Top Five Fridays - September 20, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: U.S. Ski and Snowboard and USASA Announce "The Futures Tour":
Here on Top Five Fridays, we have an unwritten rule that if we can start the weekly news cycle by recapping competition news, we will. As such, we're starting this week with the exciting news of a new competition circuit that's been formed via a partnership between the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team and the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA). Called, The Futures Tour, this new competition circuit aims to engage young competitive skiers and snowboarders at their earliest stages, offering their first experience with formalized competition. The idea behind the new series is to provide young athletes with the ability to see a career path as a freestyle athlete from an early age, while also offering a chance to experience competition at a level that's a small step above events hosted at their local hill. In doing so, the goal of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team and USASA is to cast a wider net, helping more would-be athletes experience the sport, and ultimately bringing more talent into the competitive freestyle pipeline. As far as the logistics of the series go, our knowledge is currently limited. We know that there will be a total of six regional Slopestyle and Halfpipe competitions for both skiers and snowboarders, but details regarding locations and dates have yet to be announced. For that information, we'll likely have to wait until October 8th when registration opens on usasa.org. To learn more on this, check out the announcement from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, as well as this image which shows how the Futures Tour fits in with the bigger picture of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team events.
#2: Solitude Mountain Resort Announces New "Pay to Park" Policy:
Moving right along, we bring you some controversial news this week. As you may have heard, Solitude Mountain in Utah announced this week that they'll be implementing a paid parking plan this upcoming season. For those unaware of the geography of the resort, some brief background is required: Solitude Mountain, along with Brighton Resort, is nestled at the end of a canyon, with just one road offering access to both resorts. As such, it's not uncommon for there to be congestion entering the canyon as well as limited parking at both resorts once visitors have made the 25 minute drive up the mountain road. In recent years, it's become a growing problem for both Solitude and Brighton, as well as Snowbird and Alta which reside in a similar canyon just to the South.
It's with that backdrop in mind that Solitude made the announcement this week that visitors who drive to the resort will have to pay for parking. Ultimately, it's an effort to reduce congestion, ease parking constraints, and put a small dent in the environmental impact of the resort. While naysayers may be quick to call the decision a money grab, multiple factors suggest otherwise. First, carpooling is heavily rewarded. If a car arrives with just 1-2 guests, parking will cost $20/day. If that car has 4 or more guests however, the price drops to just $5/day, or $1.25/person. Additionally, season pass holder are able to ride the ski bus for free, and season parking passes are also available for purchase. Finally, in addition to a price structure that favors carpooling, revenue generated by the program will be used to help subsidize ski bus efforts and partially donated to Breath Utah. Of course, the fact still remains that visitors will have to pay for parking, and it's a move that could be adopted by other resorts if it proves successful. As skiers watching from afar on the East Coast, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out. For more information, check out the report from the Salt Lake Tribune.
#3: Short Term Rentals on the Rise in Vermont Ski Towns:
In other "potentially problematic ski town news" this week, we caught an interesting article from VTDigger.org which spends some time looking into the presence and impact of short term rentals (read: Airbnb) on ski towns. Centered around a recent study that highlights the heavy volume of short term rentals in Killington, Vermont, VTDigger picks up the reigns and takes a deeper look into the scope of the issue, as well as its impacts. What interests us most about this particular piece, is that it takes an even handed approach in explaining the issue, addressing both the positive and negative aspects. Typically when you read about short-term rentals, the piece will focus on the impact on local housing availability. While that is absolutely a concern in Vermont, this particular article does a strong job of providing balance to the narrative, mentioning that short term rentals can have a positive impact on the cashflow of a region which would otherwise face the same struggles as most rural areas across America. Still, there are plenty of numbers in the article that are a bit jarring, such as the statistic from our hometown of Stowe, VT, where there's a population of 4,400 and nearly 900 properties listed on Airbnb. Regardless of positive impact, ratios like that one are certainly eye opening and should serve as a reminder that too much of a good thing can ultimately be bad. For more statistics regarding short term rentals in ski towns in Vermont, as well as the benefits and problems of the industry, check out the full report from VTDigger.
#4: Teton Pass Ski Area Purchase by Local; Hopeful to Open for Upcoming Season:
Finally, let's conclude this week on a bit of feel-good news from the world of ski resorts. Over in Chotea, Montana, locals are excited this week after learning that their local mountain, Teton Pass, has been purchased by one of their very own. Offering access to incredible terrain while maintaining a small mountain vibe, Teton Pass has experienced financial hardship over the last several years as the cost of maintenance and repairs eventually caused the resort to close. As is the case with many mountain town communities who rely on the mountain to maintain economic stability, the region has struggled while the resorts been shuttered as both job availability and tourism have been negatively impacted. This week however, it was announced that former general manager of the resort, Chuck Hlavac, closed on an agreement to purchase the mountain back at the beginning of September. Now, Hlavac says he hopes to be able to open the resort for the upcoming season, although he notes that there's also plenty fo work to be done and not a lot of time to do it. Still, regardless of whether or not the resort's able to get their lifts spinning in just a matter of months, the future looks bright again for this hidden gem of a ski area. With an industry consumed by consolidation, for better or worse, stories such as this one are always welcome. To learn more, check out the writeup from KBZK.com.
#4.5: The SkiEssentials.com 2020 Ski Test is Now Live!:
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Real Skifi Goes "WakeSkiing":
*** Warning, Moderate Language ***
A Short But Sweet Reminder Why We Love Armada:
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