Top Five Fridays - March 15, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: World Cup Ski Racing News: Shiffrin Takes Home Another Globe:
We start this week the same way we have for much of the winter: celebrating another round of victories for Mikaela Shiffrin. That said, this week may have been the most eventful one yet for her. On Friday, March 8th, Shiffrin returned to World Cup competition for a Giant Slalom race at Spindleruv Mlyn, Czechoslovakia. There, Mikaela managed to place third, good for her 18th podium finish of the season. As it would turn out, that was just the start of Mikaela’s big week. A day later, she took home the gold medal in the Slalom race, her preferred event. After a successful stop in Spindleruv, Mikaela and the rest of the circuit headed to Andorra for the World Cup Finals, and the last races of the season. There, Mikaela kicked things off with a fourth place finish in the Super-G event on Thursday. While that finish kept her off the podium for that particular race, the points she earned put her on top of the World Cup standings for the event, earning her her 4th World Cup Globe on the season. For those keeping track, that mean’s Shiffrin is taking home Globes in four out of five disciplines this year: Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Overall.
With four globes locked up and no Downhill races remaining, the season is all but wrapped up for Shiffrin and the rest of the field. Still, there is one Giant Slalom race, and one Slalom race remaining on the schedule this weekend, and you can bet that Shiffrin has her sights set on two more podium finishes to close out the year. So with that, a huge congratulations goes out to Mikaela Shiffrin on her incredible year, and we wish her luck as she looks to finish strong in Andorra!
#2: The Side Effects of Ski Resort Consolidation:
Now that we’re a few years into this whole ski resort consolidation experiment, we’re starting to be able to see the ripple effect play out at resorts included in multi-pass deals across North America. Two stories caught our attention this week that shine a light on some of the side effects that ski resort consolidation has had on ski culture. We’ll start by looking at a solid article from Outside Online that takes a look at how the rise of multi-passes has exacerbated housing issues in ski towns across America. One of those towns, is our home base of Stowe, Vermont, where local realtor Gayle Oberg refers to home prices in the area as “as high as we’ve seen.” Essentially the issue is this: with more out of towners having season long access to resorts on multi-passes, real estate is being purchased at a higher rate, with owners utilizing the properties as either second homes or short term rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO. As a result, the housing situation for locals is a disaster as availability is low and rates are high. There’s obviously far more to know about this situation, and we encourage you to give the article from Outside Online a full read.
The second side effect of ski resort consolidation that we’d like to highlight this week, is the significant increase in crowds converging on multi-pass resorts. This week, Aspen Daily News published a letter from a reader bemoaning the crowd sizes at Aspen this year, resulting in complaints ranging from a less enjoyable ski experience due to crowded slopes, to the increase in road traffic. While these may seem like minor complaints, the letter caught out attention because we’ve been experiencing the same issues here in Stowe, signifying that it’s likely a large scale problem. While the resort has always been busy on weekends and holidays, the crowds and traffic have far surpassed previous years, resulting in overflowing auxiliary parking lots and the occasional traffic jam extending for miles. Noting that participation in the sport hasn’t increased dramatically this season, it’s safe to assume that what locals at multi-pass resorts are witnessing isn’t just the consolidation of ski resorts, but also the consolidation of skiers. To read Steve Trippe’s first hand account of the situation in Aspen this year, check out his letter to the Aspen Daily News.
#3: The Positive Side Effects of Multi-Passes:
As you know, there is almost always more than one side to a story, and when it comes to the topic of ski resort consolidation, that old adage couldn’t be more true. For proof, we share with you a second perspective on the topic, from Telluride of all places. When it was first announced that the resort would be a part of the Epic Pass, the response from “die-hard” skiers was a collective moan, symbolizing the common sentiment that partnering with one of the two massive multi-passes would be the death of one of the last large ski areas where a ski-bum could feel at home. In the opinions of area business owners though, the decision has paid dividends.
This week in an article from the Colorado Sun, a number of Telluride business owners and proponents share their side of the multi-pass story, citing a number of ways in which the additional tourism has boosted the economy. At the resort, it’s estimate that approximately 350 Epic Passes are used on an average weekday. When those skiers leave the resort, they’re spending their money at local shops, restaurants, and hotels, generating funds not only for businesses, but also the for town as it collects tax revenue. Much like the Outside Online article we just covered, the writeup from the Colorado Sun covers quite a bit of ground, and we highly encourage you to give it a full read.
So what’s the moral of the story here, between our last two highlights? Well, everyone will likely have their own takeaway, which is why our opinion on the matter is broad: when a complex issue arises, the easy thing to do is to claim a side and dig in. The reality though, is that there’s likely a reason for each side of the issue, and both are worth considering and balancing. Here at SkiEssentials, we may never be able to put our full support behind either side to this issue, but if you keep checking back on Fridays, we’ll be sure to keep you informed!
#4: Independent West Coast Ski Areas Band Together to Create the Indy Pass:
Finally, we round out this week with one more piece of multi-pass news, although this particular highlight is a bit different, and actually could be exciting for those who despise the trend. This week, we caught word that there’s a new multi-pass in town, and it’s focused on utilizing the model to support independent ski areas on the West Coast. The appropriately named “Indy Ski Pass” announced its initial ski area lineup this week, and include under the radar, but amazingly fun resorts like Idaho’s Brundage Mountain, Montana’s Red Lodge Mountain, and Washington’s White Pass resort. At present, the full roster of resorts include 10 destinations across Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Utah, and British Columbia, although more resorts will be announced in the weeks ahead. As for numeric details, the pass is currently priced at $199 and includes two days of skiing at each resort, as well as a number of other benefits. While the pass has yet to prove itself, we’re excited by the effort and hope it will be successful in generating business for some incredible ski resorts that have been overlooked by the larger multi-passes on the market. For more information, head on over to IndySkiPass.com!