Top Five Fridays - September 8, 2017 // Ski Industry News
#1: Powder Ridge, CT Opens New Synthetic Ski Slope:
Let’s kick off this week with some fun news from Connecticut where another year round, synthetic ski slope has opened up. This time, the action’s going down at Powder Ridge, a small feeder hill located in Middlefield, Connecticut, about a half an hour south of Hartford. As you might expect, the slope has a couple of introductory sized freestyle features, as well as plenty of room for beginners who want to get a jump start on their learning before the snow falls. Currently, the slope requires riders to wear long sleeve shirt, long pants, gloves, and a helmet, and is selling tickets for $32/day or $18/4 hours. While ultimately this synthetic snowfield is targeted towards beginner skiers and snowboarders, it’s interesting to note that it’s part of a growing trend. As readers of Chairlift Chat know, Buck Hill, a feeder hill in Minnesota, installed a synthetic ski slope last summer as well to encourage year round use of the resort. Between these two ski areas, as well as Liberty University in Virginia, there are currently 3 dry slope ski areas in the United States, all of which are at feeder hills and not mega resorts. Considering the growing struggle to maintain snow for an entire ski season, as well as the overall trend to convert ski areas into 4 season destinations, it’s a bit curious that none of the big players have tried their hand at a synthetic slope. That leads us to believe that there are either some prohibitive factors involved, or it’s just a matter of time. As alway, we’ll keep you updated!
#2: Forest Fire Threatening Crystal Mountain Resort:
At this point most of us in North America are frustrated and tired of hearing about natural disasters. Between two hurricanes ravaging the Southern States, and a mass of forest fires this summer, it seems like the doom and gloom never stops. Still, as ski journalists it’s our job to pay attention to what’s affecting the ski industry and unfortunately that means we have to share some bad news with you this week. Out by Crystal Mountain, Washington, a forest fire’s been burning for almost a month now on Norse Peak, a neighboring mountain. This past week, the fire extended its reach, knocking on the door of Crystal Mountain Resort. As a result, the resort has been closed and under a level 3 evacuation since Monday. Since then, the fire seems to have crossed into the Crystal Mountain ski area, but hasn’t caused any significant damage to any infrastructure. Still, staff and fire crews in the area are keeping a close watch a the fire develops, with the hope they they can prevent any destruction to the ski area. Crystal Mountain’s been doing an excellent job keeping the public updated through the catastrophe, and we’d urge you to check out their website for the latest information.
#3: Every New Ski Tower Being Installed in North America, in One Place:
Time for a dose of honesty: we’re pretty over writing about new chairlifts. During summer, news can get a bit dry in the world of skiing, but we still attempt to steer clear of announcing new chairlifts. Sure, we’ll still do it from time to time, and certainly used to do it quite a bit, but eventually we realized that tons of ski areas get new chairlifts over the summer and the simple fact of the matter is that reporting on all of them became super boring. Plus, it always felt weird announcing new chairlifts at certain resorts, but neglecting the same type of development at others. All of these reasons are why we were very excited this week when we came across an excellent post from the Brave Ski Mom that’s a comprehensive guide to all of the new ski lifts going up. Now that all of the new lifts have been collected in one place, it feels like a more satisfying story to share. We’ll save you a majority of the tedious details here, but it’s definitely worth highlighting the volume of new lifts being installed for next ski season. By the Brave Ski Mom’s count, there are over 30 resorts undergoing some sort of chairlift upgrades. If you’re interested in learning the details, or want to see if your home mountain is on the list, check out this great resource right here.
#4: SIA Recaps a Tumultuous Year in Skiing:
Speaking of comprehensive overviews, shout out to Snowsports Industries America (SIA) for putting together this year-in-review style article this week. In bringing you the four most important stories in skiing every week, we’ve managed to cover just about all of the crucial highlights from within the ski industry this year. Still, it was interesting to see an annual overview of the information from SIA, if not for the simple reason that it’s a bit more eyeopening to see everything that’s happened grouped together in one place. For instance, remember that time last September when Jarden was sold to Newell Brands, putting brands like K2, Marker, Volkl, and Line Skis into the hands of a mega-conglomerate? The fallout from that announcement was utterly chaotic as skiers spent months speculating on what it meant for the future of their favorite brands. That was just on the product side. On the ski resort side, we saw an incredible amount of consolidation as Vail and Aspen Skiing Co. went head to head in something of a purchasing battle. Oh yeah, and let’s also not forget the massive changes happening on the industry: Outdoor Retailer left Salt Lake City, and took SIA with it. All in all, it’s been a pretty insane year in the world of skiing, and one that’s worth reviewing more thoroughly through SIA’s annual review. Give it a look right here.