingly tech savvy winter sports enthusiasts:

Sprint today announces SnowZone, an exclusive wireless site that allows users to get the information they crave from the latest weather and snow conditions at their favorite resorts to getting video clips with the latest tips and tricks from gold medal athletes including freestyle skier Jonny Moseley, known for pushing moguls skiing to the limits, and snowboarder Seth Wescott, who won the first snowboardcross gold medal in his sport last February. Additionally Sprint Power View segments featuring interviews with America's best skiers and snowboarders will be offered, and users can share and watch their most exciting moments on the slopes without having to come off the mountain.

SnowZone currently includes the following content:

  • Snow Reports - Provides weather updates and the latest snow conditions at ski resorts throughout the U.S. and Canada broken down by region (Far West, Rockies, Midwest, Mid Atlantic, East)
  • SnowZone Photo/Video Share - Users can join the SnowZone community to share photos and videos from the hills as well as check out what others have submitted on their phone. Selected favorite photos and videos will be featured in the Sprint Power View Inside Ride program. Additionally users can read blogs on tips, tricks, gear and more from Moseley and Wescott.
  • Fun on the Run - Get exclusive access to Moseley's full-track downloads from the Sprint Music Store or download music and music videos from MTV Mobile, Sony Music Box, GoTV Alternative Rock and Hip Hop. Users can also watch Extreme TV (on Sprint TV) or download some of the most extreme wireless games and play them directly on their Sprint or Nextel phone.
  • Express Yourself - Included in this section are Wescott's featured ring tones as well as the hottest ringers, screen savers and call tones.

I bought a set of Skull Candy headphones for my radio and iPod that attach to my helmet. I have a Garmin GPS, Camelback, and more and more cool techie gadgets to take with me for my ski trips. But then again, I am all crazy geeky like that. I have a DVD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, and iPod controls built into my stereo in the Avy. I have my Onstar phone so that I can get phone reception while driving. I am even considering getting the portable version of Sirius for ski days so that I can listen to NFL games and NBA games while on the slopes. I have wireless broadband for my laptop so that I can work from almost anywhere.

Now I have another gadget to spend money on. But getting snow reports before you roadie up the hill is always a good thing.

Posted by Justin at 05:09 PM

December 25, 2006

Interesting Info on Aspen's Green Program

I wrote briefly about Vail and Aspen using Wind Credits to offset their power usage in September. I got an e-mail from Neal Dikeman from Cleantech Blog about an entry he had posted after visiting Aspen:

Then while taking a brief time out from skiing (I am not actually very good) I went in to drink coffee in the sunny lodge of the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. The first thing you notice walking through the front door (besides the massage chair, which I really needed after a day of skiing) is the plaque which bills the Sundeck as one of the first 10 LEEDs buildings in America. Details of the Sundeck Restaurant project here. The total cost was $9.8 mm, or an eye-popping $425/square foot (I assume driven partly by LEEDs requirements, and partly by the top of a ski resort location!). But the part I liked the most was the re-use of 86% of the materials from the previous Sundeck building. Because at the end of the day, despite all the advances in cleantech - the real answer to our energy issues is still the same - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

Aspen also fuels its snowcats with biodiesel, from Blue Sun Biodiesel. The best part is they actually publish on their website an interesting description of the impact of the biodiesel use: "In the winter of 2002, ASC experimented with an 80% diesel/20% biodiesel blend. Mechanics noticed that the fuel, which makes snowcat exhaust smell like french fries, radically reduced black tailpipe smoke and that the snowcats ran smoother, a result of biodiesel’s higher lubricity, a quality that also extends the life of mechanical components. Based on our testing, ASC has now switched its entire fleet of snowcats to biodiesel. The cost is about 20 cents more per gallon, a small cost to pay for benefits that include hydrocarbon emissions reductions of 20% and CO and particulate reductions of 10%. The one drawback is that biodiesel typically increases NOx emissions by 2%."

I really dig the move to biodiesel, but have a major problem as I wrote about in the previous article with Aspen paying their ticket clerks $9.25 an hour, yet being willing to pay that extra $.20 a gallon for biodiesel. Do the math on $9.25 an hour times 40 hours per week ($370 less taxes) times 4 weeks in a month ($1480 a month). And also keep in mind that most of these jobs are only part-time. It is a mixed bag for me. I am always one to say that before you worry about global issues, have your own house in order. That means pay your workers enough and have affordable housing for them before you save the world. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't minimize your impact on our natural resources. It just means that I am not going to get all ga ga about being environmentally conscious until wages and housing are also addressed. But putting that aside for a moment, it is awesome that Aspen is reusing their old materials and using biodiesel and wind credits.

It is tough for me to be an "environmentalist" or think like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club opposes snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks at Snowbowl because it uses reclaimed water in Flagstaff, yet they also opposed Aspen using water from Snowmass Creek to make snow at Aspen. The environmental movement doesn't want skiing to exist (see AZ Snowbowl) or wants to stop things like snowmaking that allow the industry to exist. They have opposed expansion projects at Snowbasin and most other projects including the new Village at Wolf Creek that Colorado Wild and the Sierra Club oppose. In addition, the Sierra Club opposes nuclear power as an alternative to coal based power, saying, "Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack." But that does not make them wrong about things like reuse and recycling. It does not make biodiesel less of a great idea. It does not make wind power a bad idea either. And Aspen doing these things is good for all of us.

I hope that the ski industry is able to adopt policies that allow for moderate expansion, upgrades, improvements, and growth so that we can get more people to enjoy the sport I love and enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The biggest problem in skiing that I see is that due to the scarcity of resources and the high cost, the sport is unattainable for anyone but the upper middle class and above. Simple supply and demand dictates that if there are more lifts and more areas and more space, prices would be lower resulting in more skier visits. But this goes contrary to the exclusionist image that the industry wants. They want the sport to be more expensive and fewer people to be able to do it. I don't have all the answers, but I know this, the people working at resorts make next to nothing and your average middle class American cannot afford to ski because of the high prices, part of which results from lawsuits like the one at Arizona Snowbowl funded in part by the Sierra Club. Going green is great, but not at the cost of worker wages and housing and not at the cost of making the sport even more exclusionary with higher and higher prices.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 PM | Comments (2)

October 13, 2006

Gas Prices Continue to Drop

The Arizona Republic reports that Gas Prices continue to drop:

There's good news at the gas pumps this morning for Valley drivers.

According to AAA Arizona, gas prices this week dropped for the twelfth week in a row. Statewide, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline dropped nearly seven cents since last week and is now $2.281 per gallon, a low not seen since Jan. 6, 2006.

AAA says motorists are enjoying the lowest gas prices since the beginning of the year largely due to ample crude and gasoline inventories and oil prices remaining below $60 per barrel. On Wednesday, the price of crude oil fell below $58 per barrel to the lowest price in eight months.

Based on the current situation, AAA estimates that gas prices will continue to decline through Thanksgiving.

My condo is approximately 900 miles round trip. My Avalanche gets roughly 15 miles to the gallon. Let's do the quick math... 60 Gallons to take the trip north. Gas prices have dropped almost $1.00 per gallon over the last few months and I go to Brian Head a couple times a month during the season. This translates into some real money that I can use on more important things like... gear and lift tickets.

Posted by Justin at 10:54 AM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2006

The Joke is on Me--Brokeback Mountain Ski Area

You ever take stuff too seriously? I had a fairly serious e-mail exchange with Beth Clark of Brokeback Mountain Ski Area in Wyoming. First, a couple of days ago, I got a contact e-mail:

Great blog. I thought you may be interested in checking out Brokeback Mt. Ski Area website. We were the best kept secret of the Rockies but now the secret is out of closet.

So I head over and start looking around at their site. Not a lot of content, but it appears to be exactly what it is--a small resort on part with some of the other small resorts around the country. Not a lot of web development, not a lot of info, but a trail map, some stats, etc. Then I start looking at the runs:

Here are the lifts:
  • Giddy Up
  • Ride'm
  • Uranus
  • Pony Up
  • Howdy Partner

Alright, let's check some of the trails:

  • Over the Rainbow
  • Glory Hole
  • Peter Pan
  • 8 Seconds
  • Ramrod

Alright, that is not crazy off the wall. I mean, it appears a little odd. So I check out their PR area and they have a couple of articles about the goals of the resort, etc. I send a note back to "Beth":

So what is up with this:

http://www.skibrokeback.com/pr1.htm

"The recent Hollywood film "Brokeback Mountain" has generated unwanted attention to Brokeback Mt. Ski Area. The management of the Ski Area would like to stress that the aforementioned movie is based on a literary source and is a work of fiction.

"Contrary to some media reports the Ski Area was never involved with the filmmakers nor does the ski area have any interest in utilizing the popularity of the film to further its marketing goals. While the story of the film contains positive messages, Brokeback Mountain Ski Area is a family oriented resort and as such shares little in common with the fictional characters and situations depicted within the film.

"It is our understanding that the filmmakers and the author of the original story were unaware of the fact that the Brokeback Mountain Ski Area in Wyoming has been in business since 1965, long before the story has been written."

And then the new logo? And the names of the lifts and runs? Did you guys change the names and the logo to embrace the references to Brokeback Mountain? Just curious, because it seems to contradict the previous strategy. I would love to write about it and talk to you.

I get a note back that has more details, and I got my chuckle at the names of the runs. I am trying to be all PC and wanted to send a note back, but decided to start googling the authors of the magazine articles that they have in the PR section. Then the magazines. Then the people listed like Beth Clark or Jack Dunn. All come up zero. As I am scanning the listings in Google for "skibrokeback.com", there is nothing except this single post on a bulletin board called Gay Outdoors:

Hello All,

I am sure a good number of you will laugh quite a bit on this one. I've just completed a virtual Ski Brokeback resort project (http://www.SkiBrokeback.com). The site has been built in tradition of the Molvania project and I am sure you'll have fun while visiting our virtual mountain.

Best,

Elvira
Ski Brokeback

Alright, Molvania. What the heck is Molvania... Check the Wiki on Molvania:

Molvanîa ('A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry') is a fictional country set in Eastern Europe for the mock travel guide Molvanîa: a Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry, described as "the birthplace of the whooping cough" and "owner of Europe's oldest nuclear reactor.". It was created by Australians Tom Gleisner, Santo Cilauro and Rob Sitch (of The D-Generation and The Panel fame) to parody travel guidebooks.

The book became a surprise success in Australia, sparking a bidding war for the international publication rights. However, the book became a centre of controversy when the UK's former Minister for Europe Keith Vaz accused it of exploiting prejudices about Eastern Europe.

There has also been some confusion about whether the country actually exists. This could be partly due to the fact that the name is close to the real eastern European country of the Moldova, the circumflexed letter "î" also being characteristic for Moldovan (Romanian), the language of that country. It has been claimed that some tourists who read the tour guide book believed that the country existed and made plans to go there, but this story is probably apocryphal.

Then I got it. I had been duped. But this is exactly the kind of thing that I find hysterically funny. Just real enough that I don't immediately pick it out as a hoax, but also off the wall enough that I am not sure. You don't want to make fun of it because it is so un-PC, but at the same time, you chuckle to yourself.

So go over and check the site out. Pay attention to the pictures. They seem strange, but not too strange. Everything is funny and off the wall, but not too funny and off the wall.

Well played, sir. Well played.

Posted by Justin at 12:35 PM

October 01, 2006

Wanna Take a Family Ski Trip--Don't Skip School

The attendance Nazi's are out in force in California. This article from the Ventura County Star talks about California's anti-truancy policies:

Parents who are thinking of taking their kids out of school for a few days to visit their grandparents or enjoy some uncrowded skiing in Mammoth might want to think again. School attendance policies have gotten stricter over the past few years, catching some families by surprise.

The reasons, educators say, are both financial and academic. School districts lose money if kids aren't in class. Plus districts are under pressure to make sure students do well on state and national tests, so educators want kids at school.
...
There was a time when schools got funding if a student's absence was excused, that is, if the child was sick or had a doctor's appointment, but that changed about five years ago. These days, schools get state funding only when children are actually in their seats. If a student is absent, whether that absence is excused or not, the school loses money, about $35 per kid per day.

"It doesn't matter if they're sick or skiing; we don't get the money," said Tony Knight, superintendent of the Oak Park Unified School District. "If a kid's out for a week, that's a pretty substantial amount of money."
...
Under the state education code, students who have three or more unexcused absences in any year are considered truants. They're also considered truants if they're more than 30 minutes late for class three or more times. That means that even high-achieving districts have a high percentage of truants. In the Conejo Valley Unified School District, for example, 21 percent of students were truants last year under the state's standards, said Deputy Superintendent Richard Simpson.

Many parents believe the stricter attendance policies are unreasonable. Schools should not be penalized when kids get sick, they say. Parents should also be able to take their children on trips that may be even more educational than a week in the classroom.

My son Jake is a straight A student. He is bored most days in school. I love his teachers the last two or three years and they are genuinely good folks who do their best, but I am his parent. I decide what is in his best interests. I understand that the government may not agree that skiing trips are beneficial, but the government has also stopped funding athletics or even PE in school. They don't teach Art or Music in many places. So it becomes the parent's responsibility to demonstrate good and wholesome recreation like skiing.

Now for those of you that believed any of that, good for you. That is the line that I give my wife and anyone else that would question the merit of me skipping work and Jake skipping school to ski that Monday and Tuesday that we both were supposed to be back and stay the extra powder day. IT IS EDUCATIONAL TOO. I AM TEACHING THE VALUES OF RECREATION TO CREATE A WELL ROUNDED CHILD.

And to the school and educators that are worried about their $35 per day of funding in California, tough. Sorry. And I wish more parents home schooled. The entire educational system is out of touch when they start telling parents aren't smart enough to decide for themselves what is important for their own children. Thanks Nanny State.

Posted by Justin at 09:24 PM

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

September 25, 2006

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)

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)

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

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 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 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

August 21, 2006

Speaking of Deals--Frequency at Big Sky Rocks

Speaking of deals, the Frequency Pass at Big Sky is perhaps the best deal out there. (Especially if they get good early season snow)

You pay $69 and for that you get a $21 discount every ski day at regular prices, plus you get two weeks of free skiing. Admittedly these are opening week and closing week, but like I said, it is a crap shoot as to whether they will get good early season snow. But it is free, so even bad skiing that is "free skiing" is a good thing. And I have never had a bad experience at Big Sky. There are other good deals too like lodging discounts and ski shop discounts, so check out the link.

I won't go into my love affair with my home state of Montana and how wonderful it is to ski there where a big crowd means a person or two in front of you in the lift line. Big Sky is as good as any luxury resort in the country and fewer people go there because it is not as easy to get to. But it keeps getting easier with direct flights into Bozeman.

If you have never been, Big Sky is probably my favorite resort. It is just too far from Arizona to ski there very often for me since I drive most places and take the family. I try to make it once or twice a year though. Lone Peak has some of the sickest lift served Extreme Terrain in the Country and just about every Warren Miller film has Big Sky featured.

Posted by Justin at 12:24 PM

New Link from Ski Coupons.com

I added a new link and am working with a couple of other folks to check on additional links. I hate the idea of a cluttered sidebar that contains a bunch of ads and junk, but at the same time want to link to the stuff that make sense and offers a benefit to the readers.

But first and foremost, I ski on the cheap. Always have because my entertainment and "sports" budget is stretched incredibly thin. Between my Suns tickets, Cardinals tickets, and Season passes, I am pushing $3,000 in sporting events. Add in parking, travel, equipment, etc., and I don't have a lot of extra money laying around for entertainment.

The condo is an investment property that just happens to be at a ski resort... at least that is the excuse I give my wife. Plus it was a fixer-upper, so it has so far paid for itself in appreciation. I have season passes at Brian Head which cuts the cost down to next to nothing when you use them enough. But I head other places and when you roll somewhere anymore, a lift ticket runs $75 at many (most major) resorts. So you learn to ski on the cheap.

I am in the process of trading links from a company called ski-coupons.com. A link here or there, especially a free one through a trade, isn't going to pay my bills or my bandwidth, but if my site is generating traffic from the links and/or ads, that helps support my winter habit. And these guys fit my mode of "deal shopping". Take a look at their site and in addition, I will be posting about other specials with a possible local gear shop or two and some other businesses that will be of interest.

In the interest of disclosure, I remain completely unbiased. If something sucks, I won't post links and I certainly won't go back. So if it is on my site, it is the real deal.

Posted by Justin at 12:08 PM

August 20, 2006

Goals for 2006-07

I am one of the most anal people alive. I plan everything. Make lists. Make goals. Track every expense down to the penny. Plan months in advance. All of these things add up to driving the folks around me crazy. And I happen to be just a little crazy myself from it. I mean come on, when you script out your ski trips in August, it is kinda stressful.

But I am writing the script for 2006-07. Honestly, most of the trip will be at Brian Head because A. It is Free and B. I have a home there. So my plans there are not really about how or what or where, but about when and who go with me. Jackson, Jake, Jarrett, Jeremy and I have season passes. Tera has a season pass, but it is a little tougher because Lindsey is still not 2 yet, so Tera will probably only be able to have her mom watch her a couple of times. Dad should make a couple of trips too and usually if Tera and Dad go, even with Lindsey, either her or Dad will not ski that day. So for the most part, the family will be there several times. We have Brian Head and the Family covered.

Now for the "other" trips:

  • Roadie with Erich, Tim, Taufiq, Dan, etc. from work.
  • Roadie with certain old friends from the Navy and Montana.
  • Roadie with Nat, Jeff, and Zach, plus the kids.
  • Roadie with Keith and Kaylee.
  • Sunlight in Colorado to meet up with John and talk some shop.
  • Alta at least a couple of times. Maybe just day trips from Brian Head, but probably on the way to Montana to see my extended family.
  • Big Sky on the way to Montana and on the way back. Gotta meet up with Dax who writes Big Sky's "blog" on the ski report.
  • Snowbowl if there is snow. And to every single skier in Arizona, please support the snowmaking effort there. Snowbowl is certainly not Alta, but it is close and offers some great views and great terrain.
  • Rock Dodge. I know, the name says it all, but it is close to Billings and I can ski there with the family. I want to take Jesse and Jeremy to Big Sky again and may take Jackson north to meet his older brother Jesse for the first time.
  • The Wolf. I want to put Jarrett in Wolf Pups which is the biggest bargain and one of the most fun programs in youth skiing. Jake spent two days there and loved it.

Those are the almost certain. These are the "it would be nice":

  • Tahoe.
  • Loveland, A-basin, basically Summit County when there is decent snow.
  • Jackson Hole.
  • Mammoth.
  • Teach Jeremy's boys to ski if they can work out their divorce.

Understand that if I simply spend the entire season at Brian Head skiing 30+ days with just my family, it is still an awesome season. Any time you ski more than a week in a year, that beats what most city folks do. Plus the season passes and the condo make it almost free.

The biggest upgrade I want for the condo is Direct TV with the Sunday Ticket and a DVR. That way I don't miss all of the November and December NFL Games while I am skiing or have to go to a bar to watch them. But that probably won't happen because my condo does not face South. I need to finish the bathroom downstairs and chill the rest of the winter.

Anyway you cut it, I am ready for 2006-07 to kick off. Just waiting on the site redesign and to get the year moving.

Posted by Justin at 12:15 PM

Getting All Nostalgic

So I was writing my one year anniversary post and started getting nostalgic. Wanted to write about my best memories of skiing (or at least some of my best memories).

  • My first time with my cousin Zach. Not that first time... my first time skiing (but he is kinda cute).
  • Josh and [name removed until we ski together again] going to Rock Dodge over Thanksgiving in 1993. Me walking down a black, postholing. Bear Paw, I believe.
  • [To Be Named] and me heading to Sunrise in 2002 for the first time back on skis in almost a decade. Skiing runs like "Evergreen" and "Side Winder" and "Justin is a whiny little b@#$%"... wait, that was not a run, but a quote.
  • Jacob's first ski day and taking him up to the top after a half day lesson.
  • Four Foot Powder dump at Sunrise that same year and Jake and me postholing down Phoenician in chest deep powder. Ski Patrol carrying Jake down.
  • Jake's first blue run--"No name" and then "NASTAR".
  • Following Tim down Suicide when I was still a groomer on blues skill level. Him lapping me twice as I walked uphill to shop at the yardsale.
  • Skipping work for a mid-week powder dump at Sunrise, burning quads on fresh untracked laps of Lupe, and then getting snowed in. Having to lie to my boss about having a morning dentist appointment so I had time to drive home the next morning when the roads were plowed. Watching the USC-Oklahoma Championship from a bar in Show Low. (Ashlee Simpson anyone?)
  • More yardsale days with Tim and Erich. They all are a blur.
  • Roadie to Brian Head with [TBN] and Dee.
  • Skiing with Jeremy, Jesse (little bro), Jake, [TBN] at Big Sky.
  • Jarrett's first day at Brian Head.
  • Taking my brother Jackson skiing for the first time.
  • Skiing with Jeremy, Jake, Dad, and Jackson.
  • Wolf Creek trip with Erich and [TBN].
  • Near fistfight in the car on way to Wolf Creek. That was the best part... well, that and the 2' of pow.
  • Jake throwing a 180.
  • Jeremy, Tim, and me attempting tricks at the top of Giant Steps.
  • Erich getting arrested. Really, kinda not funny until just lately. Worst day EVER, but now, it is memorable which is what makes it awesome.
  • Tera getting lapped on the bunny hill by Jake and Kye and Kye saying, "Aunt Tera, why are you crying? You aren't very good at skiing are you?" The voice of a four year old on full display.
  • Last day of this season and riding the rail and throwing a 180 and watching Jake and Jacko eat it all day. I get 8 months of one-up-manship on the little punks.
  • Skipping work at a customer in Denver and hitting Loveland.
  • Jer and I heading to A-basin and the Wolf.
  • Hot-tubbing and sauna-ing on a weekday after skiing at Brian Head and chilling in the condo at night.
  • Dan and his iPod, plus Taufiq and Tim and Erich just chilling and hitting Cyclone together.
  • Skipping work with Jacob and poaching runs on Quakie at Sunrise with off duty ski patrol mid-week.

That is about it. If you are in the list, good times. If not, good times. Do something memorable like break bones or throw air or get arrested or just show up on a 4' dump or call in sick to work and I'll do the same and we can get marooned somewhere. Writing that list made me remember what I love about the sport. None of those days were by myself. And the best ones were with my best friends or my family.

Posted by Justin at 12:38 AM | Comments (1)

July 24, 2006

Skiing in Dallas?

New Article about an Indoor Skiing facility in Dallas from Freeskier:

What does $375 million buy? Just the chance to ski in Dallas. That’s right, Texas could be home to a $375 million year round ski slope if developers have their way. The Bearfire Group has announced plans to design and build the Coolzone Winterplex, a new winter-themed entertainment venue and sports park in Dallas, Texas.

If skiing in Texas sounds, well, not that sweet, it gets worse. Rather than using man-made snow, the Bearfire group has hired a British firm to install an artificial skiing “surface”. The surface will be the foundation for a 60-acre, 20-story outdoor ski and snowboard mountain which will be surfaced with the Snowflex surface system that mimics real packed powder and provides qualities and conditions like those of mountain snow (somehow we're not convinced), and the "mountain" will be complete with chair lifts, a snowboard park with competition half pipe, toboggans, and snow tubing.

...

Unfortunately, Freeskier was unable to get Charlie Aaron to return calls asking him to compare his "the most unique and thrilling entertainment experiences on the planet" with a day of heli skiing in Alaska. Queries regarding the quality of the Snowflex "snow" when compared to Alta blower also went unanswered.

I say awesome. This might thin out the green circle Texans that bug everyone at Wolf Creek.

Reality is anything that promotes the sport and attracts new people is a good thing. It is unfortunate that the sport has become so expensive that most people even living near a resort cannot afford to ski and that it is dominated by destination skiing for the wealthy. But if wealthy Texans want to donate money to my resort after experiencing "skiing" in Dallas, so be it. My condo and season passes are paid for and the extra money helps our locals make a decent living and live in heaven instead of the big city. Locals depend on out of town dollars to pay the bills and the more people that try and enjoy the sport, the more money that flows into Colorado and Utah.

Posted by Justin at 11:53 AM

July 11, 2006

Jeremy Bloom signs Contract with Philly Eagles

There is nothing better than this if you are a skier:

Former Olympic moguls skier Jeremy Bloom, who was selected in the fifth round of this year's draft by the Eagles despite having not played football since 2003, reached an agreement with the team.

The 147th player chosen, Bloom will sign a four-year, $1.782 million contract. The deal includes a $172,000 signing bonus and minimum base salaries for all four seasons.

The Eagles are hoping Bloom, who left the University of Colorado football team after losing an eligibility appeal with the NCAA over endorsement money he accepted to help fund his skiing career, will be able to contribute on special teams, particularly as a punt returner.

The NCAA is a complete joke. They are too busy making teams like North Dakota, Utah, and Illinois change their mascotts and banning Olympic athletes to get concerned about their real job--promoting amateur athletics and education in this country. Boot an Olympian because he cannot afford to train for the Moguls skiing competition without sponsorship from CU's football team. Just trash. The NCAA is complete trash.

Jeremy Bloom is everything Bode is not. The CU Buffalo on the skiing helmet says it all. I am rooting for him to rip it up in Philly. Maybe former CU alum and Philly QB Koy Detmer can throw a couple of passes his way. I have a Ty Detmer Philly Jersey in the closet from back in the day and he is still probably my favorite football player of all time. If you don't know who Ty is, just look back at every major passing record in Div-I history.

Posted by Justin at 11:52 PM

July 06, 2006

A Real Threat to Skiing as We Know It--Bark Beetles

Last week, I talked about the hysteria going around about how Global Warming is going to destroy skiing. I don't buy into doomsday scenarios like that. What I do buy into is a real environmental threat to skiing as we know it and to the mountain environments that is causing and making fires worse and destroying forests across the country--the bark or pine beetle.

Bark Beetles have almost destroyed the area around Brian Head. Winds close lifts where trees used to block the air flow. Dead trees in other areas are a major fire hazzard. It does not take Global Warming to destroy skiing as we know it. Windswept runs lose their snow cover as snow simply blows away.

From Scripps News comes this story about Winter Park, Colorado:

This ski town has stepped up its campaign to battle pine beetles, which have killed countless trees and threatened others in the surrounding valley and nearby counties.

Everyone, including residents, local government and giant resort operator Intrawest Corp., has been footing the bill to blunt the bugs' impact on a swath of Colorado, whose economy depends heavily on its scenic lands.

...

During a 1970s outbreak elsewhere in Colorado, the government launched a $20 million program to control the beetles. But now, perhaps more than ever, property owners and municipalities have been shelling out the money required to thwart the beetles and deal with the damage they cause.

The U.S. Forest Service is more likely to be providing training and advice on managing beetle-kill areas.

"This infestation is breaking all the records," said Mike Ricketts, winter-sports administrator from the Sulfur Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. "It's unprecedented."

...

Trees also help keep the wind from scouring snow off the trails.

The effort required removing every third tree and taking them out by helicopter because of the steepness of the slopes.

Much of Summit County, too, has been hard hit by beetles, which feast on crowded, drought-weakened forests.

The problems arise when beetles drill through a tree's bark and lay eggs that later hatch into wood-eating larvae. Within a year or two, the trees go from green to rust-colored and then lose all their needles before turning gray.

Well, welcome to Brian Head. Ski Magazine has an article--The Bug that Ate Ski Country that talks about Brian Head:

ONLY A DECADE AGO, towering spruce trees shaded the runs at Brian Head resort, a picturesque ski area perched above red-rock cliffs in southwestern Utah. Then came the beetles. After a series of windstorms in the early 1990s toppled an unusually high number of trees, bark beetles proliferated in the deadfall. In 1994, they began to overwhelm and kill healthy trees on Cedar Mountain, where Brian Head is located.

Over the next 10 years, beetles killed up to 90 percent of the spruce trees across 30,000 acres of Cedar Mountain, including most of the trees at Brian Head. The spruce needles turned red and fell off, exposing “ghost forests” of standing deadwood. To reduce the risk of fires and to protect skiers from falling limbs and trunks, logging crews began removing dead and diseased trees. By the time the infestation ended, areas of the resort looked as if they were above treeline. "It used to be a big, beautiful, thick green forest," says mountain manager Mac Hatch, who’s worked at the resort since the mid-1980s. "Now there are just patches of spruce."

If you ski in the West, what hit Brian Head could happen at one of your favorite resorts. With astonishing ferocity, several bark beetle species are devouring conifers across millions of acres of forest in western North America. You can find epidemics in Colorado’s Vail Valley; in the lodgepole pine forests around Breckenridge; throughout Grand County, home to Winter Park; and in the Stanley Basin north of Sun Valley, Idaho.

Besides being unsightly, a tree die-off can harm a ski operation in a number of ways. With fewer trees to block the wind, Brian Head has had more lift closures. The loss of trees also makes steep runs more avalanche-prone. But the most frequent damage is to the texture and depth of snow, and is caused by something usually warmly welcomed by skiers: sunshine. "Snowpack that’s under a tree canopy has less solar radiation on top of it," says Brian McInerney, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Salt Lake City. "As a result, it doesn’t ripen as fast and it will last longer into the spring."

Posted by Justin at 02:08 PM

July 03, 2006

Climatology Prof from MIT and Ski Magazine's takes on Global Warming

A lot has been made in the ski magazines about Global Warming's impact on the ski industry. I have heard such bold predictions of the ski season all but shutting down over the lack of snowfall due to Global Warming. Quite the contrary, global warming will increase atmospheric temperatures and increase the amount of water vapor in the air, the US Global Change Information Office:

Higher temperatures lead to higher rates of evaporation and precipitation. As the Earth warms, we expect more precipitation and it is likely to fall over shorter intervals of time, thereby increasing the frequency of very heavy and extreme precipitation events. Analyses of observed changes in precipitation intensity have been conducted only for a few countries. Perhaps the best evidence of increases in extreme and very heavy precipitation events comes from data in North America as depicted for the United States in Figure 8.1. In Australia, which is historically prone to heavy precipitation, an increase in rainfall amount from major storms has also been observed. Analyses for South Africa also show increases in extreme precipitation rates.
...
Blizzards and snow storms may actually increase in intensity and frequency in some colder locations as atmospheric moisture increases. In more temperate latitudes, snowstorms are likely to decrease in frequency, but their intensity may actually increase, as the world warms. Observations show that snowfall has increased in the high latitudes of North America, but snow accumulations have melted faster because of more frequent and earlier thaws.

This appears far from dire for ski resorts. Most have snowmaking and the problem of higher temperatures may delay the beginning of the annual winter freeze when snowmaking begins by a mere few days. Winters will be slightly shorter, but far more intense. And spring may begin slightly earlier. The net of it is more snowfall during the winter because of more water vapor due to higher temperatures of the oceans, but winter starts later and ends earlier.

But the debate about Global Warming, including the causes and the ability of humans to either cause global warming or correct it, is far from over. In the Wall Street Journal yesterday a prominent MIT Professor discusses some of the myths and scare tactics about Global Warming and sums it up by saying:

So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points. First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists--especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.

Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition.

So what does this mean to me and you and the rest of the skiing world--that Global Warming is not going to end skiing as we know it. That resorts are not going to suddenly be without snow. That climate change is part of the Earth's history and despite our belief we can both cause and stop climate change, the Earth's termperatures have been changing for billions of years without human intervention. And what if we were at the beginning of an ice age. Would we find scientists to tell us that we were the cause of Global Cooling? Well, lots of folks have been studying the last several ice ages and Wiki offers some explanations for the causes of ice ages:

The complex pattern of changes in Earth's orbit and the change of albedo may influence the occurrence of glacial and interglacial phases — this was first explained by the theory of Milutin Milanković.

A glacier carried away the missing half of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.The present ice ages are the most studied and best understood, particularly the last 400,000 years, since this is the period covered by ice cores that record atmospheric composition and proxies for temperature and ice volume. Within this period, the match of glacial/interglacial frequencies to the Milanković orbital forcing periods is so good that orbital forcing is the generally accepted explanation. The combined effects of the changing distance to the sun, the precession of the Earth's axis, and the changing tilt of the Earth's axis can change and significantly redistribute the sunlight received by the Earth. Of particular importance are changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis, which impact the intensity of seasons. For example, the amount of solar influx in July at 65 degrees north latitude is calculated to vary by as much as 25% (from 400 W/m2 to 500 W/m2, see graph at [3]). It is widely believed that ice sheets advance when summers become too mild to melt all of the accumulated snowfall from the previous winter. Some workers believe that the strength of the orbital forcing appears to be too small to trigger glaciations, but feedback mechanisms like CO2 may explain this mismatch.

While Milanković forcing predicts that cyclic changes in the Earth's orbital parameters can be expressed in the glaciation record, additional explanations are necessary to explain which cycles are observed to be most important in the timing of glacial/interglacial periods. In particular, during the last 800 thousand years, the dominant inter/glacial oscillation has been 100 thousand years, which corresponds to changes in Earth's eccentricity and orbital inclination, and yet is by far the weakest of the three frequencies predicted by Milanković. During the period 3.0 — 0.8 million years ago, the dominant pattern of glaciation corresponded to the 41 thousand year period of changes in Earth's obliquity (tilt of the axis). The reasons for preferring one frequency to another are poorly understood and an active area of current research, but the answer probably relates to some form of resonance in the Earth's climate system.

Point being that we don't A. Know the causes of Global Warming or Global Cooling B. Know the Effects on Snowfall or the Ski Industry or C. Know the duration of the warming or cooling events. It seems ridiculous to take the last 50 or 100 years data and do predictive models of warming or cooling based on the last 100 years when the cycles over the last 450,000 years indicate that the fluctuations we are now experiencing are probably far more closely related to the 100,000 year pattern of warming than the 100 year pattern.

We like to exagerate the importance of Humans on this planet. We like to think that we somehow are the cause and the solution to all of the problems. We like to think we can change the weather by a collection of actions over the last 150 years. Like somehow the human species in the last 150 years weilds the power to reverse trends such as the ice ages that happened on cycles for the last 450,000 years.

But Ski Magazine offers some tips on how you can improve the chances of a good ski season:

  • Car-pool or use mass transit on the way to work and the slopes.
  • Turn off lights when leaving your hotel room. Reuse bath towels and bed linens.
  • Encourage the use of washable tableware and silverware in cafeterias and lodges instead of paper or plastics.
  • Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. A car that gets 10 more miles per gallon will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2,500 pounds in a year. (Both Ford and GM have pledged to produce SUVs by the year 2005 that are 25 percent more fuel efficient.)
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which cost more but last up to 10 times as long and require 75 percent less energy.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances that can reduce energy use by 30 percent to 40 percent.
  • Be ready and willing to make the move from fossil fuels (oil and coal) to clean energy sources such as solar and windpower.

You have to be kidding me. Use washable tableware and silverwear? Well, if I only knew about that, we would have endless powder days and usher in some cooling for the entire Earth. Why not stop breathing since breathing takes Oxygen and converts it to Carbon Dioxide. How about stop cutting down forests to get paper to print magazines? Surely that will have more of an effect than using washable tablewear.

Posted by Justin at 11:44 AM

June 26, 2006

Where Did the Rebel Factor in Being a Snowboarder Go?

So Adam at Highly Obsessed and I have been having a discussion on his site relating to smaller board companies and just the industry in general. Transworld Snowboarding had an article about the small snowboard manufacturers that got Adam thinking about the maturation of the snowboard industry.

It is my premise that snowboarding has become exactly that which it set out to destroy--namely the ski industry. Snowboarding is the new skiing--a sport that cuts across virtually all age groups and is tailored to the wealthy high end niche of people that can afford to head up to the mountain and drop $1000 a day on lodging and lift tickets and another couple grand on equipment. Hell, Burton is marketing jackets that contain headphones in the hood and iPod controls for a stiff $600+. They are no longer selling to the grungy edgy kid, but rather, they have moved beyond the original core of the sport and the skaters that gave the sport its popularity as a countercultural statement against the masses of skiers that dominated winter sports.

I am constantly in these discussions with my friends who almost all snowboard about how lame it is to two plank it. Skiing is not cool like snowboarding. Skiers are 60 year old men on straigh as an arrow 210's wearing 80's hotpants and hanging out at the lodge in their sweaters. Then it is from my baby brother who wants to snowboard at 11 and who I have offered to allow to do just that when he pays for his equipment, lift ticket, and condo to stay in. It was when he said, "But skiing isn't cool like snowboarding. None of my friends ski, they all snowboard" that I realized that the snowboarding phenomenon has gone beyond something rebels do to be rebelous. Now, I ski unlike all my friends to be a rebel and to be different. And with that, it takes some good natured teasing, but I dish it out back at them. There is nothing rebelous about snowboarding anymore. And there is something that is emerging about twin tip skiing that represents a new counterculture. Shawn White is phenomenol, but so is Tanner Hall. Throwing crazy stuff in the pipe, but one represents the commercialized and overhyped and supermarketed winter sport, and the other is a name rarely heard of. Bode gets all the attention, but Jeremy Bloom and Tanner Hall are no names outside of the industry unlike the entire world that knows who Shawn White is.

This is an article from Nagano and 1998:

Snowboarders like to be different and they cultivate the image of radical youth.

They love to rail against authority and don't care who knows it, but that seems to be as far as they want to go. They'll talk about wanting to spare the environment, but don't seem to give a thought to the fact that someone bulldozed a substantial part of it to give them a place to ride.

They say they don't like the stilted formalities of other organized sports, and especially the stuffy, over-regulated world of the Olympics.

Fair enough, but at the same time most admit they longed to be here if only so that they and their sport get the recognition only the Olympics can bestow. They carp constantly about what amounts to a very unrestrictive Olympic dress code, but rarely mention the fact they signed an agreement to abide by it. They claim the creeping commercialization of their sport is crass, but several of them are said to be making high six-figure incomes. And those who don't are pressing hard for their sponsors to come up with more cash.

On the plus side, they seem to truly understand the dangers of second-hand smoke, but that's a column for another time.

The bulk of the riders who showed up for a Nike-sponsored press conference here did so to announce that they were getting new clothing or would push new products for the company that has a nice little ambush marketing scheme playing out of a car barn here. None mentioned the apparent conflict between being "free to be me" and "just doing it" for cash. Most seemed to not even recognize it.

So now we have a conflict. Just as Bode Miller is conflicted because he wants to play the "Small Town Kid from New Hamshire who did not even have indoor plumbing", he also wants to sign massive endorsement deals, wants to appear on 60 Minutes, have his own radio show on Sirius, then wants to complain about all the attention that gets paid to him. Burton does not pay Shawn White's paychecks out of Jake Burton's personal account at a fledgling startup, but rather the corporation writes the check out of their massive bankroll from selling gads of product.

Now, I firmly believe that Snowboarding is being turned into a punchline as a counterculture statement by politicians and by 60 year old men trying to be hip and young and cool like all "them damned kids these days" by dropping their skis and doing what the cool kids do and snowboarding. There is a term for them, crossovers. Crossovers from skiing. I have another term for them. Combovers. They are the 50 year old mid-life crisis victim that pays for the hair plugs at The Hair Club for Men and drives a Corvette.

It isn't that I have a beef against my buddies who snowboard. I own a snowboard or two and planned to learn to do both so that I can write about both. There are several camps within snowboarding, but the big ones are the pothead-burnout stoner kids that have to sell something to pay for a lift ticket or got their gear as a trade from one of the guys they sell to from the basement of their mom's house. That is the root of the sport. These kids smoke on the lift, and not cigarettes. Then there are the wannabe rich kids. You know, the kids that mom and dad can afford to pay to take ski vacations with and who get the $1000 board and bindings for Christmas from mom and dad. There are the parents of these kids as a seperate category that want to remain young and hip and so they stop skiing because they think snowboarding at 50 helps you stay cool. Finally, my friends that I ride with are twenty and thirty somethings that are doing well, have good jobs, have disposable income, and do it as a group activity.

But notice, that the first category is what the sport was orignally about. And now, lift ticket prices and gear prices have washed these kids out of the sport, yet people still want to believe that snowboarding is a countercultural statement. That it is edgy still.

This may be the worst example of why I think snowboarding has lost its edge:

Notice the cute little flower on the vest.

Notice how John Kerry rides Burton. That is what Burton is marketing to because these guys have the bucks. Burton is not about being edgy, but rather about selling gear. How can Jake Burton represent a countercultural non-corporate element when he is selling gear and marketing Nike style?

Posted by Justin at 12:03 PM | Comments (3)

June 02, 2006

Canadian Healthcare Update

Adam at Highly Obsessed has been having some knee troubles. I have covered the process of getting an MRI in Canada and the umpteen month wait list, but it turns out that he could drive to Buffalo and get his MRI the next day for $450. Well, he got the MRI and went in to the Ortho in Canada for the results. NOT GOOD!

The folks in Buffalo think I tore my ACL. The surgeon is apt to believe them (and rightly so. Also, I don't think I've mentioned this, but this surgeon is a great guy, very smart, and coincidentially operated on my mother several years ago when she shattered her wrist while in-line skating. But that's another story altogether).

There is a chance, depending on the type of tear, that it will heal on its own. But regardless, the surgeon recommended getting scoped. That way, they can at least have a look at where I tore the ACL/the severity of the tear. If I don't need anything done, then no procedure is performed and away I go. If I do do need some work done, they will perform it then.

So of course, this being Ontario and all, when will I get the surgery? Six to eight months from now.

Six to Eight months. It is free, but by then, the problem could already be partially healed and need further treatment. His Doctor told him basically, just go about your business. Not a lot you can do but wait six to eight months.

But healthcare in Canada is FAR FROM FREE. You see, Canadians pay huge amounts for their healthcare in the way of taxes. And for their hard earned tax dollars, this is what they get. They get universal healthcare, it is just universally frustrating to wait months for routine proceedures.

We take a lot of things for granted in this country, and if you have no healthcare coverage at all, a six month wait for free care is a good deal. But for the 10-15% of our population or so that does not have any health coverage, this may be a good deal, but for the other 85%, I think I would rather pay my copays and my $350 a month premium contributions to my work's plan, and get in right away and get quality healthcare.

There is an old saying: you can have quality, speed, or low cost service, but never all three. When it comes to my health, waiting months for an MRI or Arthroscopic surgery is not an option. I don't mind paying more to get my care quickly and at the highest quality.

Posted by Justin at 12:25 PM

May 08, 2006

So Let's Talk Some Skiing

It is approaching the middle of May and the season ended almost a month ago. The snow is melting. Temperatures are rising. But 2006-07 is really not that far awy. Pretty soon, we will have that first snowfall, if just a dusting. Then the snowmaking. Then it will be upon us. Just because the season is over, does not mean I can't think snow.

So I wanted to compile a list of "have done's" and "to do's" of the places that I have skied in the west and want to next season. You like some places or they are close, so when you go, they are just where you go. I only skied two places this year, Alta and Brian Head. I had my condo. It was comfortable. It was where I went. Not the best skiing, but the easiest, simplest, cheapest. Season Pass. Condo paid for.

You will see a lot about me based on the skiing decisions I make. Price is a huge factor. Take 30 days times two people times $75 per lift ticket and you are approaching $5k in lift tickets. At $40 a ticket, I can ski either twice as much or twice as cheap. And I dig skiing with folks that wear their work coveralls or the 20 year old skis, believe it or not. I mean, not that they are what I want everyone to be like, but the fact that they are there means that the rich elitists aren't. I want affordable and friendly, not exclusive and uppity.

Feel free to chime in about any and all of the above. What do you look for? Big resort versus small? Value versus heated gondolas? Caviar versus a $4 hotdog with canned nacho cheese? Realize that for me, pow is pow, a mountain is a mountain. I want great snow, mellow folks, good prices, decent lifts, and other people that are like me--they want to ski a ton on a budget not drop $10k for a week in Aspen

Here are the resorts I have skied in the last three years:

  • Big Sky, Montana
  • Red Lodge, Montana
  • Discovery Basin, Montana
  • A-basin, Colorado
  • Loveland, Colorado
  • Wolf Creek, Colorado
  • Alta, Utah
  • Brian Head, Utah
  • Snowbowl, Arizona
  • Sunrise, Arizona

Now for next year, my to-do list:

  • Sunlight, Colorado (gotta meet up with John)
  • Steamboat, Colorado (because I can mooch off of Wil from 120 Days, oh, and Steam Boat is as fat of a resort as it gets)
  • Brighton, Solitude, Park City, Deer Valley, the Canyons, Utah (not all at once and maybe not all of them, but at least a couple)
  • Telluride, Colorado
  • Durango, Colorado
  • Copper, Vail, Aspen, Keystone, Breck or one of the other Summit Area resorts (not all, but try one or two that I haven't hit)
  • Tahoe... any and or all.
  • Mammoth

Problem is that when I got to Summit, I go to A-basin or Loveland. I just like the feel, the prices, the damned hitch-hiking kids on the pass. Why pay more to go hang with Richie Rich?

I go to SLC, and it is Alta and only Alta. It is Mecca. Why deny it and go somewhere else? Again prices, convenience, experience. Alta is so close to perfection, why tempt fate. The Snow. The price. The fact that it is Alta.

Southern Colorado, and it is the Wolf. No lift lines. Trees and glades. The price. The feel of the resort. The fact that you can lose yourself doing lap after lap on Alberta all day. Telluride is absolutely awesome by all accounts, but double the money and further.

I will start reviewing each individual resort I have been to in more detail during the offseason.

Posted by Justin at 02:27 PM

April 25, 2006

Economics of Being a Skier

Last week, I wrote about the Economics of the Ski Industry, and was commenting to a post at Highly Obsessed about the Housing Crisis at many resorts.

Just for sake of argument, let's assume that you are lucky enough to live within 6 hours of a resort. Figure that is LA or San Diego residents going to Mammoth or Brian Head or San Francisco residents going to Tahoe, Phoenix going to Sunrise, etc. You are just out of day trip distance, so you have to stay overnight. For two days (drive early and ski one, stay over night, ski day two, drive back that day), you spent $100-200 on gas, $150 on lift tickets, $50 on food, $100 on hotel room. That is $400-500 for a two day trip and if you are lucky you can get two or three buddies to split the cost of the gas and hotel. Even split 4 ways, the trip still costs around $300 and that is for two days.

Not including rentals or the cost of equipment, how does a young person afford the trip? You either have an awesome job, someone else paying the bill (mommy or daddy), or are involved in some kind of illegal activity. If you live at a resort and have a season pass, the cost comes down tons, but is still sick expensive.

Basically, our sport is filled with either hardcore guys who are willing to earn $7.50 an hour and work at the resort for their season pass, or rich folks. There is a third category of locals that have better paying jobs within driving distance and have season passes, but these tend to be older folks, not teens and twenties. I sometimes wonder where I fit in to that equation. I certainly am not rich, but found a niche where skiing at an off the beaten path resort and having season passes, as well as buying a low cost condo and fixing it up has made it affordable. But it is still expensive. I am probably the season pass local guy that has a real job, but since I bounce between Phoenix and Brian Head, I still spend the money on gas.

The sport is a sport of haves. There are no have-nots. There are some dudes that show up with 20 year old skis and wear their work coveralls, but now a pair of ski pants costs almost $100. I ebay my skis, bindings, and boots; shop end of season for jackets, pants, gloves, etc.; have a condo at the resort; and have season passes. I have about $3,000 in equipment, between my skis (2 sets), wife's, kids' (3 sets), and snowboards (2). Got another $2-3,000 in jackets, pants, gloves, etc. Own a condo ($1000 per month). And pay $1000 for the season passes for me, the wife, and the kids. The only thing making it afforable is ironically, the rising home and condo prices at the resort. My condo has gone up almost $50k in value in 6 months alone.

The Irony of things is the affordability of the sport for me is directly tied to the increasing property values of my condo. The higher prices go, the easier it is for me to justify continuing to own a condo at the resort and continuing to ski there. Even if I don't ski, I would end up like most of the other condo owners in our complex and have a place that I rent out and make money off the appreciation.

I do my best to make the sport affordable for friends and family by letting the use the condo for free and by arranging to carpool to the resort. By helping them find deals on equipment. But in the end, the sport is fast approaching being completely out of reach for most people. And were it not for my condo and season pass, I certainly could not afford to ski more than 5-10 days a year.

Posted by Justin at 02:41 PM | Comments (2)

March 26, 2006

Adam at Highly Obsessed's Knee and Canadian Healthcare

Don't want to get all political on you, but Adam over at Highly Obsessed has a bum knee. And really who among us doesn't. He tells his story of trying to get things figured out up in Canada, get his knee treated, and get healed:

I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say the needle they drained my knee with was goddamn huge, and was filled entirely with blood. Even the orhopedic surgeon was surprised. At that point, he was 100% sure I had torn my ACL, and that I would need an arthroscopy. But once he drained the knee he was able to examine it, and was surprised at what good shape it was in.

So that's good news: it's likely not related to my ACL.

But now things get interesting: no-one can tell me what's wrong, exactly. And why is that? Because I need an MRI.

Well, that's not a problem, you think. Get an MRI. Here's the problem: the waiting times for an MRI are insane. At North York General (the hospital where I have been going) the waiting time is 55 days.

55 days? I have to wait 55 days to find out what's wrong? So then someone can figure out whether I need physio, arthroscopic knee surgery or otherwise?

I have to say, this is the first time I've really needed to rely on Ontario's health care system for something beyond a trip to the doctor in quite some time, and a 55 day wait is a joke. And really, I'm just a jackass that screwed up his knee playing recreational basketball.

I am openly asking Tim and Erich, who better be reading the site regularly since they have both gotten to stay in the pimp condo, to weigh in on the superiority of Canadian Healthcare since they have explained how vastly superior long wait times for free care are to our system of paying your own way.

When you tear an MCL or ACL, let me know whether you would rather have an MRI right away and be back on the board or wait 55 days to find out what it wrong. I think I will take my $400 per month insurance premium and immediate access to healthcare. Adam may end up heading to the US and spending $1000 to get an MRI in Buffalo simply because he cannot wait for the "free" Canadian MRI. Welcome to government run idiocy. Customer Service--Ever get customer service at the MVD? Same folks will be running the Healthcare system that run the MVD.

While old folks may be running to Canada to buy Canadian drugs on the cheap, Canadians are running to America to get the care that they cannot get in Canada due to long wait times.

Posted by Justin at 12:05 AM | Comments (4)

March 20, 2006

Ski Map Artist (h/t Snowluva)

Via Snowluva, got to this link of the site of an artist that does ski maps. Pretty cool stuff to check out.

Beautiful stuff out there and it makes me wish I would have taken off this weekend and headed north and skied.

Posted by Justin at 08:01 PM

March 07, 2006

Snowboarding Stance Adjustments

Let me start with a disclaimer, I am not a snowboarder. I ski. My brother Jeremy is a snowboarder and while ski bindings leave little adjustment necessary, I am constantly around boarders and want to understand the things that are important to them. I might insert something about shopping at Trails here, but that would just insult the two snowboarders that don't shop there. =) Aside from my skier bias, it is a huge plus when the folks I roll with have their bindings well adjusted because it is surely going to improve the quality of their riding and that is good for all of us.

Wil at 120 Days has this post about his move from a Duck Stance to a Forward Stance.

Snowboarding Stance is a search phrase that seems to get hit a few times every month from Google. On Day 23’s post I talked about my stance adjustment for what eventually lead me to a -13 degree, 15 degree duck stance. Recently I moved my back foot to 3 degrees (that’s right a 16 degree shift) to point forward on a very thick and heavy powder day. That day I couldn’t turn my board to toe side very easily because the heavy powder was battling me so hard. With my back foot turned away it made it even more difficult because I couldn’t use the back foot to torque over.

Another reason I ditched the duck is that its primary benefit in advanced riding comes in freestyle boarding where the need to go switch is a high priority. I’m more of a freeride boarder and this is not an issue for me. In the end, take a few days and play with your stance. It’s a very personal thing that my just require a couple days of testing on your part to find what you like.

Probably the most complete assessment comes from this site (h/t snowluva.com):

The binding setup, or stance, of a snowboard offers an endless variation in binding angles and positions. Most snowboarders have tried a lot of setups before choosing a particular one. I have written this article with the intention of giving solid advice and explaining more about the why of different setups. I have also tried to give the source of particular items whenever possible -- all the information in this article eventually comes from magazines, the internet and conversations with experienced- and professional snowboarders. Unfortunately, there exist many different opinions about snowboard stances and not one of them seems to prevail. In the end, there is no "best" setup and it still comes down to personal preference. Hopefully, this article will at least help you to find a setup that fits you well!

The article contains tons of information as well as the binding settings of damn near everyone that has ever been on a snowboard. Well worth reading and worth adjusting your stance and playing around with it. The right equipment adjusted the right way makes all the difference, as you can see from my bootfitting article about Alta's Deep Powder House and my boot troubles early in the season.

Wil is welcome to smack me for A. mentioning Trails in my trackback to his article and B. talking about snowboarding when I am a two plank wank. =) Had to man. Had to.

Posted by Justin at 10:49 AM

February 27, 2006

Gambo on the Olympics

Gambo, a local radio and newspaper personality in Phoenix, offers up this assessment of the Olympics:

Unfortunately these Olympics will be remembered mostly for the follies and the failures. In fact, the Olympics got off to a rough start even before the opening ceremonies when Bryan Gumble decided to throw a racist statement to his audience of HBO's Real Sports. To quote the new Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis and Rush Limbaugh - Gumble said, "Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don't like them and won't watch them ... Because they're so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of Blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something's not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what's called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won ... So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they're done, when we can move on to March Madness - for God's sake, let the Games begin."
...
But no athlete embarrassed us more than Bode Miller. And it's not just that Miller went 0-for-the Olympics and failed to medal. It's that his I-could-care-less attitude he so flaunted. He was more concerned with taking in the Turin nightlife and having fun thanwith representing his country. He wanted to party, wanted to socialize but didn't want to make the commitment to win. He said he did it his way. Someone should have shown him the movie Miracle and told him it's all about the USA on your outfit, not the Miller on the lineup. And reminded him that he didn't pay his own way to Italy, his country did. Miller's attitude was so bad that he comes off like the last Olympic basketball team, where much of the country was actually rooting against him. Miller certainly isn't someone worth rooting for.

Agreed on both points. The only thing I take issue with is this statement:

There was the selfish act of snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, who gave up gold in her attempt to put a little Terrell Owens in her game. The showboating caused her to fall and tosettle for silver.

Snowboarding has its own unique culture. Let's face simple facts. Jacobellis threw a little style into the mix because that is what snowboarders do. This is an event--boardercross--that belongs in the Xgames and was just recently added to the Olympics. These athletes are not your typical Olympians. They are not the rich kid ice skaters that have been in training for 15 years and are not even 18 yet. The reality of what happened to her and the magnitude of the Olympics did not set in because while in the event of snowboarding, she was doing what she does--be a snowboarder. She gets a pass.

Bode, however does not. Bode was by far the most hyped athlete of the games and completely failed to deliver. He makes gazillions in endorsements and yet acts like he hates being recognized and having to do all the media and endorsement work. He hates to coverage, yet goes and 60 Minutes and talks about skiing drunk. Then despite creating all this hype, fails to even medal. Gambo is right that Bode is like the 2004 Basketball team... guys that you almost rooted against.

Bryant Gumbel made an absolute idiot of himself by making racist comments about skiing and the Winter Olympics in general. There are clearly demographic issues here, in that not a lot of blacks ski, but also, not a lot of blacks live in geographic areas where they have easy access to skiing. It is an expensive sport that requires extensive travel unless you live in an area with a local resort. I wish winter sports were more diverse, but sadly, it is not because of discriminatory practices, but because these tend to be far northern sports and sports that people who live in places with lots of snow enjoy. Notice how Norway, Finland, Germany, Canada, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, etc. tend to perform best at the games. It is simple access to snow.

Posted by Justin at 01:47 PM | Comments (6)

February 03, 2006

Disabled Iraq Vets Take on Mountain

Heard about this story on talk radio on Thursday.

COLONIE -- Iraqi insurgents ambushed Robbie Doughty's Humvee on July 8, 2004. The retired Army staff sergeant lost his right leg above the knee and his left leg below the knee to a roadside bomb. It took him five months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to learn to walk on prostheses. The 31-year-old father of one gets around in a wheelchair at the end of the day. On Thursday, however, the Kentucky soldier had his sights set on the ski slopes. He and 29 other severely wounded U.S. service members, including many amputees, flew into the Capital Region for a complete and cost-free ski weekend at Windham Mountain.

The facility's Adaptive Sports Foundation, Disabled Sports USA and the national Wounded Warrior Project sponsored the trips. They arranged special equipment and skiing and snowboarding lessons. The troops and their families will also snow tube, and members of the New York City Fire Department will transport them, even to evening ski parties.

Regardless of your personal views on the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, these young men and women that are injured will never be the same. This is an awesome program and better yet, it is simply great to see these folks giving back to our bravest. The "ultimate price" that soldiers pay in war often is not simply defined as dying on the battlefield, but for these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen, it often is the price they pay for the rest of their lives.

May God watch over the troops remaining and provide them a safe and speedy return home.

Posted by Justin at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2006

From USA Today--Differences Between Skiing in the US and Europe

This article discusses some of the differences between skiing in the US and Europe:

8. Beyond burgers and fries: In Europe, lunch on the slopes is an integral part of the mountain experience. Mountain lunches in Europe have no resemblance to the hamburgers, chili and fries that are ubiquitous at American resorts. In Switzerland and Germany, expect a Jägerschnitzel, a veal schnitzel smothered with mushrooms. In Austria the gasthaus owner might sweep in with Kaisersmarrren, a sizzling skillet filed with potatoes, eggs and ham. In Italy an antipasto of bresaola, dried beef, is a true mountain experience. Follow it with a hearty pasta and local cheese. The French pride themselves on tartiflette, another skillet dish with potatoes and cured ham layered with roblochon, a local cheese. In Spain a late lunch complete with salad, lamb, dessert, coffee and a cigar, stretches from 2 p.m. until about when the slopes close.

Many restaurants only have space by reservation and all are packed. For about $20 a skier can devour a hearty meal with wine or beer and then face the final hours of the day.

I read stuff like this and it makes me hungry for an overpriced burger or some chili fries. I am going to start blogging about the crap that I eat when on the mountain so that we have a record of who to sue when I have my first heart attack at 35.

Posted by Justin at 12:54 PM

December 19, 2005

Tentative Plans for Next Three Weeks

As Christmas fast approaches, it is time to start figuring out how I am going to make up for missing almost 2 months of the early season due to poor snow conditions. Here is the tentative plan for the next few weeks:

Dec 27-Dec 31 Brian Head / maybe Snowbird
Jan 4-Jan 11 Brian Head, Park City, Jackson Hole, Big Sky, and back through Colorado

We are going to make a big loop up through Montana and see family as well as get my little brother's crap from my Mom's house. I am going to try to get in 10 days between now and the first week of January.

Posted by Justin at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2005

Another Weekend Watching the Broncos Since the Skiing Sucks

The title says it all. I am heading to the Vine in Phoenix to eat some wings and watch the Broncos and Bills go at it. I have spent the last two weeks chilling with my little brother and getting the condo set up for ski season. Bought him a season pass at Brian Head for his hard work at the condo.

Today I broke down and bought a new In-Dash DVD player for the Avalanche. The Kenwood DDX-7017 has an iPod interface and Sirius radio capability all in one package. Right now I have an aftermarket input for my iPod and Sirius, but they are bulky and the new unit keeps everything compact. We are heading up to Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado on an epic snow trip in Early January, so I figured that the comfort factor is a big deal right now. I sure as hell didn't pay $1300 for the thing from Crutchfield, but bought it off of E-bay for around $800.

I am going to try to meet up with JP from Colorado Backcountry and with Wil from 120 Days of Pow while I swing through CO. Spending the last couple of weeks at the condo and not skiing at all can only be compared to going to an all you can eat buffet with your jaws wired shut. Skiing hard packed runs with the Bode wanna-be's is about as exciting as sucking Ensure through a straw. But if the conditions don't improve soon, I am gonna do it because I am literally starving to death for some time on my planks.

Highlight of our last trip was sitting next to a Sorority party at Applebees and hearing three of the girls talking about getting a "box of wine" to finish the night off. This started an internal debate between me and my brother about the respective quality of boxed wine versus screw top. Boone's Farm wins out but followed closely by the boxed variety. Fortified wine comes in a distant third.

Posted by Justin at 03:52 PM | Comments (1)

December 16, 2005

The Snow Still Sucks Down South

Just got back from Brian Head. There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the skiing is horrible. Brian Head has a whopping 4-5 runs open. The good news is that new photos of my condo are up and we got more work done than anyone should during ski season.

Check out the condo demo pics. My favorite is the makeshift end table (old toilet from upstairs) that we used to go with our matching lawn chairs. The hole for the tank is the perfect size for a bottle of Corona to fit in.

Posted by Justin at 10:15 PM

November 23, 2005

Link to New Mapping site--Skibonk.com

Caught a link from Highly Obsessed Snowboarding Blog to a skibonk.com that has maps of locations as well as updated ski conditions in a nice little gui.

Skibonk is pretty cool and has simple to follow color codes. Red means closed and green means open. I think I can handle that. Mouse over it and it has runs open and base conditions. Not a bad site and worthy of a bookmark and second look when planning a roadtrip.

Posted by Justin at 01:10 PM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2005

Ski Lodges without the Pesky and Annoying "Skiing" Thing

Gadling Skiing linked to this article in The Paper of Record--The New York Times--about a new ski lodge in downtown Manhatten. This is classic.

This is in the New York Times travel section. Perfect for the NYT. Let's have a fake ski lodge where people can hang out and have hot toddies or smores. Now the NYT can send Jason Blair there to report on skiing conditions. What a combo, a paper that loves fake news writing about a fake ski lodge.

I am not a lodge lounging kind of guy though. The whole purpose of going to the mountain is to get out of the city. Instead someone has the bright idea to bring the ambiance of skiing into the city. THE ENTIRE AMBIANCE OF SKIING IS ROOTED IN THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT "IN THE CITY". Maybe it is just me that has to laugh at this sort of thing.

Posted by Justin at 03:29 PM

September 13, 2005

Early Season Skiing--start getting out the wax

Leaves start falling and gear prices start rising this time of year. The middle of September brings out the annual season pass sales at most resorts.

With only six or seven weeks left before opening, I am making preparations for the Annual season kickoff trip to Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek usually is among the first resorts in the nation to open in late October or early November. On a good year, a pre-Halloween opening is not unheard of.

During November, I will be profiling several of the Rocky Mountain resorts in Colorado and Utah for the upcoming year. Of course, Mother Nature needs to cooperate, so here's hoping that the snow falls early and often.

Start getting out the wax.

Posted by Justin at 11:09 AM