Ski Blog... Been doing this since 2005!

« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »

April 29, 2009

Mammoth Summer Events Trying to Make Resort Affordable

Mammoth is trying to keep summer affordable which is a good strategy in today's economy.

1. Scenic Gondola Ride – Visitors are carried past sweeping views of the Minarets, the Sierra Crest, and dozens of sapphire blue alpine lakes on a gondola ride to the summit of 11,053 foot Mammoth Mountain. Admire the panoramic views, learn interesting facts about the area at the interpretive center, or tour the summit with a naturalist. Cost is $18 for adults. Up to two children 12 & under ride free with a paying adult.

2. Mountain Bike Park – Mountain bikers of all abilities can take the ride of their lives, experiencing the exhilarating 3,000-foot descent from Mammoth Mountain’s 11,053 summit. Mammoth’s Mountain Bike Park offers 100 miles of single-track trails with everything from water stops in shaded areas, to a scenic gondola that transports bikers up to the summit, to bike rangers to answer questions and assist with gear. Use of the mountain bike park, which includes a lift ticket on the gondola, is only $39.

3. Red’s Meadow Valley and Devils Postpile National Monument (the“Mini-Yosemite”) — A shuttle ride ($7 for adults, $4 for children 3 to 15 years) leads visitors to a geologic wonderland. An easy .4 mile one way walk leads to Devils Postpile, a rare sight that ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of unusual rock formations. Nearby, Rainbow Falls plunges over a 101-foot-high cliff. A moderate 2.5 mile one way hike leads to the falls.

Some stuff to do if you want to get away to the mountains for a weekend. I am waiting to get some other deals on lodging and happenings in the area.

Everyone is hurting, so now is a great time to get deals and save money.

Posted by Justin at 03:39 PM

April 28, 2009

Snowbird Cracks 600", Alta at Almost 700" for the Year

From the Examiner:

Following a 15-inch storm over the weekend, Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort surpassed the season-to-date snowfall total of 600 inches for the second straight year. Crossing the mark on Saturday, April 25, 2009, puts this season a full month ahead of last year's pace when the 600-inch total was passed on May 26, 2008.

The Little Cottonwood Canyon resort averages 500 inches a season. Dating back to 1980, the biggest season on record was 1983-84 with a total of 688 inches, according to Jared Ishkanian, Snowbird public relations director.

Snowbird is the only resort in Utah still open for spring skiing and snowboarding. With a total snowfall of 612 inches and a mid-mountain base of 137 inches, there should be ample snow to ride on through Memorial Day. Snowbird generally stays open much later than other Utah resorts thanks to its primarily north-facing exposure and high altitude. Snowbird's lift-served terrain tops out at 11,000 feet.

“The mountain is remarkably still in mid-winter form,” said Snowbird President Bob Bonar. “This season we experienced the resort’s second-earliest opening ever, and we are excited to push the season through May and possibly beyond thanks to all this March and April snowfall.”

I only wish that I could have gotten more than one day for the season at Alta.

Posted by Justin at 04:13 PM

Wolf Creek to Open This Weekend

From the Wolf Creek website:

Can you believe one more weekend????????

Yes, Wolf Creek is reopening May 2 and May 3rd! Nova, Bonanza and Treasure will be operating from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM! Alberta will be open only if conditions are appropriate.

The Ski School and Ski Rentals will be open along with the Upper Lodge serving a limited menu. There will be a big sale in Treasure Sports with up to 40% off of Fashion wear and 25% off of all T-shirts and beanies!

On Saturday, San Luis Valley Brewery will be offering a selection of their finest beers on the Upper Lodge deck! Also a Rail Jam on Nova Lift will start at 1 PM. Registration is in the Upper Lodge starting at noon on Saturday. Registration is $30.00, this includes a a free lift ticket for Nova only and prizes for winners!!!!! All proceeds go to the Skate Board Park in Pagosa Springs. For more info call Charlie at 970-759-5960.

Lift tickets will be the locals‘ appreciation rate of $31.00 for Adults and $18.00 for Seniors and Children! All season passes from 2008 - 2009 will be valid including weekday only and employee.

450" for the year and open in May. Good for the folks in the Pagosa area.

Posted by Justin at 04:07 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

Vail Skier Visits Down 6.2% Year over Year

Certainly not the most dire of news:

BROOMFIELD - Vail Resorts on Saturday reported some numbers from the beginning of the 2008-09 ski season through April 12. As expected, most of those numbers were down from last year's record season.

• Season-to-date total skier visits through April 12 for the company's five mountain resorts were down 6.2 percent compared with last year.

• Season-to-date total lift ticket revenue through April 12, including an allocated portion of season pass revenue for each applicable period, was down 8.7 percent compared with last year.

I was expecting 10-15% so this is good news. Next season may be the worst of it because today's unemployment numbers indicate no real end in sight to the recession.

Posted by Justin at 01:27 PM

April 20, 2009

Utah Changes Liquor Laws--More Ski Friendly

New Liquor Laws go into place July 1, 2009:

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. served up the most broad-based changes to Utah's alcohol policy in four decades Monday, signing legislation doing away with the state's one-of-a-kind private clubs law and changing the way restaurants can serve drinks.

Since 1969, patrons at Utah's bars have been required to be members of a so-called "private club," a construct designed with the strong involvement and backing of the LDS Church and aimed at restricting the flow of liquor.

"We made a little bit of history today," Huntsman said after signing the bill in The New Yorker, an upscale bar in downtown Salt Lake City.

Tourism officials in the state said the change will have an impact on the state's $6 billion a year tourism industry, but you won't see ads enticing tourists to "Come Get Drunk In Utah."

Ha. =)

Interesting changes that are much needed. As someone that does not drink (though this has only been the last couple years), Utah's laws are confusing and irritating. My friends have to go to private clubs and places like Applebees and Chilis have odd rules at the bar.

This will bring Utah into a more mainstream position and will help tourism.

Lots of the Mormon rules in Utah are good things--especially their driving laws for teenagers--but others are oppressive to non-Mormons. Just the nature of the state. You go there and deal with the culture the best that you can.

Posted by Justin at 10:43 AM

Vail Resorts to Require Helmets for All Employees

Good for them:

Vail Resorts Inc. says it will require all on-duty employees and children 12 and under in ski-school lessons to wear helmets while skiing or snowboarding next season.

Broomfield-based Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) operates the Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone and Beaver Creek winter resorts and Heavenly at Lake Tahoe, Nevada-California.

In a statement Monday, the company said its on-slope employees will be issued a helmet as part of their uniform.

In addition to children enrolled in group lessons, helmets will be a required part of the ski or snowboard rental packages for children 12 and under next season unless a parent signs a waiver.

Vail Resorts said it is imposing the helmet rules for safety reasons.

"We firmly believe when children are participating in our ski and ride school programs that we must provide them with the proper equipment that promotes enjoyment of the sport while also reducing the possibility of injury," Blaise Carrig, co-president of Vail Resorts' Mountain Division, said in a statement.

"Even though we will now require children in our ski and ride schools to wear helmets and make them a mandatory part of every child's rental package, we strongly recommend the use of helmets for all of our guests, regardless of their age or ability level," Carrig said.

And good for them. I won't let Jake, Jackson or Jarrett ski without a helmet. If you start wearing a helmet, you get used to it and it becomes a part of your equipment that you cannot go without. Mine is comfortable and warm, plus has built in earphones and a port for my Motorola radio.

Posted by Justin at 10:36 AM

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)

Almost 700" at Alta for the Season

Article from the SLC Tribune:

On March 21, Alta had received 445.5 inches of snow this season. None had fallen in the previous 11 days. But then the skies opened up. The 9.5 inches of snow recorded March 22 kicked off a 27-day period in which the resort had measurable snow on 20 days.

"We had a series of four to five storms that were almost carbon-copies of one another," said National Weather Service meteorologist Larry Dunn. "We got locked into a pattern and the same thing happened over and over."

Big troughs from the Pacific Ocean dropped into the Great Basin and closed off, dropping off of the main jet stream and circulating very slowly.

As a result, Dunn said, "a lot of times we get storms that last eight to 14 hours. These lasted for days. This last one arrived and here we are on Friday and it's still cold and cloudy with some showers over the mountains. Five days from just one storm. That is what is impressive about this four-week period."

There have been bigger snowfall months at Alta.

The resort received 244.5 inches in December of 1983 -- in the middle of Utah's two big flood years. And because this year's impressive total straddles two months, neither March nor April will surpass the 206 inches measured in November of 1994.

"But it's still a lot in a one-month period," Dunn said, noting that the storm cycle has benefited the whole state.

Now the downside:

Coming so late in the season, however, this abundance of snow is unlikely to yield great financial dividends for the state's ski industry, struggling like everyone else to survive the recession's bite.

I got to ski right at the start of the massive storms but got epic pow for March. Too bad the storms all stayed North and Brian Head only received 250" or thereabouts this season.

Posted by Justin at 10:25 AM

April 03, 2009

Final Weekend of Season at Arizona Snowbowl


The Arizona Snowbowl is wrapping up a good season.

The ski area near Flagstaff will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Sunday, then will close for the season.

"This year, we've had more than 130,000 people come up," said the Snowbowl's Dave Smith. "I think we're looking at about 135,000. I haven't seen the numbers lately, but it certainly has been a successful season. We're not really looking forward to winding down, but summer's just about here."

Another winter storm is moving in as the season winds down.

"At this point, the forecast is calling for just a minimal amount of snow showers," Smith said. "We wish it was a lot more, but all in all, it's been a phenomenal season. We've had a blast."

The final weekend of skiing will celebrate the Snowbowl's second straight good season.

"We've got 30-dollar adult lift tickets and 12-dollars for juniors ages 8 to 12," Smith said. "The last weekend, we're going to go out with a big bang -- lots of party atmosphere, lots of fun. We want people to come up and join us."

Smith said the Snowbowl has had about 198 inches of snow this season. It opened Dec. 20 and will close April 5.

Not a ton of snow, but it came early and set the table for a long winter season.

Posted by Justin at 07:42 PM | Comments (3)

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