Ski Industry News

Top Five Fridays: April 27, 2018

Top Five Fridays - April 27, 2018 // Ski Industry News

#1: Austrian Chairlift Controls Inadvertently Accessible Online:

Top Five Fridays April 27, 2018: Austrain Chairlift Controls Image

The cable car in Innsbruck - formally operable by anyone with the right URL. Image: Tyrol's Official Website

We start this week with a couple of news pieces that are a bit different. First up, we bring you the discomforting news that the controls to a cable car in Austria were discovered online this week by two men working for an internet security group. In the course of their work, Tim Philipp Schäfers and Sebastian Neef came across the Human Machine Interface (HMI) for a cable cart that connects the Village of Igls to Patscherkofel Mountain Resort to the south of Innsbruck. This panel, typically used by lift operators, allows the user to control essential functions such as lift speed, gondola spacing, and cable tension amongst other things. As you can imagine, these aren't the type of controls that you want the public to have access to, which is why the two I.T. workers immediately contacted the appropriate authorities when they discovered the control panels online which weren't protected by any kind of password or user authentication process. From there, Innsbruck authorities immediately shut down the lift and have yet to reopen it. Fortunately, no foul play has been detected stemming from this security lapse.

#2: Alaskan Senator Proposes Tax on Outdoor Goods to Subsidize National Parks:

Top Five Fridays April 27, 2018: Senator Lisa Murkowski Image

Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, left, seen supporting the Special Winter Olympics. Earlier this week she suggested a tax on outdoor goods to support National Parks. Image: Senator Lisa Murkowski's Official Facebook

Also in the news this week was a suggestion made by Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting. At that meeting, Murkowksi brought up the ongoing struggle of National Parks to obtain the funding they need to keep up with maintenance. In recent months, this has been a growing issue and suggestions have ranged from substantially increasing entry fees to National Parks, to simply closing select parks altogether (i.e. Bear's Ears National Park in Utah). At this week's meeting, Murkowski proposed another option: add a gear tax to the type of recreational equipment that would be used in the National Parks.

It's a simple suggestion, but there's ultimately quite a bit to consider with an idea like this. At face value, there's some logic to this solution. Seeing as the National Parks are typically used by outdoor enthusiasts who buy specific equipment for their visits, it makes sense that only this segment of America's population should foot the bill, right? In a perfect world, yes, but we're inclined to argue that it's not in fact a perfect world. Take for example the sure-to-be complicated question of where to draw the line. A hiking pack? Sure, tax it. A pair of hiking boots though? Or what about gloves, waterproof jackets, headlamps, etc? Clearly not all those who buy these items would intend to use them in a National Park, although nearly everyone who uses a National Park would. In addition to these concerns, there's also the consideration of whether it's a good idea to make access to the outdoors even more cost prohibitive than it already is.

It's important for us to note as we wrap this one up, that Murkowski's suggestion is ultimately just that: a suggestion. At the meeting, he reportedly prefaced the idea with the phrase, "I just want to throw bit of a wildcard out there," suggesting that it's an idea she wanted to hear feedback regarding, but wasn't necessarily convinced of either. Ultimately, with this in mind, we have to commend Senator Murkowski for being bold enough to think out of the box and make a unique suggestion. Ultimately, this kind of approach is what leads to progress. For more on this, check out this article from Alaska Public Media.

#3: New Chinese Ski Population Prefers to Ski Elsewhere:

Top Five Fridays April 27, 2018: Japan Ski Image

Japan, known for its powder skiing, also has plenty of resorts with great groomers. Image: on Facebook

Here's a story that piqued our interest this week: Chinese skiers don't like skiing in China. Now, that's a pretty simple statement, and one that might not create much interest in most people, but if you're a frequent reader of out Top 5 Friday column, then you've probably already connected the dots and realize why this is particularly interesting to us. For those of you who feeling confused, the second half of this story is equally as simple: China is playing host to the 2022 Winter Olympics and the government has been making a serious push to generate interest in winter sports and skiing in particular amongst its citizens. To be clear, the Chinese government's plan is working. There are far more skiers and ski resorts in China than there have ever been, and national interest in the sport is indeed on the rise. Which, to circle back, is exactly why this week's news caught our attention.

As it turns out, the Chinese actually love skiing, but the more they like it, the less they like skiing in China. In an article from South China Morning Post, journalist Pavel Toropov explores this trend amongst Chinese skiers and discovers that they are driven by pretty much the same things as skiers anywhere else in the world. A short list of concerns for Chinese skiers are: snow quality, unique terrain, lift ticket costs, infrastructure quality, crowds & capacity, etc. In other words, Chinese skiers have moved past the bunny slope and are genuinely looking for bigger and better ski experiences. Unfortunately for the Chinese government though, this has the ski culture that they helped develop beginning to venture abroad, and to Japan in particular.

Truth be told, we haven't even managed to crack the surface of accurately describing the Chinese ski experience in these short paragraphs. Pavel Toropov on the other hand, does an excellent job of covering it and we'd highly recommend giving his article a read.

#4: South Western Ski Magnate Purchases Operating Rights to Utah Resort:

Top Five Fridays April 27, 2018: Nordic Valley Ski Area Image

A look at Nordic Valley, Utah. Image: Nordic Valley Ski Area on Facebook

Finally, let's wrap things up this week with some ski resort news. After all, it's about to be ski resort sales and upgrade season and this week brought the first glimpse of what's to come. As you're well aware, there's a bit of an arms race in the ski world as consolidation continues to take the industry by storm. Currently, there are two major players in Vail and Alterra, and a whole slew of smaller multi passes and feeder resorts jostling for their position in the race. Enter James Coleman, a man who's name we've mentioned a few times with growing frequency. He's the operator of five resorts in the Southwestern United States, and added a sixth resort to his roster this week when he purchased operating rights to Utah's Nordic Valley Ski Resort. Keeping with the times, Coleman has unified his six resorts under the Power Pass, which also offers additional lift tickets to six other ski resorts along the Rocky Mountains.

The reason we find this week's news notable is for two reasons. First, Coleman's continued expansion signifies that his strategy of combining under the radar ski areas into his own multi pass is proving effective. This indicates that there's opportunity for a "lower tier" multi pass that doesn't cater to the high end clients of Alterra and Vail. Second, Nordic Valley is Coleman's northern most ski operation, and his first in Utah. This let's us know that not only is Coleman's empire growing in quantity, but in geography as well. Combine those two concepts and it's easy to see why we're excited to see what's next for Coleman. For more on this latest development, check out Snow Industry News.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week:

Modern Ski Ballet. Worth a Watch? Yes.

Finally, Exploring Katahdin:


Written by Matt McGinnis on 04/27/18

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