Top Five Fridays - June 30, 2017 // Ski Industry News
#1: Saddleback Maine Back in the Saddle Again(e):
Mainers and Chairlift Chat readers alike know that Saddleback Mountain in Maine has been struggling to find a buyer since being unable to open for the 2015 season. Since then, there have been a number of rumors and attempts to buy the resort (including an effort to re-open the mountain as a co-op), none of which have materialized. That is, up until this week, when a seemingly unlikely suitor put their money where their mouth is and bought the resort. That’s right, earlier this week it came to light that an Australian development firm called the Majella Group has purchased the ski area with the intention of making it “the premier ski resort in North America.” While this is a big proclamation (Vail and KSL might have a few words to say on about that), it should serve as a reassurance to those who call Saddleback home as it will almost definitely result in an overall improved mountain experience. As for the Australian elephant in the room? Well as it turns out, Sebastian Monsour, the company’s CEO, didn’t simply throw a dart at the map. He had actually visited Saddleback in 2011 and fell in love with the resort, the people, and the state of Maine as a whole. That trip became the impetus for this week’s news. To find out more, we suggest giving this article from CentralMaine.com a read.
#2: Indoor Ski Area Proposed in Paris:
Besides birds chirping, sweat streaming from every pore, and more pain when you fall outside, how do you know it’s summer? Well, because we start highlighting all of the new indoor and summer skiing resorts being planned globally of course! This week, we caught wind of a mall being proposed near Paris, France that would include an indoor snow park, amongst other attractions. Recognizing the decline in brick and mortar retail, particularly within malls, developers of the project are envisioning a massive complex that includes shopping, restaurants, a water park, a theme park, and of course the snow park. Details are still pretty sparse in terms of size, trails, uphill capacity, etc., but we suspect it will offer the usual lift service skiing and snowboarding, along with snow tubing and other snow-based recreational activities. If approved, it would all come together under one roof to be called “EuropaCity”, with construction beginning before the end of 2017. To learn more, visit the official EuropaCity website.
#3: Jason Levinthal Buys 4FRNT:
And finally, a bombshell in the world of free skiing. Earlier this week, Jason Levinthal (of former Line Skis and Full Tilt fame, and current J Skis fame) announced that he’d reached a deal with Matt Sterbenz to purchase 4FRNT skis. This may not be big news to everyone, but to anyone who’s a freestyle skier or grew up alongside some of the sports earliest rider-owned brands, this is monumental. Back in the early days (circa 2003), it was essentially the old school brands like Salomon, K2, Dynastar, etc., or new rider owned brands like Line Skis, 4FRNT, and Armada. Since then, just about all of the boutique brands have either been purchased by a larger company (Line by K2, Armada by Amer Sports), or have simply gone out of business. In fact, according to Jason Levinthal, 4FRNT skis is the only one of the original boutique brands that is still privately owned. As it is, that’s also the reason for Jason’s acquisition of the brand. While we don’t know the entire backstory, we do know that Mr. Levinthal thought it was crucial for him to step in and buy the brand before it was gobbled up by a parent company. Of course the most intriguing aspect to this transaction, and one that has plenty of unanswered questions, is how the purchase of 4FRNT will affect J Skis, Jason Levinthal’s recently formed direct to consumer ski brand. Regardless of his strategy, it’ll be interesting to watch as Levinthal continues to make moves, innovate, and be the ultimate wild card within the industry. For more on this, check out this writeup on Newschoolers.com.