Top Five Fridays - April 12, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Jackson Hole Reports Details of Their Banner Year:
Let’s kick off this week’s news on a high note: Jackson Hole announced on Tuesday that the 2018-2019 season was a record breaking year in multiple ways. First, as you likely know, the ski area had an absolutely banner year for snow fall. In the resort’s Rendezvous Bowl, 193 inches of snow fell in February alone. Keeping in mind that February only has 28 days, that means that, on average, nearly 7” of snow fell every day of the month. In addition to that number, Jackson Hole’s press release also announced that the resort received a total of 505 inches of snowfall on the season, and the base area had record setting snow depths from the end of February through March. The snowfall factor, combined with Jackson Hole’s participation in the Ikon Pass, led to the second large announcement from Jackson Hole: this season, the resort hosted 715,100 skier visits, setting a new record for the ski area. For those involved with the operations, this figure is undoubtedly considered as a success. As we’ll see in just a minute though, it’s also likely that not everyone was as excited about the number of skiers at the mountain. We’ll get to that next, but if you’d like to learn more about Jackson Hole’s recap of the season and some of the upgrades they have planned for next year, take a look at their recent press release.
#2: NPR Highlights a Rise in Territorialism at Ski Areas Due to Multi-Passes:
Alright, as promised, let’s dig in a little deeper to what record setting skier visits mean, not to the ski resorts, but to skiers. This week, NPR entered the arena with an article that takes a closer look at how an increase in skiers at multi-pass resorts is creating tension between visitors and locals. In it, a number of quotes are pulled from skiers citing anecdotal experiences in which they’ve felt slighted for being on vacation and using an Epic or Ikon Pass. In one scenario, a New Jersey resident suggested to his girlfriend that she hide her Ikon Pass while at Jackson Hole, saying, “it just didn’t feel 100 percent welcome.” We’ll let you dive into the article yourself to get a more full understanding of the situation, but as you read you should certainly keep in mind that an Epic Pass billboard was vandalized in Park City, Utah just this week, and the General Manager of Big Sky in Montana, Taylor Middleton, issued an open letter to resort locals earlier this year, urging locals to treat visiting Ikon Pass holders with respect. In other words, this is a very real and growing problem.
To be frank, the underlying concept goes way back, as “locals only” is a concept known amongst participants of several sports, from surfing to skiing. Still, the fact that NPR has decided to highlight the issue speaks to its growth. Before we refer you to the full article on the NPR site and move on, we’d just like to gently remind you that if you’re a “local” who’s found themselves frustrated with out of town skiers, take a second to consider the bigger picture. As it stands, skiing’s future remains murky due to a lack of new participants. Unless that trend can be curbed, potentially through affordable multi-passes, the repercussions could eventually show up in the form of less ski brands, meaning less options and less technological progress in regards to equipment. Sure, that’s a long look, but it’s worth keeping in mind that for the ski industry to grow, there needs to be a consistent number of skiers, if not an steady increase. And yes, we understand the pain. Our local mountain, Stowe, went Epic at the start of last season and the increase in traffic is undeniable. Still, we welcome the new visitors, knowing full well that their presence means our local shops, restaurants, and other businesses will be reaping the benefits, ultimately offering employment to those living in our mountain town.
#3: First Commercial Jet Service Coming to Telluride Airport:
In other news this week, it was announced that the Telluride airport is set to add its first commercial jet service in just about a month, on May 15th. As locals in the region will tell you, that’s a big change for the airport, which is situated just minutes from the downtown district and ski area, as it’s traditionally been reserved for those wealthy enough to afford private air travel. Now, with this new announcement, visitors will be able to grab a quick 40 minute flight upon a 30-seat Dornier 328JET from nearby Denver. Upon launch, the airport will be offering year round daily flights, with the exception of a short seasonal break in the spring and fall.
The interesting aspect about all of this of course, is how it relates to the previously discussed multi-pass news. As you may recall, we actually highlighted Telluride about a month ago as we featured a sampling of articles that discussed the positives of ski resort consolidation. While we didn’t specifically mention it, one of the articles we included in that coverage touched on the Telluride airport’s increase in traffic due to the influx of multi-pass skiers. Now, just a short time later, we’re seeing numerical growth result in decisions that should further economic growth for the region in what can only be seen as a boon for the area. In other words, what it appears we have here, is yet another instance in which there are two or more sides to every story. While locals may protest the crowds on the hill, I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find anyone protesting an increase in business in their ski town. For more on this, check out TellurideNews.com.
#4: New Contest Alert: Red Bull Raid Competition Scheduled for Saturday at Squaw Valley:
Ok, that’s enough heavy lifting for the week. Let’s shift gears a bit and cover something that’s a bit more fun and exciting: the upcoming Red Bull Raid at Squaw Valley. Scheduled to take place tomorrow, April 13th, the Red Bull Raid event is a brand new competition format that pits uphill ski enthusiasts against each other in a race that could be compared a mix between a Chinese Downhill (read: uphill) and a stage from the Freeride World Tour. In short, here’s the deal: racers will start en masse at the bottom of Squaw’s Silverado zone, choosing their own lines in an effort to be the first to the top. The first person to reach the summit will receive 100 points, while each following position will subtract 1 point for each place back from first. In other words, second place will receive 99 points, third will receive 98, and so on. Then, competitors will also be scored out of 100 on their descent, with style, line, and control being the factors informing the score. After the first two heats are completed, finalists will be selected and the feat will be completed a second time to determine final results. As is always the case with Red Bull events, the Raid race combines elements from the sport in a unique way to create an exciting and new competition format. While we’ll be careful not to overhype the contest until we see the first one play out, we can confirm that we’re excited to see uphill skiing enter the competitive arena in this way, and we hope this event is a sign of things to come! To read a more thorough explanation of rules and several more details, check out the official Red Bull Raid at Squaw Valley website!