Top 5 Friday April 8, 2022: Lead Image

Top Five Fridays

Top Five Fridays: April 8, 2022

Lead Image: Bode Miller pictured in front of a lineup of his new Peak Skis. Image: Peak Skis Website

#1: With Two Massive Recent Moves Already Under His Belt, Bode Miller Announces a New Ski Brand, “Peak Skis”:


Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the April 8, 2022 edition! This time around, we’ve got yet another exciting announcement from Bode Miller, who’s been absolutely on one recently, as well as a couple of crowding related topics to discuss. If you bear with us through the middle highlights, you’ll be rewarded in round four as we share with you the latest from this year’s edition of Level 1’s Superunknown contest. Before we get into that excitement though, let’s start by checking in on the latest from Bode Miller.

Before we even jump into this week’s news from the Miller camp, let’s quickly recap the headlines he’s made within the last 4 months. First, back in December, it was announced that Bode Miller and his business partner, Andy Wirth, had joined forces with Alpine-X, a company looking to implement over 20 indoor ski areas in warm climate metropolises across the United States. That promise was pushed further back in March, when the team made public their plans to build two of their ski parks in Texas. In addition to that massive revelation, Miller also announced the creation of the Bode Miller Ski Academy in Granby Ranch. Developed with his background of being a young skier who would’ve been unable to attend a ski academy without financial assistance, the Bode Miller Ski Academy has committed to providing at least 25% of the student body with scholarship opportunities. Despite having made two monumental announcements already since December, Bode came back again this week with arguably his biggest announcement yet: he and Wirth will be entering the ski manufacturing arena.

This week, Miller and Wirth announced the launch of the Peak Ski Company, a direct to consumer ski manufacturer intent on pushing the limits of technology and design. In its initial offering, Peak will release six skis for the 2022-2023 ski season. Across those six skis will be a line of frontside skis, as well as a line of sidecountry skis. Within these skis will be their signature “Keyhole Technology”, which is essentially an oval shape cut out of the top layer of metal within each ski to enable easier turn initiation. While that’s the highlight of the initial line, Miller has made it clear that his long term goals for the brand are to continue testing the limits of design and materials, taking what he learned from his legendary ski racing career and implementing it into skis for the masses. Also worth noting, Peak Skis will be developed and manufactured in their own 10,000 square foot facility located in Bozeman, MT. While it’s unlikely we’ll be able to carry any Peak skis here on SkiEssentials as they’re set to become a direct to consumer brand, we remain intrigued by the ideas that Bode brings to these skis regardless. To learn more about this new endeavor, check out the writeup over on SkiRacing.com, or head on over to their newly launched website.

#2: In Effort to Prevent Crowding Issues, Ikon Announces a Reservations at Several Resorts Next Season:


Top Five Fridays April 1, 2022: Ikon Logo Image

This week, Ikon announced reservations would be required at seven of its locations. While the statement seems simple, there’s still plenty left to learn.

In other intriguing news this week, Ikon announced that it will be implementing a reservation system at at least seven of its resorts next season. Specifically, those resorts are Brighton Resort, Aspen Snowmass, Loon Mountain, The Summit at Snoqualmie, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Big Sky Resort, and Taos Ski Valley. While this announcement seems pretty cut and dry on the surface, there are two additional factors that add complexity to it. First of all, none of these resorts are owned by Alterra, the owner of the Ikon Pass, and all of them are partners offering a limited number of days at their resort for Ikon Pass holders. With that in mind, the announcement coming by way of Ikon raises the question of who exactly will need to make reservations at these resorts. Will it only be Ikon pass holders, or will resorts be expected to enact a reservation system for all guests, regardless of pass affiliation? There’s also a lack of additional information accompanying the announcement, such as whether these reservations will be required every day, or just on peak days and holidays. Secondly, within this group of seven resorts, there’s a mixed history of reservation use. While some resorts such as Brighton, Jackson Hole, and the Summit and Snoqualmie have used reservations either during the Covid year or last season to curb crowding, not every resort on the list has. That begs the question of how well the news will be received by pass holders, particularly as the Ikon Pass is in peak pass selling season.

Taking a broader perspective, the news is also interesting in regards to the trajectory of the industry. Interestingly, it was Epic, not Ikon, that was loudly denounced on social media this season for having severe overcrowding and liftline issues. For Ikon to make this announcement, and not Epic, suggests that they’re acting proactively making an effort to get ahead of the crowding issue before it gets out of hand. The other interesting concept at play here is the slowly growing movement towards reservation systems. While this concept would’ve been considered insane just a few years ago, Epic’s implementation of the reservation system during the Covid season normalized it in a way. Now that it’s not unheard of, it’s been used this past season at multiple resorts in an effort to curtail crowding. At Jackson Hole, president Mary Kate Buckley referred to the technique as, “overwhelmingly positive,” suggesting that the reservation system made for an on hill experience that was strongly preferred by employees and locals alike. A few weeks ago, we also highlighted an anecdote from Alta where a paid parking reservation system was also seen as a success for at least one weekend visitor. As skiing continues down the path of accessibility, it begs the question of whether or not reservation systems, particularly at multi pass resorts, will become more prevalent, and if so, if it’s the right move for the industry. From our vantage point, it’s too early to say for sure as there are strong arguments to be made on both sides of the debate. Hopefully Ikon’s experiment this upcoming season will provide some additional data that will inform resorts that also might be considering a similar move. For now, we’ll turn you over to Utah’s Deseret News for more coverage on this, particularly as it pertains to Brighton.

#3: UDOT Announces Delay in Little Cottonwood Canyon Traffic Solution Decision:


Wondering what a gondola ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon could feel like? Check out this promo vid from Gondola Works UT. To see UDOT's entire Environmental Impact Statement, click here.

Carrying on with the theme of congestion at ski resorts, we have another update from the ongoing saga of Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. We’ve highlighted this story several times here on Chairlift Chat already, so we’ll keep this version of the recap nice and tight. In short, Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon, the roadway leading to Snowbird and Alta, has become unbearably busy in recent years. As such, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is actively working to suggest a solution to the state legislature to increase capacity on the byway. Until this week, UDOT had been expecting to make its final recommendation to the legislature very shortly. On Tuesday though, the department announced that it would be delaying its official recommendation as a direct result of an overwhelming amount of public input. Upon narrowing their options down to just two: either widening the roadway to enable a bus route, or an 8 person gondola that would run the length of the canyon, the department received over 14,000 public comments. In order to give the public’s opinion the attention that it deserves, the department announced that it needed more time to deliberate before coming to a final consensus. Now, an announcement is expected to be made “by this summer”, after which an additional 30-day public review will be initiated. Following this process, UDOT expects to make its final recommendation by winter 2022, or in early 2023. At that rate, it should have plenty of time to make it into the 2023 legislative session, at which point Utah’s lawmakers will vote to approve or deny funding for the project.

What catches our attention about this story is the awkward timing of the decision making process in combination with the potential trend towards more common reservation systems. In the Alta guest’s experience that we cited in highlight #2 this week, one of their comments was that by enacting a paid parking reservation system on weekends, the resort had itself found a solution to parking issues, potentially eliminating the need for UDOT to spend any money on improving transportation through the canyon. At a price tag of at least $500 million for either of the currently considered options, the idea of resorts shouldering the burden of responsibility has some serious appeal. But, there’s also a substantial amount of weight on the other side of this argument. For starters, paying to park to ski every time you want to head to the mountain could become pretty costly for regular participants. Additionally, the canyon road also brings guests to Snowbird Resort, as well as a number of other backcountry access points. While Alta’s paid parking reservation system may have curtailed the issue at that particular resort, there’s a strong chance that more effort is needed in order to truly solve the issue. As such, it’s our thought that it’s entirely possible that the real solution to Little Cottonwood Canyon’s traffic issues could be a two-headed approach: reservation systems at the resorts, as well as an increased capacity through the canyon. Either way, this story is still in the making and looks as though it’ll truly come to a head in about one year’s time. For now, learn all there is to know about its current status via this report from the Deseret News.

#4: Level 1’s Superunknown XIX Finalists Are Being Announced:


The highlight of the Superunknown XIX entries so far? The progression of female rail skiing, particularly of the urban variety. Click play on the video above to see our point.

Finally, let’s round this week out on a lighter note. This week, Level 1 Productions began announcing finalists in their 19th Superunknown competition. Now, if you’re a freeskier, or have a freeskiing background, you’re surely aware of the Superunknown contest as its brought to our attention stars such as Corey Vanular, Tom Wallish, Lucas Stål Madison, and many more. In its early years, the contest was a way for highly talented, under the radar skiers to burst onto the scene, going from “super unknown” to ubiquitous within the world of freeskiing. Since then, with the rise of social media, it’s become a bit harder to be both extremely talented and truly unknown, but the spirit of the contest persists and a recent format change has given the contest consistent relevancy. While the contest was initially based solely on video entries with the winner receiving a part in Level 1’s annual film, the format has now become a contest in which the finalists are invited to a Level 1 film session that’s held over the course of a week, with the finalists all voting for the winner amongst themselves. This year, the Superunknown Finals event will be held at Mammoth Mountain from April 20th through April 26th.

In total five female athletes and ten male athletes will be invited. Out of those athletes, one female and one male will be selected as wild card participants, chosen via a public voting process which is currently underway through the 10th (follow this link to cast your vote). The other invited athletes are being revealed at a rate of two a day on the Level 1 website and social outlets. At the time of writing, we know the four female athletes who’ve been invited, as well as two of the males. While the sample size is still small on the male side of the contest, we can say without a doubt that the entries on the women’s side of the event have showcased some of the best female urban skiing we’ve ever seen. Every year this contest shines a light on the progression of the sport as it’s made abundantly clear just how talented the younger skiers are becoming. While we could go on a length with written descriptions of the feats within these entries, it’s really one of those things where you should just watch the edits and witness it with your own eyes. So, on that note, we’ll direct you over to the Level 1 website where you can watch all of the finalist entries as they roll in. Enjoy!

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: The Audi Nines Has Been Going Off All Week. Here’s a Course Preview, and You Can Count on Full Coverage in Next Week’s Article:


Finally, For Those of You Who’ve Ever Been Jealous of Snowboard Boots:


Written by Matt McGinnis on 04/08/22

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