Top Five Fridays - June 14, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Mikaela Shiffrin Nominated for “Best Female Athlete” ESPY Award:
We start this week in a familiar way: by highlighting the latest accomplishment from Mikaela Shiffrin. Despite being the off-season, Shiffrin’s done an excellent job of staying in the news this summer as her celebrity status has risen to the point in which she’s being regularly featured on mainstream media. This week, Shiffrin is back in headlines as it’s just been announced that she’s been nominated for a 2019 ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete. For those unaware, the ESPY Awards are the sporting world’s equivalent to an awards ceremony such as the Oscars or Golden Globes. Formerly hosted by ESPN and now presented by ABC, this year will mark the 27th iteration of the show, which has become increasingly more meaningful in recent years for skiers in particular. At last year’s event, a total of 9 different skiers specializing in various disciplines were nominated for awards, although much of that was a result of the Winter Olympics providing a major opportunity. This year, ski nominations are down to just two, with Shiffrin’s previously mentioned nomination, as well as a nomination for Kelly Sildaru for “Best Female Action Sports Athlete.” Still, despite the drop-off in nominations this year, it’s extremely exciting to see two of skiing’s top females being recognized for their achievements on such a prominent stage. For reference, some of the other athletes who have been nominated for awards this year include Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley, Zion Williamson, Drew Brees, Lionel Messi, Lewis Hamilton, Breanna Stewart, and tons of other world class athletes. While we’ll have to wait until July 10th to see if either Mikaela or Kelly take home the award, this week’s news is still a major accomplishment for both. So with that, congrats go out to both athletes, and we wish you the best of luck!
#2: Developers in Castle Rock, CO Plan to Build a Year Round Ski Hill:
They say if something happens once, it’s an occurrence. Twice, a coincidence. Three times though? Now that’s a trend. We made up this common notion this week, because we’ve just learned about a plan to bring year round skiing to the site of a former dump in Castle Rock, CO. This week’s news makes for three different year round skiing projects currently in development or being proposed across the United States. Just to jog your memory, the developers of American Dream, a mega mall in New Jersey, are planning on creating an indoor ski area known as Big SNOW America, while international indoor ski resort developers Snow World are currently working to gain approval for an indoor ski area built on a former landfill in Fairfax County, VA. Now, with this week’s new, we’re looking at the possibility of a third year round ski area in the U.S., potentially indicating the start of a trend. At the moment, specific plans for the ski area are sparse, and we can’t even be sure whether it will be an indoor ski facility, or a dry slope. What we do know, however, is that skiing will be paired with mountain biking in an effort to create a recreation based, economic driver for the area. Zooming out our lens a bit more, that idea is an interesting confluence of factors that gives some insight into what the future of the sport might look like. As consolidation occurs and winter weather is increasingly unpredictable, perhaps there’s an opportunity for significantly smaller, year round ski areas to begin popping up as the antithesis to big mountain, big money skiing. As with all things, only time will tell, but you can bet we’ll be keeping our eye on the trend and updating you as needed. For more on this, check out the writeup from Denver Channel 7 News.
#3: Man Gets Injured on Closed Trail, Wins $2.5m Lawsuit:
Next up this week, is the resolution to a legal matter which could have significant implications for ski resorts of all sizes. This week, headlines were made by a man who has just successfully won a lawsuit against Big Boulder Ski Resort in Pennsylvania. In short, here’s what happened: a man was snowboarding at the resort at approximately 8 PM on a night in January, 2015, when he decided to take a trail that was closed. Despite signs and a closure rope that had fallen to the ground, the man entered it and began popping off of small jump/roller features. Then, on one of his jumps, he ran into a piece of snowmaking equipment and broke his leg. Fast forward four years and that man has now won a $2.5 million lawsuit against the resort, saying that they didn’t make the trail closure sufficiently obvious.
While we obviously weren’t at the scene that night, and can’t pass explicit judgment on the matter due to that fact, what we can talk about is the added difficulties this verdict presents for ski areas of all sizes. At the crux of this decision, is the fact that a rope which had been closing the trail had reportedly fallen down due to snowfall. As a result, management at the ski area didn’t realize the rope had fallen, and the snowboarder who entered the trail was apparently unaware that it was closed. While this ignores the fact that the trail was likely unlit at the time which would have indicated closure, the fact remains that small ski areas have now been placed in the unenviable position of needing to ensure that all closed trails are well roped off at all times. Considering a rope could easily fall at any time during inclement weather, this adds a difficult new challenge to ski resort managers who now must find a way to ensure that closed trails are very clearly closed around the clock. For ski areas, this decision is a slippery slope that adds even more pressure to resort ownership. For more, check out this recap from Law.com.
#4: Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz Set to Donate $31 Million to Mental Health Non-Profits in Ski Towns:
Finally, we’ll round out this week with a bit of belated, but amazing news. Last week, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz announced that he will be exercising a stock option that’s set to expire, and donating 100% of the profits to his charity, the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust. The trust, which was founded in 2017, operates by awarding grants to mental health programs in ski communities. To be clear, this isn’t the first time Katz has contributed a sizable amount of money towards charitable causes. In fact, just this past December Katz and his wife donated $2 million to the fund, while Vail Resorts donated an additional $12.9 million to ski resort community organizations in 2018 alone. In total, Rob Katz and his wife Elana Amsterdam have now donated over $130 million to mountain communities.
This is obviously amazing news, and an issue that should really resonate for those living in ski towns. It’s no secret that for many, the lows of the ski bum life can be just as extreme as the highs. Looking at this issue a little deeper, it’s worth noting that, while many may dislike Vail’s omnipresence in the industry, there’s still something to be said about the positive benefits that result from the company’s growth. Now, in addition to the benefits offered to at-risk ski areas who get purchased, we can also point to Katz’s ability to make sizable charitable donations to the ski community as a benefit of consolidation, it’s something that we’ve also made sure to mention in the past. Regardless of where you come down on the topic of ski resort consolidation, Katz and Amsterdam’s generosity and recognition of the issues affecting mountain towns should be applauded. For more on this, check out the official press release from Vail Resorts.