Lead Image: Faction skis, a brand we’ve admired for a while and just started carrying here on SkiEssentials, has just become B Corp Certified. Image: Faction Skis on Facebook
#1: A Story Years in the Making, Jay Peak Resort Finally Has a New Owner:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the September 9, 2022 edition! This week we’re covering a double header of resort news, followed by a double header for environmental news. To kick things off, we’re starting by making good on a pseudo-promise we made a couple weeks back: on August 26th, we told you we’d bring you the final word on who won the bid to buy Jay Peak in this week’s update, assuming it was publicly known. As it turns out, the word came in just yesterday: Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. (PGRI) has won the auction, ultimately purchasing Jay Peak for $76 million. While the entire saga of Jay Peak is quite lengthy (you can read the origin story here), the most recent chapter came about when PGRI submitted formal documents implying their desire to buy the resort and its assets for $58 million just over a month ago, at the start of August. Being in a unique position which legally required Michael Goldberg, the federally appointed receiver of the resort, to maximize the value of the sale, rather than being able to simply accept the offer, Goldberg was granted the right to host an auction using $58 million as the opening bid, provided he could find at least one other interested buyer.
As was previously announced, that auction was held on Wednesday, September 6th, and for several hours after the event, no one knew who’d placed the winning bid. In fact, we still don’t know who the other bidder(s) were, or how many of them there were. We may never know those details. What we do know though is that at the end of the day, PGRI placed the winning bid at approximately 5:30 PM Eastern time, for the aforementioned $76 million. While many industry observers are somewhat shocked that neither Vail nor Alterra capitalized on the opportunity, there seems to be an overwhelming sense of relief amongst the local community. To be fair, that relief may be due to the fact that the uncertainty regarding the resort’s future that’s been looming for years has finally been resolved, and not related to the fact that the new owner isn’t one of the two industry giants. Either way, there seems to be an air of excitement about the new ownership as many are hopeful that PGRI’s approach to resort management aligns well with the traditional values of Jay Peak.
Looking ahead, the sale is expected to be finalized prior to the start of the 2022-2023 season, and simply requires the judge overseeing the matter to sign off on it. As far as what passholders and those with plans to visit Jay Peak this season can expect to change, the answer is very little. At least for the upcoming season, PGRI intends to honor all pass agreements and to maintain operations as they are throughout the course of the season. If any changes or improvements are to be made, they’ll be announced in the Spring. With that, we have the great pleasure of finally being able to say, “Congratulations to all involved with the operations at Jay Peak over the course of the last several years, and especially to Michael Goldberg who did an incredible job of righting the ship and getting a staple of the Northern Vermont ski community back on track.” To learn more about this week’s auction, check out the recap from VT Digger.
#2: Vail Resorts Files Complaint in District Court Against Town of Vail Over Use of Emergency Ordinance to Block Employee Housing Development:
In other ski resort news this week, we have an update to a story that we last shared back at the beginning of May. At that time, the town of Vail had just voted to invoke emergency ordinance 16 to halt the development of a parcel of land that Vail Resort was just about to begin developing in a project that would have created affordable housing for 165 employees. In doing so, the town of Vail bought themselves time to put together their case for condemning the property with the long term goal of reclaiming it under eminent domain in an effort to protect the habitat of a local bighorn sheep population. For obvious reasons, this sudden turn of events rankled Vail’s management team.
This week, they put that rancor into action by filing a complaint with the Eagle County District Court against the town of Vail, alleging a misuse of the emergency ordinance. In the complaint, Vail alleges that in the August 2nd hearing, which supposedly centered around the impact of the development on the bighorn sheep population, only one expert’s opinion was heard. That expert was a bighorn sheep expert who Vail had previously hired to determine whether or not the development would have an impact on their habitat. At that hearing, she testified that it was her opinion that the development would have no impact. Still, despite the only expert testimony being in favor of Vail resorts, the town of Vail went ahead with their injunction to put development plans on hold while they prepared their condemnation case. In other words, according to Vail Resorts, rather than letting the evidence presented in the hearing impact their decision to file an emergency ordinance to stop the development of the land, the town of Vail misused their powers by moving ahead with the decisions regardless of the facts presented. Now, it’s up to the district court to decide.
Interestingly enough, the other underlying issue besides the habitat of the bighorn sheep, is an issue that both Vail Resorts and the town of Vail seem like they should agree upon: the need for more employee housing to support the needs of the resort, who in turn supports the economy of the town. With that in mind, it seems peculiar that if indeed only one expert testified at the August 2nd hearing, and their testimony stated that the development would have no impact on the bighorn sheep population, that the town of Vail should want to hinder what should be a positive development for both parties. We don’t know whether or not there’s more to this story, but you can find out everything we do know by checking in with the Vail Daily.
#3: Faction Skis Announces B Corp Certification:
In other, less litigious and far more fun news this week, we’re excited to share the news that Faction Skis has officially become a Certified B Corp! Now, before we jump into the story behind the certification, let’s start by clarifying what a B Corp certification is: for businesses that strive to practice conscious social and environmental values, they can apply for a B Corp certification to verify that they are a business that stands to better the world we live in. In order to receive a B Corp certification, they must pass what is known as the B Impact Assessment: a 400 question long interview of sorts in which business representatives must have answers to questions that take a hard look at every aspect of their operations, from sourcing, to production, charitable contributions, and even their marketing and partnerships. After responses to each question are submitted, they’re scored using a points system. In order to pass and become B Corp certified, an organization must achieve a score of 80 points.
This week, it was announced that Faction has officially become B Corp Certified, having achieved a score of 93.5- far surpassing the minimum requirement. Helping to earn this score are a number of initiatives across their entire business model, starting with the sourcing of materials, which includes sourcing raw materials locally, working with FSC-accredited partners to sustainably harvest the wood used for the core of their skis, and using recycled materials for their topsheets. From there, Faction manufactures its skis in an Austrian factory that runs on 100% renewable energy, cutting their carbon emissions by 50%. In terms of their social impact, Faction strives to increase inclusion in the sport through representation, while also contributing to a number of charities such as 1% for the Planet, Protect Our Winters, Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E, and Coombs Outdoors. As a result of all of these efforts, Faction has earned their B Corp certification with ease, officially making them one of the most socially and environmentally friendly brands in skiing. As a new retailer of Faction skis, we have to say, we’re quite happy to have them on board. To learn more about this, check out the interview from Freeskier with Faction’s Head of Supply Chain, Sara Asmoarp, or visit this page on their website.
#4: What Will Winter Bring? Bother Farmers Almanacs Present Their Winter Forecasts:
This week, we learned something that many of you almost definitely knew: when it comes to winter weather predictions, there are actually two almanacs: The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and the Farmer’s Almanac (which, as you might guess, is newer). We also learned what both of them expect for the winter ahead, and since we recently covered the possibility of a Triple Dip La Niña event bringing heavy snow to the Pacific Northwest to start the year, we thought it would be fun to end this week with some more weather based crystal balling. With that, let’s jump right in, starting with the OG.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the 2022-2023 winter will be, “The Tale of Two Winters!” More specifically, they’re forecasting a cold, snowy winter for approximately half of the country, and a mild, often rainy winter for the other half. Fortunately, as skiers, “snowy” applies to almost all relevant regions, with almost the entirety of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, Northern Midwest, mountains of California, and the Southwest being forecast as “snowy.” We have to think the Rocky Mountain region, while labeled as “mild and wet” rather than “snowy”, will be subject to significant snowfall as well as after a certain elevation, all wet winter weather becomes snow, right? In fact, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the only ski-regions that could be facing an average or subpar winter is a narrow strip that runs from the Great Lakes to Colorado which is labeled “Cold and Dry.” Still, if this forecast comes to fruition, at the very least this region should be cold enough to produce man made snow. All in all, the Old Farmer’s Almanac prediction is looking positive for American skiers. If you’d like to read a more detailed breakdown of your region, check out their website.
Also making the rounds this week was the (New) Farmer’s Almanac’s take on the 2022-2023 winter. According to their take, U.S. skiers will by and large be very happy as the entire New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest regions will have snowy winters, albeit cold ones. The Pacific Northwest also looks to be in decent shape as the Almanac is predicting “normal conditions,” which, in this day and age, we have to chalk up as a win. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain region extended through the coast of California is predicted to be mild and dry. But, as we’ve previously mentioned, these Almanac forecasts are just that: forecasts. Anything could happen once Winter gets rolling- we’ll just have to wait and see what happens! To read more about the forecast from the Farmer’s Almanac, click here.