#1: Arapahoe Basin Offering Free Drinks & Covid-19 Vaccines This Sunday:
As we move deeper into Spring, and begin to approach the start of Summer, ski news continues to shift away from mid-season highlights, to more typical off season news, which tends to have a slightly different vibe. Of course, at this time last year we found ourselves sharing countless articles previewing the uncertainties regarding the season ahead, but with the pandemic finally beginning to subside, we’re relieved to be reporting more upbeat news, even if it is related to the pandemic. Such is the case with our first highlight this week, as Arapahoe Basin has just announced an admirable event planned for this Sunday.
Before we dive into the details, let’s have a quick moment of acknowledgement: over the past few months, Arapahoe Basin has been doing and saying all of the right things for a resort keen on supporting ski culture. First they stunned the industry when they announced they were reducing the number of season passes being made available for next season, then they decided to partner with Bluebird Backcountry, the United States’ first backcountry-only ski resort. Now, this week, it was announced that the resort will be partnering with Summit County Public Health to host ski-up vaccinations. Yep, you read that right. This Sunday, at Arapahoe Basin, the first 200 interested guests can simply ski up, fill out the required paperwork, and get a free Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In addition to not needing to pre-register for the vaccine, there’s also no in-state requirement, meaning the offer is not restricted to just Colorado residents. Plus, as if all of that isn’t enough, the 200 people who receive a vaccine at Arapahoe Basin on Sunday will also receive a free drink voucher, good for either a free Bloody Mary, draft beer, or fountain drink at the resort’s 6th Alley Bar & Grill. With vaccinations starting at 12pm, the combination of skiing in the morning, getting vaccinated at noon, and then relaxing on the deck with a cold drink sounds like a perfect way to spend a May 16th. It also sounds like yet another perfect maneuver from a resort that’s been impressing us more and more as they continue to exemplify what it means to be a mountain focused on the guest experience. For more on this, check out the press release from Summit County, or the one from Arapahoe Basin.
#2: City of Duluth To Invest $24 Million in Spirit Mountain:
In other “hey, that’s pretty cool,” news this week, we’ve just learned that the city of Duluth has announced plans to invest $24 million into renovations and upgrades for Spirit Mountain. To truly understand this highlight, it’s important to have a better understanding of the unique entity that is Spirit Mountain. Founded by the city back in 1974, Spirit Mountain is just 10 minutes from the city’s downtown district. As such, it’s one of the closest ski resorts in North America to a city, and thereby plays an important role in the city’s economic and public health efforts. Recently however, the resort hit a few unexpected road bumps that required the city to bail them out of financial difficulties. The resulting lines of credit, plus the ski area’s reliance on about $1 million per year in funding from the city (by way of a tourism tax that the mountain also contributes to), combined with the growing need for renovations led many to begin questioning whether or not the resort was a boon or bane for the city. In an effort to get to the bottom of that question, the city recently assembled a task force to investigate both Spirit Mountain’s current economic impact on the municipality, as well as whether or not there are ways to increase the value of the resort to the city. The result of that assessment was a 250 page document that made two key findings. First, the resort currently generates $22 million a year for the city. Second, with a proper high level investment, that figure could balloon to $39 million annually.
All of that background information brings us to this week’s big news: the city has just announced a $24 million investment plan to breathe new life into the ski area, and hopefully hit that goal of $39 million in annual economic impact. Of the $24 million invested, 50% will be funded by state bonds, 25% will come from revenue from tourism taxes, and the final 25% will be funded by the mountain itself. With this infusion of cash, the resort hopes to take on a number of projects designed to both upgrade its current amenities, and to connect more deeply with the city. On the list of upgrades are efforts like renovating the ski and ride infrastructure, renewing the Skyline Chalet and campgrounds at the resort, and bolstering its summer offerings by renovating and expanding its Summer Adventure Park. Perhaps most excitingly though, are the plans to expand the resort’s Nordic and Mountain Biking trail systems. In addition to finishing the on-mountain trail networks, there are also new plans to connect them to multiple trails within the city, meaning residents could potentially depart their homes on mountain bikes and ride trails all the way to the resort. All told, for those interested in the outdoor recreation scene in Duluth, this week’s news is monumental. To learn more about the new plans for the resort, check out this report from wdio.com.
#3: Washington High School Unveils New Ski Building Workshop:
Here we are, highlight #3, and guess what? We’ve got even more “hey that’s cool” news for you! This week, we learned of a newly announced ski-building “classroom” at a school in Washington. There, in the small city of Wenatchee, a local high school teacher’s dream has finally come true. After four and a half years of lobbying, Auto-Cad instructor Doug Merrill finally has a mobile trailer dedicated to ski building. While most of the supplies for the trailer trickled in over the course of the year, the final pieces arrived at the end of April, just in time for students to begin experimenting in “The Lab” before the school year ends. Despite being new to ski building, and still learning the ropes of how “The Lab” best operates, students are already churning out skis and snowboards custom spec’d to their own desires. What’s truly interesting about this project though, is that its value goes far beyond a handful of diehard skiers and snowboarders interested in making their own equipment. As Merrill puts it, “What is so special about this thing, it’s way more than just my class… For instance, Ryan Bushy — who built a pair of custom skis with a topographic design of the Apple Capital Loop Trail — can bring in his science class and they can focus on the science aspect of it and still produce a pair of skis. The art department can come in and focus on the graphics and then engineering is the whole picture with construction to tooling and manufacturing.”
For us, that’s the part that stands out as being exceptionally cool about this story. Yes, we love the concept of teaching high school students how to make skis, but realistically, how valuable is it to learn that specific trade? What’s really interesting about this story is that it takes a number of different areas of learning, and combines them under one focused goal: to manufacture a pair of skis. From graphic design, to science, and even business as students learn about supply chain management and the economics of sales, “The Lab” is about way more than just building skis. It’s actually about providing students with a real-world scenario that they can use as a means to broaden their learning beyond the type of information that only shows up in textbooks and exams. Plus, the community stands to benefit too. Starting next Fall, the mobile ski-building station will allow community members to get involved and build their own skis or snowboards within a day. All in all, this is a project we can very much get behind. Big shout out to Doug Merrill for sticking with his dream and making this happen for the kids in Wenatchee. To learn more about this exciting new endeavor, check out the report from Wenatchee World.
#4: Andrzej Bargiel is on an Absolute Tear: Bags Second First Descent in as Many Weeks:
Finally, we’re rounding out this week with our fourth straight, “D***, that’s really cool,” topic. That’s because we’ve just learned that Red Bull athlete, and one of our favorite ski mountaineers, Andrzej Bargiel, has just knocked off another first ever ski descent. Now, if that name’s familiar to you, it might be for a couple of reasons. One reason his name might ring a bell is because we’ve shared his stories multiple times over the years, most recently in July 2020 when we revisited the story of his first ever descent down K2. Or, it could be that you heard his name pop up just two weeks ago when he made the first ascent up Pakistan’s Yawash Sar II, and immediately became the first person to ever ski the peak. That in and of itself is a great story, and one that you can (and should) read more about here. In fact, this week’s news builds on that story as he’s just become the first Polish climber to ascend, and first ever skier to descend, Laila Peak, also in Pakistan. While the feat may sound like just another notch on Bargiel’s belt, it’s important to note that this wasn’t the first time a ski descent down the peak has been attempted. Back in 2016, Italian skier Leonardo Comelli also attempted the feat, but ultimately made a mistake on his descent, crossing his ski tips, and falling approximately 400 meters. Tragically, he didn’t survive the incident. We make sure to mention that only to enforce just how dangerous these efforts are by Bargiel in an effort to fully appreciate them. The successful descent down Laila Peak marks Bargiel’s second first descent in as many weeks, and also the end of this particular trip for him, as both peaks on his bucket list have officially been bagged. While we can’t be sure of when or what his next move will be, our gut tells us that he’ll be back in the headlines in no time. Until then, learn more about this most recent feat by checking in with this report from Explorers Web, or learn more about his experience climbing and skiing Yawash Sar II in this story from Red Bull.