Saturday, June 30, 2012

Essentials of Tourism Destination Management: Ski & Mountain Resorts

Take a look at the content of my new website.
There you can take a look at my presentations, cases of study, workshops and the content of my seminar about Ski Resorts Management:

Essentials of Tourism Destination Management: Ski & Mountain Resorts - Home

Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts Ban Smoking To Prevent Forest Fires

With an extremely high threat of forest fire at Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort have instituted a number of precautionary measures, including banning all smoking on their respective mountains for the summer.
"We want everyone to enjoy their time on the mountain, but with the extremely dry conditions we wanted to be very aggressive in protecting our mountain communities", said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager. "The no-smoking policy will be enforced by our staff, and we appreciate everyone’s cooperation in this effort".
The Forest Service has increased its fire restrictions to Stage II, which prohibits building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire, charcoal grill, coal, wood burning stove or sheepherders stove, including in developed camping and picnic grounds.
Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood are instituting additional precautions:
  • No parking vehicles on any vegetation
  • No open flames, e.g., lighters, stoves
  • No fireworks
The Lake Tahoe resorts are urging guests to report smoke or fire on the mountain immediately via 911, or to notify employee who can alert mountain dispatch.
At Kirkwood, smoking is prohibited in all areas of the mountain, including all company facilities at the resort. At Northstar, smoking is only allowed in designated areas within the Village at Northstar.
At Heavenly, the smoking ban includes, but is not limited to, all activities related to the Gondola, Tamarack Express and Adventure Peak, as well as weddings and special events at the Aerial Tram and Lakeview Lodge.

Saas-Fee Mountain Cleaning Day

Today is cleaning day in the Pearl of the Alps!!!
Saturday 30 June 2012 will be Saas-Fee’s third Mountain Cleaning Day. This special event aims to raise participants’ motivation and awareness about looking after the environment. During the colder months of the year, our slopes attract thousands of winter sport fans and, inevitably, their litter. Both previous events saw participants collect over a tonne of waste from the Saas-Fee slopes. Their sacks were filled with cigarette butts, tickets, plastic bottles, babies’ dummies, snowboards and countless other items – showing just how necessary Mountain Cleaning Day is for keeping our environment spic and span.

Celebrity involvement
The organisers of Mountain Cleaning Day have moved away from the conventional community action projects that Saas-Fee has seen over the years to instead present an event with a difference and attract as many participants as possible. Participants are divided into various groups, each led by a famous person. A couple of big names have already stepped up. Once again, snowboarder Gian Simmen, who won Olympic gold in the halfpipe event in Nagano, will prove he’s not above grabbing a bin bag and helping out. He’ll be joined by rising freestyle star Elias Ambühl, who achieved international fame with his victory at the legendary freestyle.ch races and his third place ranking in the Big Air event at the Winter X-Games in Aspen. Other celebrities will be announced soon.

Chill & Grill
The main aim of Mountain Cleaning Day, supported by the Summit Foundation, may be to leave the Saas-Fee slopes spic and span, but the organisers spare no effort in rewarding the volunteers for their help. Once the cleaning is finished, they put on a big barbecue in the Wolfsgrube and all participants receive a Roxy/Quiksilver gift.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

From snow bingles to Lara Bingle: ski vids go viral

As published by Snow It All in The Sydney Morning Herald

Ask someone to 'I'll friend you if you like me then tag, share and tweet' ten years ago and they'd think you were off your snow tree. These days, those without a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, YouTube handle are considered the crazy folk.
Skiers and boarders love to boast and the internet has provided them with the ideal platform. Social media has hit the snow world and there are terrabytes (find that in the Oxford dictionary in 1993) of difference between those that use it effectively to communicate and engage with their ‘fans’ and those that don’t.
Snow It All has written about the rise of the 'citizen snowcial reporter' and the consequences for ski resorts. But now we're really excited about how overseas resorts have been using social media in ground breaking ways.
Vail Resorts Epic Mix pass was one of the first. The Epic Mix taps into the boasting gene that most skiers and boarders seem to be born with and allows images, GPS, vertical metres skied and more to be uploaded amongst the Vail Epic Mix community for the seriously competitive.
Whistler took YouTube videos to the next level when they filmed a day in the life of Whistler in tilt shift, called it XXS and made the mammoth resort look like a clay-mation model. Far more exciting than a snow report, the innovative model went viral and was shared across the social media networks with over three hundred thousand YouTube views.
They did it again this year with the Sh—t Skiers Say video with over 1.3 million YouTube views. Why? Because the average skier connected with the video, it made them recognize themselves and others and have a laugh at their own expense.
Another example is a video postcard from a solo skier, again in Whistler, that made us all green with envy and no doubt made his mum cry. Some resorts are lucky, their customers do the social media work for them.
Jackson Hole's Santa Flips Out video had it all, kids dressed as elves and a Christmas narrative that showcased the resort's Burton Stash terrain park, groomed runs and off piste terrain in a magical way. Forty thousand folks 'liked' this one.
Not all videos work in a resort's favour. This video of a swearing ski patroller at Snowbasin caused a social media fraccas. Hopefully Snowbasin, like Aspen, Whistler and Vail had a dedicated social media management team to sort out that little mess.
Mont Sutton in Quebec, Canada ran a 'please like me'-style Facebook campaign for two months earlier this year. For every 'like' they promised to plant a tree. The result? 1576 new trees planted in the Mont Sutton ski area.
In Utah Park City Mountain Resort created a 'snow mamas' web page, blog, Facebook page and Twitter handle to successfully connect with the mummy community and get to the family market. It's working.
North American ski resorts are clearly leading the social media revolution and anyone with a handle, a hashtag or a meme (look it up) in the snow world can be found at 'Tahoe Snowcial' each January. The social media convention for the snow industry has been coined 'the Sundance festival for the Facebook generation ' by Vail Resorts marketing guru, Rob Katz.
A quick survey of our own resorts in Australasia show under-resourced marketing departments trying to juggle social media avenues between an already stretched team. The only exception is NZ Ski who employ two full-time social media co-ordinators in the winter. All ski fields tend to focus on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels to push their own messages, snow reports and competitions.
Perisher's marketing team used Facebook to push their Perisher Ski Bum competition to the masses before the season started and Thredbo used a countdown with a different Facebook cover image each day prior to opening day to fuel anticipation. Across the ditch Cardrona used this video of international freeskier, Byron Wells, to spread their word while Craigieburn's picture of 125 cm from one storm was shared on Facebook over 1200 times.
Meanwhile Air New Zealand, who do have a full-time social media team, have taken Lara Bingle to the snow in Queenstown this week to film another 'Kiwi Sceptics' video that they hope will go as viral as their last four which have been viewed 575,000 times. The campaign has already won a Bronze Lion at the Cannes advertising awards and the expectation is that Australia's relationship with Bingle will ensure Aussies click and share.
One of the most successful viral video for Australian resorts was back in 2007 when snowboarders hit the biggest jump ever built in competition in the world at the time during the Stylewars snowboard competition at Falls Creek. It has since been viewed over a million times in five years.
In more recent times the combination of international athletes and one of the world's biggest ski terrain park jumps at the Toyota One Hit Wonder at Thredbo made for a Facebook frenzy as competitors encouraged their networks to vote for them to win. The event's wrap up video for 2011 has been viewed over forty four thousand times alone.
So this year we're waiting for the curve ball social media moment that has skiers and snowboarders begging to share. We know that wit and humour works, we know that human connection works and we know world firsts and biggest anything works.
The first to combine all of these down under will surely be liked the most this season and the rest will follow (pun intended).

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Aspen Skiing Co. Invests in Methane Power

The Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) is investing $6 million in a 3MW methane plant that will generate 25 million kW of electricity annually and, in the process, eliminate greenhouse gases equal to three times the company's yearly carbon emissions.
In the past, methane emissions from the Somerset, Colo., mine, as with many other mines, have simply been vented into the atmosphere. Once the plant is operating, the methane will instead generate an amount of electricity equal to annual energy use from all sources for the company’s four resorts. The carbon reduction is so significant because methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
This project could be duplicated at other, similar sites, says Auden Schendler, Aspen vice president, sustainability. "The project is highly replicable. We see great potential in this market. We will likely play a part in future project development".
"This project meets our common goals of preventing the waste of resources, providing clean energy for people, and reducing pollution (...) We need to start showing the world projects that respond to climate change at scale—not a few token solar panels here and there, but utility scale projects—done in profitable ways, using a nonpartisan, collaborative approach".
Schendler said that the ROI is about 12 percent, meaning it will take roughly eight years to repay the initial investment. Life of the project is projected at 15 to 30 years

Monday, June 18, 2012

St. Anton Takes Steps to Stop Drunken Behaviour

OnTheSnow reports the Austrian ski resort of St. Anton am Arlberg, widely recognised as the apres-ski capital of the Alps, is taking steps to curb drunken behaviour by stopping people drinking in their ski gear after 8 p.m.
After a day on the mountain, young skiers and riders head to St. Anton's famous slopeside bars, like the Mooserwirt and the Krazy Kanguruh, for shots of Jagermeister and dancing (well, stompting really) on tables in ski boots. The slopeside bars close at 8 p.m. so skiers then bring the party down the mountain. The tourist office believes that this drunken behaviour in St. Anton's centre is alienating some of its other guests.
The resort has decided to implement a voluntary policy of asking people to return to their hotels to change out of ski gear from 8 p.m. Wilma Himmelfeundpointer from TVB St Anton says this voluntary measure is largely being accepted without complaint and is hoped will bring peace to the village.
There are no signs up banning people drinking in ski gear, but all bar owners have agreed to politely ask customers to go change out of their ski gear before they continue partying at 8 p.m. Representatives from tour operators were also informed in advance of the new measure and probably contributed to the acceptance of this new policy.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lumenpulse Lighting Tells a Magical Story at Åre

Swedish lighting designers Ljusarkitektur have worked with Lumenpulse to turn Åre ski resort into a magical experience after dark. Situated close to the Arctic Circle in Sweden, the Åre ski resort was named one of the "world's top ski resorts" by the British travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller.
The new attraction uses light to create a night-time family experience, increasing the resorts revenue by extending its hours of operation after dark. The scheme is part of a major investment by resort owner SkiStar, which expects to make a return on its investment in two to three years.
Leading Scandinavian design practice Ljusarkitektur created the attraction using the local tales of giants and trolls as their source of inspiration for the lighting.
Ljusarkitektur creative director Kai Piippo had this to say about the project: "This is both a landscape and an experience project. We have been able to use the best available technology both to continue and to reinvent the tradition of storytelling from the area that dates back hundreds of years".
The installation uses 240 color-changing Lumenpulse luminaires to cast an eerie moonlight glow over the slopes to create an attraction that has boosted the resort's night-time economy. A range of Lumenbeam projectors, including the Red Dot Product Design Award winning Lumenbeam LBX, were chosen for the project.
Ljusarkitektur chose Lumenpulse fixtures for their high performance, ease of maintenance and ability to withstand tough weather conditions and sub-zero temperatures.
The project in brief:
  • Swedish design practice Ljusarkitektur has created a dramatic and enchanting scheme directly based on local folklore tales.
  • The scheme is designed to help Åre Ski Resort increase revenue by creating a night-time attraction for the family, but its use of LEDs also saves energy.
  • Sweden's long winter nights mean that the 3.5km ski slope is now lit both in the early morning and in the evening, which extends its hours of use and its potential to attract revenue.
  • The 240 Lumenbeam luminaires chosen for the project have to withstand high winds, sub-freezing temperatures and heavy snow and ice loads.
  • Ljusarkitektur used the Lumenbeam LBX fixtures to create a dynamic blue/white design redolent of moonlight. Each of the LBX fixtures has three separately addressable LED boards; in this case, two ice white and one blue.
  • Lumenpulse's dual chamber technology makes Lumenbeam fixtures easy to maintain even in extreme conditions. The LEDs and drivers are in separate compartments so that drivers are easy to access and can be changed without replacing the whole fixture.
  • Attraction owner SkiStar says the lighting scheme will help it to recoup its investment in less than three years.
The SkiStar Group owns and operates alpine destinations in Sälen, Åre and Vemdalen in Sweden, and Hemsedal and Trysil in Norway. The core business of the Company is alpine skiing, with a focus on the guest’s overall skiing experience. Operations are divided into two business areas: Destinations, which consists of skiing, accommodation services, ski school and ski rentals, as well as Property Development, which includes construction and development.
SkiStar’s vision is to create memorable winter experiences as the leading operator of European alpine destinations.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Salomon 4 Trails

In less than two weeks the starting signal for the second edition of the SALOMON 4 TRAILS will be given. Up to 500 expected participants will cross the Alps on foot in four stages from July 4-7. They must cover unbelievable 158 kilometers and 9800 altitude difference on the trail from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) to Samnaun (CH).
After the highly acclaimed event debut last year the SALOMON 4 TRAILS are no longer an insider tip but rather at the top of the list with the most beautiful stage races in Europe. The organizer, the PLAN B event company, together with the 500 expected individual starters is happy about the doubled number of participants. This number is in particular due to the wonderful trails, the family atmosphere, the unmatched sense of community and the professional organization that has gained PLAN B their reputation in the trailrunning scene in the past years. With runners from 21 nations like-minded people from all around the world will meet this year too to experience together the fascination of crossing the Alps.
The participants will start in six categories depending on age and sex. The participants under 40 years of age will start in the categories "Men" or "Women"; the older runners will compete in the categories "Master Men/Master Women" (40 years and over) and "Senior Master Men/Senior Master Women" (50 years and over).
In 2012 too there will be not only some ambitious recreational runners at the starting line but also some runners with high potential. The former mountain race world champion (2009) on the long trail, Thomas Lorblanchet (FRA), is expected as well as his Salomon team colleague Francois d'Haene (FRA). Philipp Reiter (GER), who finished second last year, has his eyes on the trail crown as well. The runner from the Salomon Trailrunning Team is an absolute exceptional talent, since he won the SALOMON ZUGSPITZ SUPERTRAIL as the youngest participant last year. With his 20 years of age he is again the youngest participant at the starting line of the SALOMON 4 TRAILS 2012.

The route: 5 places - 4 stages – 3 countries
Four unforgettable days in breathtaking settings await the participants of the SALOMON 4 TRAILS. The route takes them from Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GER) over Ehrwald (AUT), Imst (AUT) and Landeck (AUT) to Samnaun (CH). Every day about thirty to forty kilometers and over 2000 altitude difference must be covered. In a high alpine terrain with altitude of up to 2800 meters above sea level the participants must be good prepared but also show some fighting spirit. The much sought-after finisher shirt awaits the runners after altogether 158 kilometers and 9800 altitude difference.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Freestyle Summer Camps in Saas-Fee

The Freestylecamps.ch created by ESKIMOS and Quiksilver/Roxy will take place this summer for the 3rd time. The Free skier and Snowboarders will rock the park on the Allalin Glacier for 2 weeks from 15-22 July and 22-29 July, together with the Quiksilver Pro’s, Christian Bieri, Tanja Frieden, Andreas Burri, Sergio Berger and the ESKIMOS Coaches.
Don’t we all want to follow our passion and develop ourselves? Jibbing, Big air style, to slide on endless rails, have fun together, learn new things, stay in shape and in the meantime be outside in the sun and get a nice tan. Freestylecamps.ch makes it all possible
The camp will take place for the third time this summer on the glacier in Saas-Fee, where many Pros visit the park all year round. The participants will spend the entire day with the coaches and aside from the Freestyle training, they will spend their time playing soccer, basketball, skating, jumping on a trampoline, climbing, swimming and most of all have a great time together
The riders from 9 years old and older will have the amazing opportunity to learn new tricks from the Quiksilver pro Coaches. The Freeski riders will be coached this year by Christian Bieri und Andreas Burri. For the snowboarders, the coaches will be the Olympic winner Tanja Frieden and Sergio Berger. Furthermore they will work on improving their technique with the professional ESKIMOS Coaches, who have over 10 years of experience in snow sports and giving training.
It makes no difference whether the Riders have just begun with Free skiing or Snowboarding or that they already can make a double Flip or Mute grabs 360 without any trouble. Freestylcamps.ch with their coaches will improve the ability and technique of every rider-no matter the level.
On top of all this, the riders at the freestylcamps.ch have the change to become a Pro Rider! The main sponsors Quicksilver and Roxy are always on the look for new talents – Maybe you could be next?!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

France Kicks Off Glacier Skiing

Summer skiing in France starts this weekend at Les 2 Alpes with Tignes opening a week later. At the moment snow conditions in both resorts is some of the best June conditions in recent years with a good base remaining from last winter plus fresh snow and cold temperatures since.
Les 2 Alpes (picture attached) summer ski resort openning dates are from june 16th to september 1st, 2012 from 7.15am to 12.30am. The ski resort will have 7 lifts running (2 gondola lifts, 1 funicular, 3 chair lifts, 7 ski lifts and 1 rope tow) giving access to 2 green runs, 4 blues and a 2 red runs. The Snowpark is located at an altitude of over 3,200 m on Europe’s largest glacier and is used for summer riding. Over the years Les 2 Alpes summer park has become one of the best snowparks in Europe and throughout the world. The glacier is accessible via the Jandri Express cable car in 24 minutes from the centre of the resort.
Tignes has 6 lifts and over 20 kilometres of runs with a vertical drop of over 750 m. The snow park offers 2 half pipes, rails, bumps and jumps of all sizes. It opens on June 22nd. From 7:15am to 1pm, the ski runs at Grande Motte glacier, located at an altitude ranging from 3,000 to 3,456 metres, are open to ride. Since March 1993, Perce Neige funicular offers a lift from the heart of Tignes. Located at an altitude of 2,100 metres – at the foot of the 3,000-metre glacier – it will transport you in a record time of 7 minutes.
Thanks to the Pissaillas glacier (known as the Val d'Isère glacier), Val d'Isère is also one for the few places to offer summer skiing in the Alps. In Val d'Isère the summer ski season is quite short and the glacier will be open for skiing from June 9th to July 15th, 2012. The ski area is served by three ski lifts: TKdu Montet, TK Cote 3000 and the Cascade Express.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Arc'teryx Alpine Academy

The first ever Arc'teryx Alpine Arc'ademy took place in and around Chamonix (France) with 70 participants from across Europe taking part. Arc'teryx gave the participants the opportunity to embrace the world of mountaineering at a three-day Alpine ARC'ademy in Chamonix - June 8-10.
The Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix was the alpine base for this very special educational weekend targeted at anyone who is passionate about mountain sports and wants to improve their skills. Arc’teryx ARC’ademy staff of alpine professionals and people from the outdoor industry guided participants through a weekend of alpine exploration, including information about gear, activities, the environment and the dynamic nature of alpine sports.
Included in the event fee is the opportunity to test the latest alpine equipment. Arc’teryx athletes Ines Papert, Luka Lindic and others will support the participants and raise their awareness of personal responsibility, the needs and functions of alpine equipment, the physical challenges in high altitude, as well as the effects of the climate change on glaciers and mountain regions.The climbers, a mix of alpine beginners and skilled mountaineers from the UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia got stuck into a range of workshops covering topics including alpine climbing, high altitude mountaineering, mountain rescue, navigation in the mountains and an overnight bivouac.
Highlights included an ascent of the Arete des Cosmiques on the Aiguille du Midi led by top alpinist Nina Caprez plus an Overnight Bivouac Clinic, held at the Col du Géant (3365m), guided by leading climber Ines Papert and mountain guide Isabelle Santoire, which saw a group of 12 mountaineers spend a tough night out on the glaciers in poor conditions. The experience was made less spartan thanks to equipment provided by Hilleberg tents and Primus stoves and thanks to Trek’n Eat food.
Finally, 120 people attended the Movie Night event in Chamonix, watching a selection of cracking mountain films in the company of like-minded folk.
Along with Arc'teryx, the weekend was supported by Gore-Tex, Scarpa, Suunto and the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc.
If you like the sound of all that, the good news is that a second Arc'teryx Alpine Arc'ademy is scheduled to take place in Chamonix once more in 2013.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Woodward Tahoe Grand Opening

BMX pro Nate Wessel bunny hopped his bike over the striped tape, cutting it on the way down, to kick off the grand opening of Woodward Tahoe on Saturday, June 9.
Perched atop the beautiful Donner Summit, Woodward Tahoe is the perfect location for action sport and cheer athletes to train. Being located at Boreal Mountain Resort gives ski/snowboard campers the opportunity to train on real snow. The Bunker is located at the base of the mountain providing skate, BMX, cheer and dryland training. Sitting at an elevation of 7,200 ft., the temperature rarely exceeds 85 degrees providing the ideal training atmosphere. Woodward Tahoe is located minutes from the Town of Truckee, 45 minutes from Reno, 90 minutes from the state capitol, Sacramento and only 3 hours from beautiful San Francisco. Woodward Tahoe was built in the true spirit of Woodward: they collected input from our campers, visiting pros, and our own 35+ years of experience in the summer-camp business to build the ultimate riding facility west of the Mississippi.
Wessel was also a lead designer for the 33,000 square foot facility, also called "the Bunker". A virtual playground, the Bunker houses six Olympic-size trampolines, a super tramp (one of only a few in the U.S.), skatepark, pump track, skatelite ramps into foam pits and resi landings, spring floor, tumbling track, bouldering wall and a GroPro wire-flown camera. It is certainty pushing the growth of freestyle action sports in Tahoe.
The day started off early with the Boreal Summer Shred, where anyone with a lift ticket could access the Woodward Summer Terrain Park, including the 22’ superpipe, 2 jumps, Bag Jump and almost 20 rail features.
At 11:45 a large crowd gathered around the main entrance of The Bunker in anticipation of a traditional ribbon cutting. Boring. What they got instead was Nate Wessel charging out of the building on his BMX bike and bunny hopping right through the caution tape. By the time the tape hit the ground there were people lining up to be the first to step through the main entrance and really see what The Bunker has to offer.
The next five hours consisted of an action sports induced blur that included public skate, BMX and trampoline sessions, pro demos on the Launch Pad, indoor skatepark, East Campus mini-ramp and the trampolines, tours of the facility and musical performances from several killer DJ’s and artists.
The 33,000 square foot facility cost Powdr Corp $6.5 million and was completed in just under eleven months. It’s set to host to a slew of skate, BMX, cheer, dryland skiing and snowboarding camps throughout the year. Burton Academy director Chris Hargrave was appointed director of Woodward Tahoe.
For Boreal general manager Jody Churich, the goal of Woodward Tahoe is to provide a world class action sports environment to all levels of athletes. "It sounds canned, but progression training is the future of action sports. Everyone should learn to play with purpose (...) Pros that have been through Woodward Tahoe are finding unlimited options to challenge their skills. It we can offer unbelievable coaching in an amazing high performance training facility where kids are making life-long friendships and learning new skills during camp in a safe and progressive place then I've reached my goal".
Woodward also has a family element. "I am already seeing campers arriving as a family, where mom and dad are enjoying hiking and golfing while their children are at Woodward Tahoe", said Churich.
"In addition, the response from the local community has been amazing", she said. "The most typical comment is that the region needed a facility like this. So many Tahoe locals are sports minded, and there are no facilities that offer aerial awareness, tumbling and dryland ski/snowboard training".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Snowmass tourism effort promotes ties to Aspen

Snowmass Village is adopting an ad campaign that capitalizes on its proximity to the more recognized Aspen, the Aspen Daily News reports.
Snowmass Village Councilman John Wilkinson often draws blank stares at other ski resorts, even in Colorado, when he tells fellow skiers where he resides. But mention Aspen and it’s instant recognition, he said.
Snowmass tourism officials know the feeling. Last week, Susan Hamley, director of the town’s Snowmass Tourism office, unveiled a new advertising campaign that will tout the variety of activities not just in the village but also in Aspen and elsewhere in the valley. One potential ad Hamley displayed to Town Council on May 21 features a photo of the Belly Up, the popular concert venue in Aspen. The advert "plays up what we have here in Snowmass, what we have with our partners in Aspen and what you can get in the valley", Hamley said. "We mention Aspen in the copy as well, saying that the combination of these two neighbors is powerful". But Hamley said in an email that the effort should not be construed as the town "abandoning our own identity".
The town’s advisory board on marketing, events and group sales voted unanimously to establish a closer tie-in with its better-known neighbor, the board’s chairman, Robert Sinko, told Town Council. Sinko is general manager of the Crestwood Condominiums.
Hugh Templeman, general manager of the Viceroy Snowmass hotel, said positioning the resort with Aspen will be a strong step forward. "The board made a big decision in recent meetings to align ourselves much more tightly with Aspen, location-wise", said Templeman, who spoke before Town Council as a representative of the lodging industry on the marketing advisory board. "So you see that [result] in the advertising ... because we felt that was the smartest way to grow our process going forward".
The goal of the new campaign "is to give guests all the options they can enjoy while staying in Snowmass, which can even include a stop at the Hot Springs pool" in Glenwood Springs, Hamley said. "So when they weigh Snowmass against other Colorado resorts in their decision-making process, we have a far bigger offering".
Councilman Jason Haber said using the synergy between the two resorts is sensible. "In a way, Snowmass exists because of that relationship to Aspen", he said. "From a branding and marketing standpoint, it makes sense to tap into that recognition".
"What we were told is that it’s a no-brainer to partner with Aspen, but Snowmass is a unique place",  Wilkinson said. "It’s a family resort, easy to get to, has ski-in, ski-out [accommodation]. Aspen has the reputation, we have the skiing". Wilkinson said he understands tying Snowmass to Aspen (the ski area’s original name, in 1964, was Snowmass-at-Aspen) to alleviate those blank stares he usually gets around the state and elsewhere. "I get that part of it", he said. "I think it could work well with both resorts. There’s a synergistic effect there that, with the resort as a whole with Buttermilk and Highlands, once people realized that they’re all connected by one lift ticket, they’d say, ‘OK, I get it’".

I think tis is a valuable lesson to be learned by many ski resorts worlwide who live in the shadow of big ones.

Analyst upgrades Vail Resorts stock

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Steven Wieczynski (Vail Daily. Thursday, May 31, 2012) expects the stock to outperform the S&P 500 by more than 10 percent over the next 12 months. "With Vail shares declining 12 percent in the last two months (compared to the S&P decline of 5 percent), we believe this has created an attractive entry point as we push toward the 2012-13 ski season", Wieczynski wrote in a note to investors. "While Vail shares have historically traded lower (7 percent average decline during summer months back to 2007) during the summer months, we believe continued encouraging demand signals toward the 2012/2013 ski season, continued strong international visitation, revised summer program offerings, and solid Free Cash Flow (FCF) support could all be catalysts for the shares".
Five reasons Stifel Nicolaus thinks Vail shares are compelling:

• Encouraging season pass sales. Stifel Nicolaus says Vail can "easily push mid-to-upper single digit price increases on their pass program over the next five years given the quality of assets and the value proposition still inherent for their customers".

• Continued strong international visitation should help drive margins. Citing "impressive" international visitation in the 2011-12 ski season, despite snowfall, the firm believes "spending on non-mountain activities will continue to improve given international guests' propensity to spend more than the typical domestic visitor".

• Revamped summer program could partially eliminate seasonality. The firm points to the recently passed legislation — the Ski Areas Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act that allows for more on-mountain summer activities, which Congress passed last year — "could present a low risk opportunity to drive incremental EBITDA".

• Strong FCF generation should allow for acquisitions or shareholder distributions. Stifel Nicolaus cites Vail's "underleveraged and conservatively managed balance sheet" as reasons to expect management to "carefully address any attractive M&A opportunities, whether they exist in the U.S., Europe or Asia".

• Valuation compelling at current levels. Current trading prices present an opportunity "for investors to enter the shares in order to capture upside to numbers heading into the 2012-13 ski season".

Other Vail Resorts analysts have also maintained that Vail Resorts shares (MTN on the New York Stock Exchange) are attractive because of the company's "asset quality, long-term pricing power, solid balance sheet, free cash flow, and strong management team", according to the latest investor note from Credit Suisse in May. Credit Suisse analyst Joel Simkins put the stock's price target at $55 in that note, while JMP Securities analyst Will Marks put the price target at $57 in his latest note to investors earlier this month (the stock closed on May 31 at $43.47).
While Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Shaun Kelley maintained a neutral rating for MTN as it enters a seasonally slow period, he wrote in a May 1 note to investors that Bank of America Merrill Lynch recognizes "the growth potential of its assets in a more normalized operating environment".

Vail Resorts is the leading mountain resort operator in the United States. Vail Resorts operate the mountain resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, and the GrandTeton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, RockResorts, a luxury resorthotel company, manages casually elegant properties. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estateplanning, development and construction subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly heldcompany traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Colorado's Echo Mountain ski area for sale

Echo Mountain announced that it would be going up for sale in August. The ski hill is located just 35 miles West from downtown Denver. Echo Mountain was founded back in 2006, and is located a short 35 miles out of Denver. In addition to serving as an extremely convenient and family-friendly mountain destination, the north-facing terrain provides skiers and snowboarders with unmatched views of the Continental Divide from elevations ranging from 9,000 to 11,000 feet. The property features a vertical drop of 660 feet that can be expanded to 1500+, 16 named trails; three lifts including a 2000 ft. fixed grip triple chair, a magic carpet surface lift for the learning center and a handle tow for the events area; tested helipad and state-of-the art snowmaking operations with 4 wells and a reservoir. Less than 33% of the 226 acres have been developed and the resort is surrounded by U.S. Forest Service managed property, making its operations expandable through trades or leases.
"We've had six years of steady growth," said owner Jerry Petitt, the Maryland hotelier who bought the 226-acre dormant Squaw Pass ski area at a 2002 auction for $700,000 and has since plowed several million dollars into developing the area. "But to reach the next level, Echo needs investment and expansion. And it's time for new ownership to take it to that next level". Echo Mountain has grown from 12,000 visits in its inaugural 2005-06 season to 32,000 last season. Just about every resort in the country limped through the 2011-12 ski season — the worst in two decades nationally for both snowfall and visitation. But Echo had decent snow and saw strong visitation, with revenue climbing 30 percent and daily ticket sales up 50 percent.The ski area holds a great deal of significance for the region and the Colorado ski industry as a whole due to the fact that it is one of the few resorts to boast being located on completely private land. Echo will be sold sold by Racebrook (a private investment firm) and its auction affiliate, Sheldon Good & Company in a sealed bid auction format, with bids due by August 2, 2012.
"To have a ski resort situated on 100% private land is unheard of in the ski industry, so Echo Mountain provides an extremely rare opportunity for a local or international buyer to purchase the property and continue its evolution into a unique winter and year-round sports destination", said John Cuticelli, CEO of Racebrook. “A savvy buyer will be able to enjoy the benefits and opportunities of owning and branding their own mountain resort while leveraging the property’s solid history.” Unlike land leased from the U.S. Forest Service, private ownership allows unrestricted year-round usage as well as advertising onsite and unique brand exposure.
There are only 26 active, permitted ski areas operating in the state of Colorado and Echo Mountain is easily the closest one to the rapidly growing recreation population along the Front Range of Colorado, making it a possible Winter Olympic event site. Its location allows visitors to minimize time on the heavily congested I-70, which takes drivers hours to reach other resorts and will likely experience massive disruptions as traffic increases as it is rebuilt in the coming years.
Bids are due by 4 PM MDT, August 2, 2012 to Sheldon Good & Company. Anyone interested in owning their very own world class mountain destination should head over to http://www.echomtnauction.com/ and make sure they don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Switzerland overnight stays recede for the 2011-2012 Winter Season

According to provisional results from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), during the winter tourist season (November 2011 to April 2012), 15.2 million overnight stays were recorded, corresponding to a fall of 3.7% (-591,000 overnight stays) compared with the same period of the previous year.
Despite excellent snowfall across the Swiss Alps for much of the winter the main problem the country had was a poor exchange rate. The government did step in to support the currency ensuring it did not drop below 1.4 Swiss francs to £1, but just four years ago £1 would buy 2.6 francs. The exchange rate put many people off.
Of the various cantons and regions Graubünden, which has resorts such as Davos and St Moritz, was hit hardest with an 8.6% fall.
The Valais canton, that contains the ski resorts of Verbier, Zermatt, Saas-Fee and Crans-Montana, was down 6.8%.
The Bernese Oberland, that has Wengen and Grindelwald within its borders, registered a fall of 6.2%.
The figures compare to the previous winter but the season of 2010/11 saw falls of up to 6% on 2009/10.
A breakdown in the nationalities shows the number of British people declining by 10%, Germany 16% and Holland 19%.
There was a 7% rise in Russians.
Despite the overall fall in European visitors there was an increase from other parts of the world. There were 37% more people from China and increases from Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East.
The number of Swiss people staying in the country went up by 0.1%. This is somewhat surprising as holidaying in the nearby eurozone parts of the Alps would have offered better value for money, but many Swiss ski resorts had good conditions across large parts of the winter and this would have attracted locals. However there were many examples from ski resorts neighbouring Switzerland that saw a sharp rise in Swiss skiers and snowboarders as they took advantage of the cheap exchange rate with the euro. For instance, the Tirol in Austria reported a 15.9% increase in Swiss visitors.

Canadian Resort Re-Opens For Father’s Day Weekend, Again

For a third year in a row, Mount Washington will operate on Father's Day weekend for skiing and boarding. The resort will spin the Whiskey Jack Chairlift from 10am to 4pm on June 16 and 17th.
"We recently completed another stellar snow season up here so the writing was on the wall back in April- we were contemplating another summer snow session", explains resort spokesperson Brent Curtain.
To make some turns on the summer corn snow, tickets will cost $25 per person and rental skis and boards will be an additional $25. If you pre-purchase your tickets and rentals online at mountwashington.ca you get an additional 10% discount.
The mountain is confirming that Linton's Loop will be open top to bottom that weekend but will determine if more runs can open closer to June 16. "We want to see what the weather brings over the next week before we commit to the number of runs we can open", adds Curtain.
For fans of the terrain park, a selection of rails and features will be setup mid-mountain.
While summer ski days are an anomaly over the resort's 33 years of operation, massive snowfalls in the last few seasons have resulted in an influx of summer snow turns.
"Four of our five deepest snow years have all occurred in the last few years. We're definitely in a deep cycle for snowfall so it's not surprising to see the snow last this long".
As a bonus for heading up to the summer ski weekend, all skiers and boarders will receive a two for one Mile High Chairlift Ride voucher. There will also be prizes handed out throughout the weekend for best outfits and costumes.

Southern Hemisphere 2012 Season Underway

Following the early opening of Perisher in Australia blast week, more Australian ski areas and the first New Zealand ski areas are all opening this weekend (June 9th/10th).
Southern Africa’s only operational ski area, Afriski in Lesotho, has also opened this week.
In New Zealand there’s thankfully been no repeat of 2011’s warm May/June and instead increasingly healthy snowfalls have helped build up bases. Cantabrians are gearing up for their much anticipated first day on the slopes thanks to a snow dump that has blanketed Mt Hutt ski area. Mt Hutt will officially open for the winter season tomorrow (Saturday June 9) with an average snow base of 65cm across the entire mountain – believed to be the deepest in the southern hemisphere at present. Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie said the forecast for opening was fine and sunny with light winds. "It should be an outstanding day to kick off the 2012 season", he said. "We’ll be opening with the Summit Six Chair, Exhibition Quad and of course our beginners Magic Carpet area all operating. (...) We’re currently assessing Towers Triple Chair but are suggesting that only advanced to intermediate skiers head over there, as it is not currently groomed", he said.
Mr McKenzie said visitors to Mt Hutt tomorrow were likely to require chains on 2WD from either the Info Booth at the bottom of the ski area access road, or Canterbury View just after the 5 km mark. "People heading to the mountain tomorrow should check the snow report to make sure they’re well prepared and always carry snow chain equipment as conditions can change very quickly up here", he said.
In Australia Mt Baw Baw was coated with a thick blanket of fresh snow this week, 20cm in fact! "A great start to the first week of winter and positive signs for a snow-filled season ahead at Mt Baw Baw", they say, while at Mt Buller the snowmaking team have been working around the clock to get the mountain white for the weekend and say there are some nice piles of snow building up all over the resort thanks to cold nights and good snowmaking conditions.
Mt Hotham says that on top of natural snowfall snowmaking kicked off there in the early hours of 29 May on the Big D.
Since then they have been making snow on the Big D, Summit Trainer, Sun Run and Swindler's Trail whenever conditions allow. Last Sunday morning saw the resort blanketed in white after overnight snowfalls and they’ve since received 25cm of fresh snow with more snowfalls forecast.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Vermont Ski Visits Down 11%

Less snowfall and challenging weather conditions translated into nearly 11 percent fewer skier visits this season, the Vermont Ski Areas Association reported Wednesday at its annual meeting held at Jay Peak Resort.
The state’s 18 ski resorts recorded 3,903,171 skier and snowboarder visits during the 2011-12 season - down 10.5 percent from the 4,365,906 visits the previous season, which was the best season since 2004-05.
Although Vermont’s numbers were disappointing, the state fared far better than other ski states. Nationally, skier visits were off 16 percent this season.
Despite low natural snowfall during the 2011-12 ski season, state-of-the art snowmaking and grooming enabled Vermont ski areas to have significant amounts of open terrain, often unmatched in percentage by any other ski state. "The 2011-12 season stands as a testament to the resiliency of our ski areas and showcased the unrivaled prowess of our industry’s snowmaking and grooming capabilities", said VSAA president Parker Riehle. "The caliber of our 75% statewide snowmaking coverage means, for example, that we have over 1,000 acres more terrain with snowmaking alone than all of New Hampshire’s total ski area terrain".
He said the state’s 30 cross-country areas had a rougher season since only a few have the capacity to make snow and even then on limited terrain.
Based on a 10-year average, he said skier visits were down 5 percent this season.
Despite adverse weather conditions, with temperatures that climbed into the 70s in March, the VSAA said that tourism-related tax revenue during the winter were stronger than expected.
Riehle said rooms and meals, and sales tax revenue were up a combined 2.5 percent over the previous winter.
Although the downhill ski resorts struggled this season, Riehle said he knows of no resorts in dire financial trouble.
Ski Vermont is a private non-profit trade association founded in 1969 to help create a legislative, economic and social environment in which the state's ski industry can grow and prosper, addressing issues including environmental integrity, economic and social contributions to the state's welfare, and competitive positioning of the state as a destination for winter tourism. Ski Vermont serves its 19 Alpine and 30 Nordic member resorts in three major areas: Governmental Affairs, Marketing and Public Affairs.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Colorado ski visits down 11.4%

Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), the state ski industry lobbying group that represents 22 resorts, reported at its annual meeting in Boulder today that its 22 member resorts hosted an estimated 6.16 million skier visits during the 2011-12 ski season. This represents a decrease of 11.4 percent, or approximately 790,000 skier visits, compared to last season, which was the fourth best season on record. Compared to the five year average, CSCUSA member resort skier visits are down 11.9 percent. The overall snow related decline interrupted the recovery resorts had been building since 2008/09.
In an indication of the extreme weather impacting Colorado resorts this season, Colorado’s western slope experienced its third driest and seventh warmest winter in records going back to 1895. Precipitation on the Western Slope this winter was 43 percent below average, and down every month of the winter. In Colorado overall, March 2012 was the driest in more than 100 years, and we experienced the second warmest March on record. President and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA Melanie Mills said: "Much of the ski industry in the US was confronted with weather challenges last year, but several of our resorts bucked the national trend and showed signs of resilience during what was clearly an uninspiring winter".
The diversity of ski resorts in Colorado saw some areas post increases and even records in visitation. Colorado Ski Country resorts also saw strength in both domestic and international destination visitors which helped soften the economic impacts to resort operators and resort communities of the overall decline in visitation.
Momentum going into the season was strong after seeing an uptick in visitation last year, and economic conditions generally improved during the season. Abundant amounts of snow came in the fall, allowing some resorts to open earlier than planned, but the uncharacteristic precipitation deficit brought that momentum to a standstill. Snow came in the middle of the season and several resorts broke single day snowfall totals, but perception of an underperforming winter was already set in skiers’ minds. "We’ve had dry years in the past, and we’ll have dry years again", Mills explained. "Not every year can be a record breaking year, and with nary a snowflake in what is normally our snowiest month in Colorado, season visitation numbers are disappointing, but not unexpected".
CSCUSA resorts upheld their dedication to providing guests with a quality product and superior service which sets Colorado apart from other ski destinations, and keeps the state’s appeal as the premiere place for winter travelers. "Our resorts have so much to offer visitors that in some cases the world class skiing is just one of a menu of activities. And for many people, the season was more about being outside and spending time with friends and family taking in the beautiful outdoors and wonderful amenities of our resorts".
With certain assumptions in place, statewide skier visits for Colorado are estimated at 11,010,584 million. This estimation shows Colorado being down 9.8 percent, or approximately 1,195,000 visits, compared to last season. On a national level, skier visits overall are down 15.7 percent with the Rocky Mountain region seeing a decrease of 7.2 percent.
These numbers are preliminary results and subject to final adjustments by CSCUSA members. The decision to release individual numbers is up to each individual resort.
The 2010-11 ski season was the fourth best ever after record snowfall at most Colorado resorts. The 2011-12 season saw record low snowfall totals as a major snow drought gripped most of the state and the nation.
Skier visits for the past 10 years can be downloaded here.

Vail Resorts Reports Third Quarter Results


Vail Resorts reported results for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 ended April 30, 2012 and the results of its spring pass sales for the 2012/2013 ski season.
Vail Resorts ski areas experienced historically low snowfall (with cumulative snowfall at our six resorts (excluding Kirkwood) down more than 50% over the prior ski season) and one of the mildest winters on record, including over the key spring break and Easter periods, which adversely impacted our skier visitation which was down 9.8% (with our Colorado and Tahoe resorts down 9.0% and 12.4%, respectively) for the three months ended April 30, 2012 compared to the same period in the prior year.  Despite these unprecedented conditions, revenues were generally stabilized by increased season pass sales, higher pricing and increased average guest spend.
Lift ticket revenue increased by 0.7% over the prior year and ancillary revenue from ski school and retail/rental was up 1.1% and 1.3%, respectively, while dining revenue was down 1.1% driving an 11.6% increase in total ancillary revenue per skier visit.
Total Mountain net revenue increased by 0.9% over the prior year with a 9.8% decline in skier visits more than offset by a 12.8% increase in season pass revenue and a 9.4% increase in Effective Ticket Price (“ETP”) excluding season pass holders.
Mountain Reported EBITDA increased 0.6% and Resort Reported EBITDA (which includes the Company’s Mountain and Lodging segments) decreased by 0.5% from the prior year.
Commenting on the Company’s fiscal 2012 third quarter results, Rob Katz, Chief Executive Officer said, "We are pleased with our third quarter results as they evidenced our ability to successfully navigate the most challenging winter in the history of the United States ski industry. Cumulative snowfall levels for the 2011/2012 ski season were down more than 50% across our resorts, compared with the prior year, and snowfall at our Colorado resorts was down more than 70% in March. The lack of snow, combined with unseasonable temperatures, affected visitation levels during the key spring break and Easter vacation periods. Yet, despite these unprecedented conditions, we delivered an approximate 1% increase in Mountain Reported EBITDA in the third quarter compared with the prior year. This performance demonstrates the stability and resiliency of our business model, which benefitted from our growing season pass business, as well as the quality of our resorts and the breadth of the experience we offer, which attracted guests throughout the season".
Continuing on the third quarter performance, Katz added "There were several positive indicators in the third quarter that contributed to our performance and bode well as we look toward the 2012/2013 ski season. Our Mountain net revenue increased 0.9% to $354.6 million as higher spending per skier visit, improved lift ticket pricing and strong season pass revenue more than offset the decline in skier visits. Lift ticket revenue increased 0.7% during the quarter despite a drop of 9.8% in visitation benefitting from a 12.8% increase in season pass revenue and a 9.4% gain in ETP, excluding season pass holders. On a per visit basis, our ski school revenue per visit increased 12.1%, dining revenue per visit was higher by 9.7% and retail/rental revenue per visit was up 12.3%, reflecting the high income demographic of our resort guests enabling us to benefit from enhanced consumer spending, especially in the luxury segment, as well as from our international guests. Over the course of the 2011/2012 ski season, our international visitation increased by approximately 2%, despite a 12.1% decline in total visitation and continued challenges in the European economy, reflecting targeted marketing efforts to drive more visits from this growing international segment. For the full 2011/2012 ski season, visitation at our Tahoe resorts declined 22.4% compared to the prior year, while our Colorado resorts were down 8.9% with Beaver Creek essentially flat reflecting its higher mix of luxury and destination guests. Our season passholders, representing arguably our most weather sensitive guests, skied only approximately one day less, on average, in the current ski season compared to the prior year. Overall season pass revenue represented approximately 40% of our total lift ticket revenue for the winter season. Also during the third quarter we leveraged our strong balance sheet, acquiring a third Tahoe resort, Kirkwood, with early indications that this unique resort should prove to be highly complementary to our existing portfolio and pass programs. Finally, I could not be more pleased to report that total spring season pass sales, which include sales through Tuesday May 29, 2012 compared to sales through Tuesday May 31, 2011 and including Kirkwood pass sales in both years, were up approximately 17% in units and approximately 22% in sales dollars. These sales, which will be recorded as revenue in the second and third quarters of fiscal 2013, provide perhaps the strongest indicator we have seen for the upcoming 2012/2013 ski season".
Vail Resorts is the leading mountain resort operator in the United States. Vail Resorts operate the mountain resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, and the GrandTeton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, RockResorts, a luxury resorthotel company, manages casually elegant properties. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estateplanning, development and construction subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly heldcompany traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Utah Ski and Snowboard Industry Announces 2011-12 Skier Day Visits

The Utah ski and snowboard industry announced 3,802,536 million skier day visits during the 2011-12 winter season, down 10 percent from the previous season’s 4,223,064. The 2010-11 season was Utah’s second best season on record only a hair short from the 2007-08 season, which recorded 4,249,190 skier days.
Low snow totals plaguing resorts nationwide and the persistence of a wavering economy are credited for the decrease at Utah ski and snowboard resorts this season. As snow totals have accumulated well above the state’s 500 annual inch average the past four seasons, this year’s below average snowfall was all the more difficult for powder lovers to endure. Despite the downturn, Ski Utah is confident awareness and demand for the Utah wintersport product is headed on a positive trajectory. Utah skier day visits performed quite well in comparison to the national average down 15% from last season according to the National Ski Area Association.
"Utah ski and snowboard resorts did an exceptional job compensating for the lack of early season snow with a record level of snowmaking", noted Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty. "Unfortunately, by the time Mother Nature joined the effort many consumers had already turned their attention away from skiing and snowboarding".
Ski Utah also observed that while participation in on-snow activities declined this season many complementary businesses, such as restaurants and shops, reported steady to strong business indicating many visitors supplemented their vacations with other activities.
For a complete history of Utah’s skier days visit http://www.skiutah.com/media/story_starters/utah-skier-days-table.
Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 14 statewide ski resorts that make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association (Alta Ski Area, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort, Brighton Resort, Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Eagle Point, Park City Mountain Resort, Powder Mountain Resort, Snowbasin Resort, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Sundance and Wolf Mountain). The organization has been creating brand awareness of and demand for the Utah wintersports product since its inception in 1978.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Where To Ski or Board In June?

Alps. Although the choice of ski areas open in the Alps at the start of June is limited to just four areas – the Dachstein (which currently has a base of more than 4.5m) and Hintertux glaciers in Austria, Zermatt in Switzerland and Passo Stelvio in Italy; that will all change in a few weeks’ time when half a dozen more areas are scheduled to open for summer skiing and snowboarding. These include French resorts Les 2 Alpes, Tignes (both opening on June 16th) and Val d’Isere - which opens first on June 9th. In Italy Val Senales and Cervinia re-open on the 16th and 20th June respectively. Summer skiing in the Alps mostly takes place between 7am and 1pm daily.

Scandinavia. In Scandinavia the three Norwegian summer ski areas of Folgefonn, Galdhoppigen and Stryn are all reporting huge bases of over 8m. Ruka in Finland still has it’s ‘summer’ slope open that helps it stay open for 8 months each (normal) ‘season’ from mid-October to mid-June. This year it plans to keep the slope open to June 10th.

North America. In North America there’s no repeat of last year’s snowy-late-spring and even stalwarts like Mammoth have closed ‘already.’ However Timberline in Oregon, the only year-round snowfield is open in the USA, as is Crystal Mountain in Washington state, “We will remain open for skiing June 2-3 and 9-10, possibly longer if conditions allow,” they say. North of the border all ski areas in Canada are currently closed but Whistler Blackcomb re-opens for glacier skiing on June 23rd and remains open to July 29th. There was over 2.1m (7 feet) of snow lying there on the 1st of June.

Southern Hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere Perisher in Australia will be the first resort to open, this Saturday, 2nd June, a week earlier than planned, thanks to 30cm of fresh snow plus snowmaking. Other Australian resorts are expected to follow as scheduled a week later. These include Mt Buller which will open the country’s only new chairlift this winter, a quad chair.
There have also been promising signs in New Zealand where opening was delayed last year by record warm months of May and June 2011, this year there have been re-assuring pre-season snowfalls and most resorts expect to open between June 9th and June 23rd with Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt among the first expecting to open.
Across the Pacific resorts across South America should also be opening for their 2012 winter in the next few weeks and again the signs are good with pre-season snow accumulations. New lifts include a quad chair for Las Lenas in Argentina and the first gondola in Chile at Valle Nevado.
Finally in Africa, Afri-ski in Lesotho, the only commercial snowfield in the south of the continent and the southern hemisphere has been snowmaking in recent cold temperatures and is on target to open on June 6th, next week.