Top Five Fridays - May 31, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Final Weekend for Many North American Ski Resorts:
Being that it’s nearly June, we wouldn’t blame you if you thought ski season was a wrap in North America. As it turns out though, that’s not entirely true. This week, we kick things off by highlighting a handful of ski resorts who are still running their lifts, at least through this weekend. Here on the East Coast, Vermont’s own Killington Resort has announced that this upcoming weekend will be their final one for the season. As you may know, Killington tends to open in early November or late October, meaning the resort will have been open for skiing for more than half the year, with the possibility of July, August, and September being the only months in which they aren’t open for skiing in 2019. Pretty impressive for a mountain that’s just 4,235 ft tall! In addition to Killington, Sommet Saint-Sauveur in Quebec and Aspen Mountain, CO have also announced that this will be their final weekend.
Out West, there are a handful of resorts expecting to stay open for much longer. In Utah, Snowbird is still open for weekend skiing and has yet to announce a closing date. In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin will be open on weekends through June 23rd. We’ll keep an eye on those two resorts to see when/if their closing dates change, but the real winners of the “summer longevity contest” are two Californian ski resorts: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and Mammoth Mountain. For Squaw’s part, they’re set to be open on weekends through July 7th. Mammoth on the other hand, is looking like they’ll be the champions once again as they’ve announce daily operations until at least August, with no set closing date. For what it’s worth, it should be noted that Mammoth is still receiving snow, having seen 32” in May alone. With that in mind, it’s worth wondering whether the resort will outlast its 2017 closing date of August 6th, or even it’s all-time record of August 13th, set in 1995. As with all things, only time will tell, so be sure to check in as August approaches as we’re sure to have more updates!
#2: Indoor Snowpark Updates - New News from Fairfax Peak and Big Snow America:
In other, “where to ski when it’s not winter,” news, we caught updates this week regarding both indoor ski areas being proposed on the East Coast. First on that list is Fairfax Peak, a newly proposed indoor ski area that we first shared with you at the end of March. At that time, the team at SnowWorld, a European based developer of indoor ski arenas, had submitted a proposal to Fairfax County to allow them to turn the Lorton Landfill into a new ski facility. Since then, progress has been made in the sense that Fairfax County seems to be really embracing the proposal. This week, the county took the initiative to publish a full writeup regarding the proposal and its many features on their own website. While this may seem relatively insignificant, the fact of the matter is that it’s a great sign that county officials are excited and optimistic enough to publish details of the project in an effort to gain support for it. In other words, we’re looking at this as an unofficial endorsement. At the moment, that’s really all there is to know regarding the progress of Fairfax Peak. Looking ahead, the Fairfax County Landfill Use Proposal website lists a deadline of 9/12/19 for organizations to submit their proposals for putting the site to use. With that in mind, we’d expect updates to be rare until the middle of September or even October, when all of the proposals are in and we might know whether Fairfax Peak makes it to the next round.
In other indoor ski area news, we also caught a brief update from New Jersey’s American Dream, where developers of the mega-mall are looking to develop North America’s first indoor ski area: Big Snow America. There, developers have announced that the opening of the entire complex will be pushed back from this Spring to the Fall. While this may be a bit of a bummer for locals who were hoping to have a place to ski this Summer, it’s still decent news considering the project has been underway for approximately 16 years. For those interested in following the progress of Big Snow America’s construction, we’d recommend checking out American Dream’s Instagram page.
#3: Park City Announces Plan for New Lift Connecting Canyons and Park City:
Remember last week when we promised to have more development news for you over the course of the Summer? Well, it didn’t take us long to make good on that promise, as this week we caught word of a development at Park City that will likely be welcomed by locals. Ever since Park City (read: Vail) acquired neighboring Canyons Resort, locals and visitors alike have grumbled about how laborious it can be to cross from one side of the resort to another. In essence, the problem is simple: there just aren’t enough chairlifts providing cross-mountain access. Not ones to accept inefficiency, the team at Vail announced this week that Park City will look to install a new quad chairlift this summer that connects the Tombstone Express base area to the Park City Canyons Village base area. While this lift certainly won’t fix the problem for all skiers of all abilities, it will certainly be helpful for beginner and intermediate skiers who find themselves in the Tombstone area. Currently, skiers of this nature would have to risk it all on a black diamond run before having to take a second chairlift in order to get back to the Canyons Village. Now, with the newly proposed chairlift, skiers will be able to be deposited just above the Sunrise lift, a short distance away from the base village. Assuming all goes to plan and permits are approved, Park City plans to have the new lift in operation for the 2019-2020 season. To learn more about this, check out the official press release from Vail.
#4: Traffic Jam on Mt. Everest Causing Numerous Fatalities:
Finally, we close this week on a bit of a down note and on a topic that’s not purely skiing related. As you may recall, a few weeks ago we highlighted Kami Rita Sherpa, a Nepalese sherpa who has set the world record for the most summits of Mt. Everest. Since then, he’s already added another successful summit to his list, bringing his total to 24. Underscoring how incredible that feat is, is the unfortunate news that’s been coming out of Everest over the last couple of weeks. What started out as a single death on the descent of Everest has spiraled into something far more grave as a “traffic jam” has left a total of 11 people dead. Put far too simply, the problem is essentially this: there are too many people on Everest, causing congestion on the trail leading to and from the summit. This becomes problematic for those descending as oxygen levels at that elevation are dangerously low and can cause serious health problems or death for those who spend too much time at that altitude. With the added element of traffic congestion on the route, hikers who are descending aren’t able to get down to more oxygen-rich air quickly enough. Ultimately, this feels like a bit of a tipping point in regards to a problem that’s been growing on Everest for some time now. We won’t dive too deeply into that here, but if you’d like to read more on the topic, we suggest reading this article from the New York Times.
So how does this tie into skiing? Well, it doesn’t, directly. Still, lessons can be learned from the recent surge in popularity at what is undeniably one of the world’s most daunting mountains. For example, in addition to the traffic congestion, the mountain has become littered with both trash and human waste. Drawing a connection back to skiing, the results of overuse are something to watch as trends such as multi passes and backcountry skiing attract larger crowds to centralized areas. To be clear, we’re not saying these two trends are bad or are currently harming the environment (though, some would certainly argue the latter). Instead, what we are saying, is that the repercussions resulting from Everest’s surge in popularity should be noted and considered as the ski industry collectively moves forward.