Thursday, December 27, 2012

Freeride World Tour Kicks Off at Revelstoke

The Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face 2013 kicks off its season of exciting global big mountain freeriding competition with the first stop at Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada, on January 07, 2013. The competition can be witnessed from anywhere in the world via the live webcast available at
Revelstoke Mountain Resort and its "Mac Daddy" face is an ideal location for the first stop of the 2013 FWT with its remote backcountry terrain, allowing for an exciting North American freeriding venue. "The snow conditions are setting up perfectly at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. With over 200 inches of total snowfall so far, the best case scenarios for the biggest, baddest North American venues are coming into play", stated FWT Americas Competition Director Bryan Barlow.
The excitement for the first stop of the 2013 FWT is also felt among the athletes. "I’m really looking forward to this season. With lots of new riders and great events, I’m sure it will be bigger than ever. The kick-off in Revelstoke is going to be great. A mountain like that is the perfect place for a freeride competition. I’m just glad to be a part of it and no matter what, I’m going to enjoy the show", remarked defending 2012 Ski Men’s Freeride World Tour Champion, Reine Barkered of Sweden.
"Revelstoke Mountain Resort is thrilled to have the Freeride World Tour return, even bigger and better than before", said Sarah Windsor, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Revelstoke Mountain Resort. "To showcase both modalities on our terrain is an opportunity of a lifetime where top-caliber athletes will converge to show off their skills on Mackenzie peak. We are honored to be the only resort in Canada, and one of two in North America privileged to host this world-class event".
Revelstoke Mountain Resort is a four-season destination resort located in the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia just minutes from the town of Revelstoke. Revelstoke is located 200 kilometers (124 miles) north east of Kelowna and 413 kilometers (257 miles) west of Calgary. RMR is North America’s most significant resort development in over a quarter century.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Saas-Fee To Host Again The Ice Climbing World Cup

From 12 to 19 January 2013, ice climbing and ski touring fans from all over the world will once again flock to Saas-Fee. The preparations for the 14th edition of Ice on Tour are well underway – and a new climbing wall is set to make things more exciting than ever.
Rising up through the interior of Saas-Fee’s multistorey car park, the wall will get spectators closer to the action than they ever thought possible. The scaffold curves high into the air and has space for a number of different ice features. "We have about 20 items that we’re keeping in freezers at minus 20 degrees.We’ll hang them on the scaffold a couple of weeks before everything starts", says Kurt Arnold from the Ice Climbing association.

Action-packed weekends on ice

The weekends during Ice on Tour will offer an exciting programme of events.
From 12 to 13 January, up-and-coming young climbers will battle it out on Saas-Grund’s 30-metre-high ice wall during the first youth world championship in the history of ice climbing. Then in the middle of it all, on Wednesday 16 January, the ski tourers will go head to head on the Saas-Fee glacier.
Spectators attending the events on 18 and 19 January in Saas-Fee are sure to have a blast. Along with all the thrills of the ice climbing championships, they’ll get to enjoy an amazing atmosphere and delicious food at the stands in the village – as well as those legendary Ice Parties, of course!

Live stream during the World Cup

To video stream the event is a great solution for all those who are not able to travel to the heart of the action this year. The link to the live stream will only be active during the events and is posted on the official Ice Climbing World Cup Website:

Program 2013
  • 12. & 13.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Youth Woldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Grund
  • 16.01. SAC Ice Night Ski-Touring Race (Swisscup), Saas-Fee
  • 18. & 19.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Worldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Fee
  • 18. & 19.01. World Cup Ice Parties

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Comes To The Mountains

Winter Comes To The Mountains from OnTheSnow on Vimeo.

Mountain News Corporation, which includes Skiinfo and OnTheSnow, is the global leading snow media company with over 23 million unique users per ski season on web and mobile. The combined companies operates in 14 languages and 20 countries. The Company's mission is to give skiers the world’s most comprehensive and accurate snow reports, resort data and weather forecasts. Mountain News Corporation goal is to be the mountain traveler’s number one resource for planning their next epic mountain vacation.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Wonder Reels: Episode 5 - The Crossing

What happens when a single man becomes the keeper of a world-record breaker? Switchback Entertainment documents the story of the caretaker of the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola: Wayne Wiltse, Lift Maintenance Manager, Whistler Blackcomb.
Spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is a 4.4 kilometre/2.7 mile, eleven-minute journey now recognized globally as a tourism icon of epic proportions.
Since its opening in 2008, the Peak 2 Peak Gondola has attracted tourists from all over the globe who want to experience its breath-taking views and revel in its world-record breaking engineering. The Canadian Tourism Commission has introduced the Signature Experience Collection to promote once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences found across Canada, and Whistler's own PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola has made the list.

Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vail Resorts to Acquire Two Ski Resorts in Midwest

Vail Resorts announced that it has entered into agreements to purchase two premier urban ski areas in the Midwest, Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan, for total cash consideration of $20 million. Both ski areas serve major snow sports markets in the Midwest with more than 468,000 active skiers and snowboarders in the nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit metropolitan areas. Vail Resorts plans to upgrade and enhance the experience at each resort and create opportunities to connect guests from each of these ski areas to its seven world-class resorts in Colorado and Lake Tahoe through season pass and other lift ticket products.
"We are thrilled to welcome Afton Alps and Mount Brighton to the Vail Resorts family. These acquisitions are part of a new strategy for Vail Resorts to drive season pass sales and build broader guest loyalty by looking at premier smaller ski areas located near major urban markets. We plan to bring state-of-the-art racing, terrain parks, coaching and technology to the guest experience. We also will connect these urban ski areas to our world-class resorts in Colorado, California and Nevada with new season pass offerings, providing the chance to experience the best skiing and riding locally and in the West", said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.
"Afton Alps’ great terrain and strong heritage built by the Augustine family make it an ideal ski area for our entry into the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. Similarly, Mount Brighton is a great area for beginners and advanced skiers alike in the Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor markets with a strong snow sports tradition built over decades by the Tippett and Bruhn families. We plan to honor the important legacy of each ski area for their loyal guests while investing to enhance the experience in the years to come", Katz added.
Vail Resorts plans to enhance both the on-mountain and base area experience at each ski area. These enhancements will include redesigned and updated terrain parks, best-in-class coaching and instruction for all levels of skiers and riders, dedicated racing programs, expanded dining and entertainment options at the base area, and integrated technology and social media programs like EpicMix, EpicMix Photo and EpicMix Racing. The Company also will invest in each ski area’s infrastructure to improve snowmaking, parking and access to provide a more consistent experience throughout the season. Finally, the Company will be reviewing opportunities to add new summer activities. The Company will be outlining its plans in the coming months and meeting with the local communities to seek their input.
Nearing its 50thanniversary, Afton Alps is the largest ski area near a major city in the Midwest with 48 trails on nearly 300 acres, 18 lifts, four base areas, night skiing and riding, tubing and an 18-hole golf course. Afton Alps is located 33 miles from more than two million people and more than 161,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Open since 1960, Mount Brighton features 26 trails on 130 acres, six lifts, night skiing and riding and an 18-hole golf course. The ski area is located 43 miles from Detroit and is within reach of more than four million people and more than 307,000 skiers and snowboarders in the Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor metropolitan areas.
Vail Resorts is planning season pass products for both Afton Alps and Mount Brighton in time for the 2013-2014 season pass sales period, beginning in March 2013. In the meantime, to welcome both ski areas into the Vail Resorts family, Afton Alps and Mount Brighton season pass holders will immediately receive a 25-percent discount off of the window rate on lift tickets at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood this 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 now 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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Future of the Industry Survey conducted by SE Group: Part 4

By Claire Humber
As published in Ski Area Management (SAM, November, 2012)
"We must consider population dynamics in the queries we are making about the future".
There have been many ongoing discussions about the lingering effects of the Boomer’s exit from the marketplace and the winter resort industry, and for good reason. Their presence has dominated the marketplace for the past 20 years, and their absence will be felt. As noted in the 2011/12 NSAA National Demographic Study, "the boomers will increasingly need to be replaced with new participants to ensure the long-term health and future growth of the ski industry".

The winter resort industry will also continue to be challenged by the national geographic shift in the population base to the south and the west, resulting in the resorts of the northeast and Midwest having to draw visitors from farther away.
Where will the snowsports enthusiasts of tomorrow come from?


The next generation. Understanding Gen X’s and the Millennials’ product demands remains critical. Their differing perceptions of loyalty and brand commitment pose a challenge for resorts. On the other hand, continuing to promote the family experience may be a way to gain traction with this group: "Gen X and Millennials are pushing back marriage and parenthood to their mid to late 30s, resulting in more affluent parents of young children. This is exciting from a resort development standpoint, because developers can now focus on higher-end, creative children’s programming and facilities", says one industry insider.

Ethnic diversification. "The ski business has failed to recognize the changing ethnic make-up of our country", claimed another survey participant. The need to penetrate ethnic segments that have lower incidents of snow/ski participation has been a topic of conversation within the industry for several years. How can you make it easier for minorities to visit your resort? Strategies should include education, community outreach, as well as modification of hiring practices.
International visitation. "The interest in and opportunities for our customers to go abroad and foreign nationals to come here to participate in winter recreation constitute both threat and opportunity". While the ease of international travel threatens to dilute our sliding population as North American skiers head overseas, the world of internet marketing allows for North American resorts to attract international guests to come and play in our mountains. Can U.S. resorts compete and attract the discerning European skier? To do so will require complete and sophisticated offerings in terms of shopping, culture, dining, etc., to create a cultural and recreational vacation.
Families. From a recreation/leisure standpoint the family unit is stronger than it ever has been: the family is playing together, and there is no activity better than skiing or snowboarding to foster family interaction. This is a positive trend for the industry, especially as facilities offer more year-round activities for the family to engage in. At a recent session at IAAPA (the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), panelists were noting the similarities between the ski industry and the waterpark industry. Both appeal to the multi-generational complexities of the family, and both continue to attract and maintain visitation in times of recession. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our waterpark friends?
Women. A volume of marketing research has identified the key role that women play as family decision-makers. While moms are not making all the decisions, more often than not they are doing the research and presenting the “finalists” for evaluation. Think about this as you craft your marketing messages

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Denver's KSL Capital acquires share of Whistler Blackcomb ski resort

Denver-based KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm that has been purchasing ski resorts like Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and leasing them back to their operators, scooped up Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc’s (WBH) 24% of Intrawest shares, 9,092,500 to be exact, on December 3 for $12.75/per share. WBH owns a 75% stake in Whistler Blackcomb resort.
As a result of the sale by Intrawest, Bill Jensen has tendered his resignation as a director and Chief Executive Officer and each of Wes Edens and Jonathan Ashley has tendered his resignation as a director of the Corporation, effective as of the time of closing. Also effective as of the time of closing, the Corporation’s board of directors has appointed Dave Brownlie, the Corporation’s current President and Chief Operating Officer, as the Corporation’s President and Chief Executive Officer and a director, and appointed Eric Resnick and Peter McDermott, both of KSL, as directors to fill the vacancies created by these resignations. Mr. Resnick is co-founder and Managing Director of KSL and has deep, long-standing ties to the ski industry. Mr. McDermott is a partner at KSL.
Concurrently with these appointments, the Corporation’s board of directors has appointed Flora Ferraro, the Corporation’s current Vice President of Finance, as Interim Chief Financial Officer. The Corporation intends to announce the appointment of a permanent chief financial officer shortly.
"KSL is delighted to be acquiring a 24% interest in a world-class ski area. Whistler Blackcomb is the largest and most visited ski resort in North America and we feel that it complements our portfolio of premier travel and leisure properties. Peter and I are looking forward to working with the board to grow the business. Whistler Blackcomb has a very experienced and successful management team and we are enthusiastic to work with them as they continue to deliver a fantastic mountain experience for Whistler Blackcomb’s guests" commented Mr. Resnick.
"On behalf of the board of directors, I am very pleased to welcome Eric Resnick and Peter McDermott to the board. We would also like to express our appreciation to Wes Edens and Jonathan Ashley for their contributions to Whistler Blackcomb during their tenure on the board, and especially to Bill Jensen, for his valued service as Chief Executive Officer and as a director", commented Graham Savage, Chairman of the Corporation’s board of directors. "We are also pleased to appoint Dave Brownlie as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the board of directors. With over 24 years in ski resort management, Dave brings insight and experience to the position and I am looking forward to continuing to work with him to grow the business".
According to the release KSL expects to hold the purchased shares for investment purposes.
However, KSL and its affiliates expect to evaluate on an ongoing basis the Corporation’s financial condition and prospects and its interest in, and intentions with respect to, the Corporation and KSL’s investment. KSL and its affiliates may from time to time acquire additional common shares of the Corporation or may dispose of all or a part of their shares.

Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. owns a 75% interest in each of Whistler Mountain Resort Limited Partnership and Blackcomb Skiing Enterprises Limited Partnership, which, together, carry on the four season mountain resort business located in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, British Columbia. Whistler Blackcomb, the official alpine skiing venue for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, is situated in the Resort Municipality of Whistler located in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia 125 kilometres (78 miles) from Vancouver, British Columbia. North America’s premier four-season mountain resort, Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain are two side-by-side mountains, connected by the world record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, which combined offer over 200 marked runs, over 8,000 acres of terrain, 14 alpine bowls, three glaciers, receive on average over 1,192 centimetres (469 inches) of snow annually, and offer one of the longest ski seasons in North America. In the summer, Whistler Blackcomb offers a variety of activities, including hiking and biking trails, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, and sightseeing on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. Whistler Blackcomb Holdings Inc. is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

KSL is a private equity firm specializing in travel and leisure enterprises in five primary sectors: hospitality, recreation, clubs, real estate and travel services. KSL has offices in Denver, Colorado and New York. KSL’s current portfolio includes some of the premier properties in travel and leisure, including The Belfry, The Grove Park Inn, The Homestead, Montelucia Resort & Spa, Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa, The James Royal Palm, La Costa Resort and Spa, and ClubCorp, one of the world’s largest owners of private golf and business clubs. KSL also owns other premier recreation businesses, including Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, two of the leading ski resorts in North America; and Western Athletic Clubs, the owner and operator of luxury fitness clubs in California.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Scorpions Hit Ischgl

On 1 December 2012, the German cult rock band The Scorpions fired up 13.000 fans with mega-hits at the Top of the Mountain Opening Concert in Ischgl. In cooperation with Volkswagen, the alpine lifestyle metropolis hosted a full Opening Week for the first time under the motto "The Golf moves mountains", offering thrilling rides in the new Golf in addition to an open-air series of concerts with mega-stars including Amy Macdonald and DJ Antoine.
The Festival Opening Week in Ischgl culminated with the Scorpions concert on 1 December 2012: At the Top of the Mountain Opening Concert, the five rockers transformed the alpine lifestyle metropolis into a veritable "rock-zone". The German cult rock band was giving its debut in Ischgl in front of an audience of 13.000. Local and international fans came from near and far to rock to the beat of the Scorpions' top hits after a perfect day of skiing on the 238 km of slopes that make up the Silvretta Arena. Strumming their guitars like there was no tomorrow, the five band members rocked the open-air stage in front of an impressive mountain backdrop. On their Ischgl debut, the band harmonised perfectly and literally oozed rock-passion – even after nearly half a century.
In addition, Ischgl in cooperation with Volkswagen also provided for fringe events of the highest order under the motto "The Golf moves mountains". Thus brave guests could take the Golf on thrilling rides, testing the vehicle under extreme conditions on the prepared test tracks. The Festival Opening Week ended on a rocking note with one of the last concerts by the Scorpions. Following their successful world tour this year, the five rock musicians are looking to end their careers after 47 years of band history. The Festival Opening Week was a real success. The biggest opening to the season ever.
The Scorpions follows in the footsteps of a galaxy of superstars who have entertained skiers and boarders in the Austrian resort's traditional Top of the Mountain gig. Long time ago, Ischgl decided to put its entire advertising and marketing budget into staging two massive concerts a year to open and close the winter season. Elton John was the first star to feature in the Tirolean resort's now famous season closing concerts, back in 1995. Since then the resort has hosted Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sting, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Atomic Kitten, Peter Gabriel, The Corrs, Alanis Morissette, Lionel Richie, Pink, the Scissor Sisters, the Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna, Elton John again, Gabriella Cilmi, Leona Lewis, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Gossip, The Killers,Roxette and Mariah Carey.
The Ischgl skiing area opened earlier than ever this year. As early as 23 November, skiers and snowboarders were able to hit the freshly groomed 238 kilometres of slopes that make up the Silvretta Arena. Getting lost or taking a wrong turn in the Silvretta Arena is also a thing of the past, thanks to the "iSki Ischgl APP". But that’s not enough: Those wanting to relive their thrilling day in the Ischgl skiing area in the evening can record their pursuits directly in their smartphone using the GPS-tracking feature, and then review information such as top speed, distance covered, route or duration in Google Earth or on the Ischgl 3-D Map.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Vail Resorts Announces EpicMoms

Vail Resorts today officially launched a partnership with expert family travel writers and the Company’s new website,, designed to provide moms (and dads) with thoughtful tips and expert advice on planning the best family vacation experiences at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar Resorts and additional content for this year will include Kirkwood Resort.
Written by award-winning family travel writers and moms, provides fresh, relevant content on winter and summer travel in the mountains for families with children of all ages. Topics cover the basics of family vacation travel planning, including blog posts dedicated to each of Vail Resort’ seven world-class resorts about where to stay, where to eat, winter and summer activities, mom getaway weekends and date nights at the resort. The website also offers expert advice on winter and summer gear and traveling to and from the resorts, along with a video and photo gallery. There’s even a place for guests to "Ask an Epic Mom" their questions and then find the answers posted directly on the website.
"Planning a family vacation can be a challenging task for busy moms and dads. At Vail Resorts, we are continually looking for ways to make it easy for families to take a vacation at one of our seven world-class mountain resorts, which is why we’ve created It’s an online resource with expert advice by moms for moms to help them plan the experience of a lifetime for their families at our resorts", said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
The Epic Moms regularly spend time at each resort researching and reviewing everything from lodging to restaurants to ski school to the best ways to ski or ride the mountain with kids. They’re award-winning travel writers in their own right who also happen to love spending time with their families in the mountains.
Jen Leo is a travel and tech writer who lived in Tahoe 20 years ago. Mom to a preschooler, she’s introducing her daughter to the mountains for the first time. She writes the nationally syndicated Web Buzz column for the Los Angeles Times, blogs for , and writes kid-friendly hotel reviews for You can hear her weekly co-hosting the podcast “This Week in Travel,” available on iTunes. Outside of Jen’s travel life she co-founded, a website that reviews children’s iPhone, iPad, and Android apps.
Jamie Pearson is a writer, a mother of two, and the publisher of the award-winning family travel website Travel Savvy Mom. Her writing has appeared in Parenting, the Utne Reader, on the Fodor's Travel Guides web site, and in various parenting anthologies. She has traveled extensively with and without her children. Her threefold traveling philosophy is: 1) Never leave home without peanut butter, 2) No child is too big for a stroller, and 3) Always bring plenty of new toys—$50 for three pounds of plastic junk will seem like the deal of the century at 3 a.m. in a London hotel.
Rachel Walker is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colo. After reporting on environmental issues for western newspapers, she worked as an associate editor at Skiing for three years before launching her freelance career in 2007. She writes about adventure travel, parenting, skiing and more, and her work has been featured in the New York Times,, Backpacker and Skiing. With two kids in diapers and a penchant for snow, speed and the mountains, she has managed to integrate parenthood and adventure with only a few lifestyle changes.
Kara Williamsis one of those East Coast transplants who moved to Colorado "just for the summer." Nearly two decades later, she makes her permanent home in the Colorado Rockies with her husband and two school-age children. Kara is a longtime freelance writer who has covered travel topics for such publications as Every Day with Rachael Ray, Sunset, Ski Canada, The Denver Post andthe Dallas Morning News. Annual family vacations include sun, surf and palm trees, typically in Mexico or Hawaii, but now that her kids are older (and skiing faster than she does) the entire Williams family loves to hit Colorado's slopes in the winter months, too. Learn more about Kara on her website and read about her family’s travels on her blog The Vacation Gals.

The Wonder Reels: Episode 4 - The Deep

Powder is a commodity. It's rareness is what makes it valuable. Those in the know, know, the moment must be embraced. And the powder stashes are the place.
Whistler's Average Snowfall: 10.42 metres / 410 inches / 34.1 feet (1,092cm annual average of past 10 years).

Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Saas-Fee To Host Again The Ice Climbing World Cup

From 12 to 19 January 2013, Saas-Fee will once again play host to the Ice Climbing World Cup. This year the famous week-long iceclimbing event will be even more spectacular thanks to new climbing features. Audiences will also be able to witness the first-ever youth world championship. The evenings will be packed, too, as athletes and spectators get together for the already-legendary Ice Parties.
Athletes from around the world will compete on ice walls up to 30 metres in height, leaving spectators enthralled. This year the Saas Valley also has the honour of hosting the first youth world championships in the history of ice climbing. Held in Saas-Grund over two days, the event will showcase around 50 young athletes competing in "Speed" and "Lead" disciplines.
This year, the Ice Night ski-touring race (Swiss Cup) is open to both professional and amateur skiers. So whether you’re an elite athlete, or an upand-coming talent, or ski just for fun, you are very welcome to take part. The race starts on the Saas-Fee village square, where spectators can enjoy raclette and wine while they wait for the competitors to return to the finish line.
It is not only participants that will enjoy the Ice Climbing World Cup & Swiss Masters event; spectators are also guaranteed to get their money’s worth. The new climbing features make for more difficult, even more spectacular routes that will really put competitors to the test. So that the event is a treat for the palate as well as the eyes, various food stalls will be offering Valais specialities, and the Vins de Chevaliers wine cellar from Salgesch will be hosting a tasting at the wine bar. And there’s no need to worry that you might get chilly. At the World Cup Ice Parties, the electric atmosphere during the live climbing demonstrations is sure to keep anyone warm!
This action-packed event will keep you energised all week long. With competitions from morning till night and wild parties until dawn, it probably won’t even occur to you to hit the sack.
Program 2013
  •  12.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Youth Woldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Grund
  • 13.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Youth Woldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Grund
  • 16.01. SAC Ice Night Ski-Touring Race (Swisscup), Saas-Fee
  • 18.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Worldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Fee
  • 19.01. UIAA Ice Climbing Worldcup & Swissmasters, Saas-Fee
  • 18. & 19.01. World Cup Ice Parties
Livestream and additional information available from:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Peak Resorts Buys Alpine Valley Ski Area

Peak Resorts announces the purchase of Alpine Valley Ski Area in Chesterland, Ohio. The northeast Ohio resort opened in 1962 and has two chairlifts, as well as four surface lifts.
"Alpine Valley fits strategically with how we are trying to grow our business in a market that we are familiar with", says Jesse Boyd, VP of Peak Resorts. "We feel the resort has been well maintained, and has a lot of potential. We look forward to the close integration of the resort with Boston Mills and Brandywine resorts, which are also located in the Cleveland area".
Jason Boyd will run the area this winter.
Peak Resorts is a privately owned Missouri-company that operates ski resorts in the Midwest and Northeast United States. The company was founded in 1977 by Tim Boyd. In 1982 he bought his first ski resort (Hidden Valley Ski Area). Shortly thereafter he opened a ski-resort in suburban Kansas City, Missouri at Weston, Missouri (Snow Creek Ski Resort).
Peak Resorts owns 10 ski resorts across the East and Midwest of the country: Attitash, NH; Crotched Mountain, NH; Mount Snow, VT; Wildcat Mountain Ski Area, NH; Boston Mills, OH; Brandywine, OH; Hidden Valley Ski Area, MO; Mad River Mountain, OH; Paoli Peaks, IN; and Snow Creek, MO. Jack Frost and Big Boulder Ski Areas are operated by Peak Resorts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Wonder Reels: Episode 3 - The Stoke

Whistler Blackcomb's Opening Day tradition is a kind of candy festival - the soft grey light of morning is skittled-through with bright new gear and buzzing skiers and riders, amped by the prospect of making that first turn in 6 months. Some are Opening Day regulars, some are cutting school, some are here for their first time. But when the gate drops, and the gondola starts to load, they are all riding the same wave of Stoke, right to the top.

Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Resorts Gear Up For 2012-13 Season Facebook Battle

With much of the marketing and communication efforts of top ski resorts around the world now focused on social networking, there’s a push on to add more fans on Facebook pages.
The world top 4 for fan numbers remains unchanged from the end of the last ski season six months ago (The Biggest Ski Resorts On Facebook) although the numbers have risen by 10-20,000 fans each, and two more ski areas, including the first from outside North America, have passed the 100,000 fans mark.
Heavenly and Mammoth, both in California, USA remain one and two respectively with more than 128,000 and 124,000 respectively. Vail is gaining ground with 122,000 and Whistler has 118,000 – so the gap between the top four has narrowed to around 10,000 fans compared to nearer 20,000 six months ago.
The two new resorts to pass 100,000 fans are and Valle Nevado in Chile, with over 105000 fans, and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, one of the resorts adding fans the most quickly, with 101,000.
In Europe Megève continues in the top spot, now with more than 90,000 fans, but Grandvalira has added more than 30,000 fans over the summer and is now on 88,000 in second position.
There are some interesting anomalies for some of the leading resorts on Facebook. For example is the personal page of a nurse christened Chamonix and based in Utah. The official Chamonix Facebook page ( has only 3000 fans which the unofficial fan site has some 33,000 fans.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Saas-Fee Named Best Swiss Ski Resort

Yesterday the results of a questionnaire for "Best ski resort" with over 40‘000 guests were presented. Saas-Fee / Saastal was voted best Swiss ski Resort. Internationally it was even voted to second rank out of 55 top ski destinations in Austria, Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland. In terms of snow reliability, slope preparation and cosiness, Saas-Fee / Saastal hit top status. Together with Aletsch Arena and Zermatt, 3 of the first 5 ranks are taken by valaisian destinations.
Right on time for the start of the winter season 2012/13, Saas-Fee / Saastal is climbing to the top with the best ski resorts of the Alps. The independent guest satisfaction study "Best Ski Resort" is counted as one of the biggest and most significant studies in the alpine area and has questioned more than 41’000 winter sport guests. The guests appreciated the high snow reliability, great slope preparation and the cosy feeling of Saas-Fee / Saastal. The top placement in these three categories led to the gold medal in Switzerland. Internationally, the winter sports guests voted Saas-Fee / Saastal onto second place out of 55 ski resorts in the European alps.

Snow is guaranteed
"About 70% of all ski slopes in Saas-Fee are guaranteed for snow", says Rainer Flaig, CEO of the Saas-Fee cableways. The top rank in snow security is due to the unique glacier area and the unmatched height of the area, which is offering fun in the snow up to a height of 3’600 meters altitude. Above this, Saas-Fee cableways invested strongly into the artificial snow production over the last years.

Slopes are fulfilling highest demands
Also in the area of slope preparation, Saas-Fee / Saastal is in first place across Europe. "The Saas-Fee cableways has strongly invested in the infrastructure for preparing the slopes. This top rank was achieved with the help of our highly qualified and experienced teams who secure the quality of the slopes. That even in summer the slopes are living up to the highest expectations are demonstrated through the numerous national and youngster teams, which train in Saas-Fee for competitions regularly since many years", said Flaig.

Authenticity essential
The car free vacation resort in the southern canton Valais convinces also in the category cosiness (1st place) and ambience (2nd place). Pascal Schaer, Director Tourism, is convinced: "The top ranks achieved in these two categories clearly shows that authentic and decelerated vacation resorts are en vogue. Further are the historic and landmarked `Stadel’ made out of sun blackened larch wood, the narrow alleys and stone covered roofs are unique for the guests experience. Here it shows that product quality and authenticity are looked for by guests".

Saas-Fee / Saastal even more attractive in winter 2012/2013
In the coming winter season, Saas-Fee / Saastal is raising the attractiveness even further. Already for the coming weekend on November 10th /11th 2012 the slopes and facilities are going back in service up to Morenia (2’500 meters altitude). Additionally the Saas-Fee cableways is the only Swiss mountain cable car and railway company which lowers their prices for kids and adults – according to a questionnaire of 20 of the largest Swiss ski resorts conducted by a Swiss TV broadcast. The 6-day destination ski pass is lowered by over 10%, daily passes by 5.5%.

Saas-Fee / Saastal is on course for growth
Pascal Schaer is optimistic for the future:"After the decline of the overnight stays, the downward spiral was stopped in summer 2012. The successfully initiated ‘cable cars and bus included’ in the past summer has made the Saastal the largest all-inclusive destination in Switzerland. This was crowned by a guest growth of over 30%. The big challenge is now to return to the growth path also in the Euro area and to unlock new guest segments". This has already begun in the far markets, were the guest numbers in summer show a drastic increase from Japan (+78%) and Russia (+22%).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Subaru Freeride Series Announced

Salt Lake City, UT based Mountain Sports International (MSI) announced the schedule for the 2013 Subaru Freeride Series today. The new series features three 4-star Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ) ski events for men and women at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, CO (Feb. 7-10); Moonlight Basin Resort, MT (March 14-17); and the Subaru Freeride Nationals at Snowbird Ski Resort (April 11-14). Two 2-star Freeride World Qualifier events will also be held as part of the series at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, CO (Feb. 6-7) and Snowbird Ski Resort (April 10-11). The 2-star events provide an additional platform for athletes to earn Freeride World Qualifier points with the top men and women advancing to the corresponding day of 4-star competition. The full FWQ calendar will be released tomorrow with a full slate of worldwide events, including additional FWQ events in Canada and the United States.
"These premier 4-star events provide crucial opportunities for athletes hoping to qualify for the world tour", said Event Director Bryan Barlow of Mountain Sports International. "We are excited to provide this opportunity on the country's leading big mountain venues".
The Freeride World Qualifier point system (FWQ) has been developed as part of the newly unified Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face (FWT). All FWT events are designated as 5-star events. FWQs range from 1 to 4-stars and enable athletes to earn a corresponding ratio of points based on their performance at competitions. Accumulated points immediately affect an athlete's position on the FWT ranking system. The top ranked athletes will qualify to participate on the 2014 FWT.
The first ever FWT season will start with a roster of 36 prequalified male skiers, 14 male snowboarders, 14 female skiers and seven female snowboarders. Athlete qualification for the 2013 FWT has been designated by previous tour performance and rankings on the 2012 Subaru Freeskiing World Tour, The North Face Masters of Snowboarding and Swatch Freeride World Tours. In the future, the FWT roster will be created through the FWQ point system granting FWT positions to athletes with the highest points on the FWT and regional Freeride World Qualifying events such as the Subaru Freeride Series. The 2013 season of FWQ competition will climax at the Freeride Nationals at Snowbird Ski Resort in April, the final opportunity for FWQ athletes to launch to the FWT.
The Subaru Freeride Series is sponsored by Subaru, Sierra Nevada, Clif Bar, The North Face and Black Diamond.
Registration for Subaru Freeride Series will open Dec. 4, 2012. Riders will be able to create a profile and sign-up for the Subaru Freeride Series events of their choice through the Freeride World Qualifier registration system. Twenty-one days prior to the 4-star day of competition and 45 days prior to the 2-star event, registration for the events will close. Riders will then be determined off of the seeding list on the day registration closes.
2013 Subaru Freeride Series Registration Schedule:

Feb 6-7
Crested Butte, CO
Dec 4
Dec 23
Feb 7-10
Crested Butte, CO
Dec 4
Jan 17
Mar 14-17
Apr 10-11
Moonlight Basin, MT
Snowbird, UT
Dec 4
Dec 4
Feb 21
Feb 24
Apr 11-14
Snowbird, UT
Dec 4
Mar 21

Monday, November 5, 2012

World Ski Awards set for Kitzbühel 2013 Launch

World Travel Awards, "the Oscars of the travel industry", is launching a new programme to acknowledge the finest brands in the global ski industry. The inaugural World Ski Awards will take place at the Grand SPA Resort A-ROSA Kitzbühel, Austria on 16th November 2013.
World Ski Awards will be the first of its kind to celebrate the pinnacle of the wintersports hospitality industry. The exclusive awards programme will feature five categories: best ski resort, hotel, chalet/lodge, inbound operator and boutique hotel.
The elite organisations from the world’s top 20 ski nations will be nominated in their respective categories, and then enter a public and industry vote. Countries in the programme are: Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and USA. At the ceremony, the national winners with the most votes will be announced as the victors in their respective world category.
Kitzbühel in Austria’s Tyrol will provide the perfect setting for the inaugural red-carpet ceremony. Home to the legendary Hahnenkamm Race, the historic medieval town is synonymous with ski tourism and is one of the world’s most popular wintersports destinations.
The landmark ceremony will be staged at the world-class Grand SPA Resort A-ROSA Kitzbühel, which enjoys a spectacular location overlooking the Hahnenkamm peak.
Sion Rapson, Director, World Ski Awards, highlights the role that the programme will play: "World Ski Awards will serve as the definitive awards programme to reward and celebrate the elite of the wintersports industry. The gala ceremony in Kitzbühel will bring together the leading players and provide a unique forum for exchanging ideas and top-level networking".
Uwe Schramm, Director Grand SPA Resort A-ROSA Kitzbühel underlines the importance of the event: "Hosting World Ski Awards is a great chance to share our services with important key players from different ski destinations world wide. Kitzbühel is an incredible resort to experience a charismatic mix of endearing tradition and glamorous cosmopolitan atmosphere".
Peter Marko, Managing Director Kitzbühel Tourist Board, says: "Kitzbühel is very proud to host the inaugural World Ski Awards 2013. Our great ski history which reaches back to 1892, the Hahnenkamm race and one of the leading ski resorts in the Alps makes Kitzbühel a perfect place to launch the World Ski Awards".
World Ski Awards aims to drive up standards within the ski industry by rewarding the organisations that are leaders in their field.
The voting process begins in March 2013 when ski organisations across the world will be announced for the programme. Votes will be made by professionals working within the ski industry – senior executives, travel buyers, tour operators and agents. Votes can also be cast by the public. The voting works on a first-past-the-post system to ensure impartiality and independence. Votes are submitted online at World Ski Awards’ website.
World Ski Awards is part of World Travel Awards. Global media partner includes International Herald Tribune, National Geographic Traveller, CNBC Arabiya, Newsweek, Outlook Traveller, Breaking Travel News, eTurboNews and Travel Daily News International. This global media partner network has a monthly readership of 1.7 million and a TV audience reach of 90 million.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Future of the Industry Survey conducted by SE Group: Part 3

By Claire Humber
As published in Ski Area Management (SAM, November, 2012)

"There are so many other activities that are vying for our customer’s attention…"
Under the recurring theme of business as usual, the ever-increasing competition for the discretionary dollar is not a new challenge in our industry. It has often been noted that a ski area’s biggest competitor is not the neighboring hill, but rather Disneyland, the soccer league, the mall. So many choices, so little time!

While not a new challenge, emerging trends within the world of leisure are definitely ratcheting up the competitive landscape. That said, in the spirit of CHALLENGE = OPPORTUNITY, the industry continues to focus on ways to remain relevant in this broader leisure/entertainment/recreation marketplace.


The general lack of ethnic diversification within the current skier population presents a tremendous growth opportunity for the industry. As the ethnic makeup of the country evolves, the industry must continue to find ways to penetrate ethnic segments that have lower a incidence of snow/ski participation, and make it easier to introduce these groups to skiing and riding. Areas like Mountain High, Calif., have had great successes in this arena, and are integrating diversification throughout their operations. This includes hiring practices for front-line employees and management.

The family unit, from a recreation leisure standpoint, is stronger than it has ever been—the family is playing together. This is a positive trend for the industry, especially as facilities become more year-round. And there is no better sport than skiing for spending time together as a family.
"More so than ever, children dictate the family vacation and second home purchases. Further, kids tend to be more loyal to places where they have had great experiences. We are now in the business of selling to 8-year-olds".
It is important to remember the decision-making dynamics of the family. In addition to children influencing how the family’s leisure time is spent, moms are more often than not the key decision-maker when it comes to deciding how the family will spend time together. Think about this as you craft your marketing message.
"The interest in and opportunities for our customers to go abroad, and foreign nationals to come here to participate in winter recreation, constitute both threat and opportunity".
The rising amount of travel opens up a more international marketplace. Can North American resorts compete on the international stage?


Skiing and snowboarding are lifestyle sports, and the mountains are lifestyle destinations. Ski areas, mountain resorts and mountain communities will always have the competitive advantage of the lifestyle appeal of the sport and the locale.

"Let’s not forget that we are in the FUN BUSINESS—keep it easy, keep it as hassle free as possible, keep it fun!"
Skiing is cool again, and continues to have a “fundamental aspirational appeal” in the marketplace. The industry can continue to sell an authentic experience and be true to the sport of winter skiing. The broader four-season palette of mountain-oriented activities may have a less aspirational appeal, but broaden the potential market capture by providing "pure, unadulterated, no hassle fun".
"Staying youthful and healthful is more important than ever".
Over the past ten years we have seen a growing trend toward healthy lifestyles: becoming more physically fit, looking for ways to get outdoors and have fun experiences with families and friends, seeking connections with like-minded people. In addition, the mountain environment provides an antidote and escape from our increasingly fast-paced, technology-based society.
"Holistic packages should cover mountain activities, body rejuvenation, quality food and diet, rest, and the one missing ingredient at many resorts, intellectual interaction".
Mountain resorts are well positioned to attract those seeking such experiences by communicating the vitality and social aspects of the resort environment and lifestyle, and emphasizing the “experience” part of the visit—be it learning a new sport, taking part in a new activity, learning something through a class, taking in beautiful scenery, or getting a great massage.
Destination resorts may play upon this theme to encourage a transition to “destination living,” an opportunity to work and play in a resort setting.


"All of us, of whatever type, are better positioned than in the past due to the improved knowledge of our guests, the greater ability to reach them and precisely tailor products to their needs and desires".
The recent advances of media technology continue to have a profound impact on how we do business. Resorts are now able to gather vast amounts of data and information about their customers, and have many more ways of directly communicating with them. Resorts may use this information to develop unique product and service niches that are in direct alignment with the needs and desires of their customer base. This ability to brand and differentiate from the competition is an important component of how resorts are being sold in today’s marketplace.
Of course there are many pros and cons of the use and impact of social media for resorts. While it effectively allows the enthusiast’s evangelical promotion of a resort to gain much greater reach (think of Vail’s EpicMix), we have also seen the damage done by the recording of a negative experience gone viral (think Snowbasin).


Collaboration within the industry will continue to be important as the competitive challenge from beyond the industry continues to grow. This includes uniting behind industry initiatives aimed at increasing exposure to the sports of skiing and snowboarding and growing core participation. In addition, survey participants noted other opportunities for collaboration.

Collaborations between destination resorts, feeder and breeder areas. Each type of facility is important to the sustainability of the industry, as each provides a different level of access to the sport. As each type benefits from the presence of the other, each should collaborate with and support the other.
Inter-business partnerships. With the technological advances in media, collaborations with similar lifestyle products (i.e. the sponsorship of the X Games by Jeep) provides mountain resorts with an exponential increase in market visibility.
Environmental group partnerships. Partnerships with environmental organizations/groups allow mountain resorts to support the sustainability of the natural environment, the integral backdrop for all resort activities (i.e., Vail’s 1% from summer ticket and activity revenue to support The Nature Conservancy and forest health).
Strategic investments. Resorts may purchase other connected businesses that provide experiential opportunities for guests (i.e. raft/guide companies).
Public/Private. "Blur the lines and turf to provide better service AND be more sustainable".

Mountain resorts continually struggle to provide activities and amenities for their guests and property owners. The communities in which resorts exist likewise struggle to provide amenities and recreation infrastructure to their residents. Can there be an evolution from a wholly-owned resort mentality to a campus that requires an array of community services?" What would the structure of such an alliance be, from a financial and governance perspective?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saas-Fee Offers Free Ski Passes in January

The Swiss currency gained 11 per cent against the euro in the first nine months last year, forcing the Swiss central bank to intervene with a pledge to buy unlimited amounts of the European common currency to ensure one euro would buy a minimum of 1.20 Swiss francs.
"The strength of the Swiss franc over the euro has caused a near nine-percent-drop in European tourist numbers" to Switzerland during the first seven months of this year, said Federico Sommaruga, who heads the emerging markets unit at Switzerland Tourism, the national tourist board.
Many ski resorts meanwhile have announced a freeze on ski-pass prices, conscious of the expected drop in bookings from many crisis-hit European countries. According to the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag, more than half of resorts contacted said their ski-pass prices were unchanged, whereas last year 80 percent of them announced price increases. Several resorts even announced price cuts for a day on the slopes, including Saas-Fee, in the southern Valais canton, and Engelberg-Brunni, in central Switzerland.
To entice skiers back, Saas-Fee offers a free ski pass in January. From 5 to 26 January 2013, the ski resort will cover the cost of a three-day or six-day ski pass (Four nights with a three-day ski pass, arrival on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday Seven nights with a six-day ski pass, arrival on any day of the week ). This special offer can be booked directly at the hotels included in the promotion.
Hotel Schweizerhof****sup.
Hotel Allalin****
Best Western Metropol Grandhotel****
Hotel Alpin***sup.
Hotel Ambiente***sup.
Hotel Etoile***sup.
Hotel Alphubel***
Hotel Bristol***
Garni Condor***
Hotel Eden***
Hotel Europa***
Hotel Elite***
Garni Feehof***
Garni Imseng***
Hotel Mistral***
Hotel Waldesruh***
Garni Domino**
Hotel Tenne**
La Gorge

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Wonder Reels: Episode 2 - The Pass

Push the boundaries. A hunger for new wonders, new vistas and new challenges fuelled trailblazing big mountain ski legend Eric Pehota, who pushed the boundaries to explore Whistler Blackcomb's high alpine terrain. Now inbounds and accessible for all adventurous spirits, Pehota now revisits his old stomping grounds with his sons, Logan and Dalton, two of Canada's hottest upcoming freeskiers.

Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

Where To Ski and Snowboard In November

After two months with less than two dozen ski areas open in the northern hemisphere, the past few days have seen the 2012-13 ski season really take off with the first non-glacier ski areas open following heavy snowfalls in the Alps and Northamerica. Over the next month hundreds of ski resorts will open for winter 2012-13.
Austria currently has seven glacier ski areas open. Good snowfalls in the country during October have kept conditions good. Among the winners are the Stubai glacier with 55 cm of fresh snow, snow up to 90cm deep and 41km of slopes open and Sölden which got another 15cm snow fall on Tuesday topping the total snow depth to 85cm.
The Pitztal glacier has received 60cm (two feet) of fresh snow over the past week and now has 174cm snow depth and 27km of slopes open.
Skiinfo reports that the Dachstein, Kaunertal, Kitzsteinhorn (above Kaprun), Molltal, and Tux glaciers are also open.
The ski season never ends at Zermatt (Switzerland), Europe’s highest ski centre, and Saas-Fee has also been open since July and will remain so to late spring 2013. Engelberg and Laax have recently opened their glacier ski areas, the latter at weekends only through November. The Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz is also reported to be operating.
Verbier announced it will open early on Friday November 2nd and Glacier 3000 between Gstaad and Les Diabletrets opens on Saturday, November 3rd.
Tignes, which has for the past month been the only ski area open in France, has been joined for one week only by Les Deux Alpes where the glacier is open until 4th November. It will then close for four weeks before the main season begins. Both glaciers are reported to be in good shape for snowsports with terrain parks in place and a freshen up of a few centimetres of new snow in recent days.
The Dolomiti Superski region in Italy has reported heavy snowfall with 50cm of snow in recent days. It’s a similar story in Madonna di Campiglio. However no reports of any early openings as yet and the main choice remains Cervinia, now open full time through to 5th May 2013 after weekend openings in October.
The snow is reported to be a metre deep and in good shape with 23km of runs open. Passo Stelvio and Val Senales are both also open for glacier skiing, the latter with a 30cm snowbase and five beginner and intermediate runs open.
More resorts are opening in Finland to join Ruka, which was the first top open, a fortnight ago. Levi, another of the country’s top resorts, has opened one run with a 20cm base of natural snowfall. It will host World Cup racing next weekend (9th November).
Scandinavia’s largest resort, Åre (Sweden), will open limited terrain this weekend on November 3rd thanks to the heavy snow in the region last weekend. It follows Vemdalen which opened for Halloween.
After resorts in California and Colorado opened last weekend, attention has switched to the East Coast of the USA thanks to Hurricane Sandy. This has brought several feet of unprecedented late October snowfall to many ski areas, but equally many areas have been damaged, remain without power, or say it’s the wrong kind of snow (heavy, wet stuff). Among ski areas opening early are Sugar Mountain and Cataloochee ski areas in North Carolina which opened for Halloween - their earliest ever openings. Both had around 30cm of snow.
In the west Boreal and Squaw Valley are open in California, Timberline in Oregon, and Keystone has joined Arapahoe Basin and Loveland in Colorado and Copper Mountain also aims to open this Friday, November 2nd – many other Western ski areas aim to open in the next week or so ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday period.
Two Alberta ski areas opening early last week. Mt Norquay at Banff and Nakiska in Alberta. Both reported great conditions with around a foot of snow on the ground.
Other ski areas in Alberta and BC (Canada) are reporting good conditions and the belief that 50cm bases they now have are ‘locked in’ for the start of winter now and wont thaw away until the spring. Lake Louise and Sunshine near Banff are due to open next, a week on Friday, on 9th November.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Switzerland Tries To Win Back Tourists

The Swiss currency gained 11 per cent against the euro in the first nine months last year, forcing the Swiss central bank to intervene with a pledge to buy unlimited amounts of the European common currency to ensure one euro would buy a minimum of 1.20 Swiss francs.
"The strength of the Swiss franc over the euro has caused a near nine-percent-drop in European tourist numbers" to Switzerland during the first seven months of this year, said Federico Sommaruga, who heads the emerging markets unit at Switzerland Tourism, the national tourist board.
But despite the strictly-enforced floor, Europeans still view Switzerland as an expensive, luxury destination that few can afford in a time of crisis.
To entice visitors back, rail operator SBB recently launched a 15-day offer for unlimited travel throughout Switzerland -- also including boats and buses -- for 199 francs. Initially aiming to snag 20,000 customers before the offer runs out in November, the rail operator says it has already sold 60,000 "Holiday Passports" since the launch only weeks ago.
Another initiative requires more of holidaymakers than catching a train.
Many ski resorts meanwhile have announced a freeze on ski-pass prices, conscious of the expected drop in bookings from many crisis-hit European countries. According to the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag, more than half of resorts contacted said their ski-pass prices were unchanged, whereas last year 80 percent of them announced price increases. Several resorts even announced price cuts for a day on the slopes, including Saas-Fee, in the southern Valais canton, and Engelberg-Brunni, in central Switzerland.
"We are preparing for another difficult winter, thanks to the strong Swiss franc", said Andreas Keller, spokesman for Swiss mountain lift company SBS.
Last winter season saw the number of skier days fall to 24.7 million, from 26 million the previous year, Keller said. "We struggled last year because of the strong franc, and because of several days of storms which affected the new year celebrations", he added.
But not all resorts are as badly hit. Those with a loyal Swiss following and which are close to towns have side-stepped the downturn.
But big resorts such as Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, and St Moritz in Grisons, often the preserve of well-heeled jet-setters -- have come down to earth with a bump.
To soften the landing, hotels in these resorts now offer sweeteners for guests: anyone booking in for at least two nights in in the Engadine region, for instance, is entitled to a ski-pass for around 25 francs a day, a fraction of the usual rate.
And in the Arosa ski resort, ski school lessons are free for children up to 12 years old, in an attempt to combat the growing number turning away from the sport.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Zermatt. A Gastronomic Paradise in the Swiss Alps

There is no greater pleasure after a long day of skiing than sitting down to enjoy a traditional raclette.
But Zermatt (Valais) offers much more than that. Twenty Zermatt Restaurants have been included in the latest edition of the most popular Swiss restaurant guide, the Gault Millau 2013.
The Omnia, the "Heimberg" Restaurant, and the Hotel Matthiol have entered for the first time in the prestigious guide.
"The residents of Zermatt and their guests are spoiled by the very best mountain restaurants in the Alps. Hotels with ambitious chefs…" The Gault Millau (GM) is full of praise for Zermatt in its 2013 edition. The restaurants included in the 2013 guide (18 up to now) have amassed a total of 248 points (246 up to now). The publishers of the Gault Millau write in their press release: "Gastronomic power continues to rise as before in Zermatt: the cuisine in the wonderful restaurants lining the ski runs is consistently good. There has been some change in the village but the density is impressive". The Gault Millau tasters have designated the boys from the isle of Capri as the undisputed "top dogs", who never cease to "amaze us every year" in the Mont Cervin Palace (Le Capri Restaurant).
The Omnia has been waiting a long time for its Gault Millau entry and now it's a case of "Welcome to the Club!" states the restaurant guide, referring to the 14-point performance by its chef Patrick Weber. The "Heimberg" Restaurant was also able to climb up the rankings. Christian Geisler garnered praise with the entry, "What the young chef from Salzburg, Christian Giesler, serves up, deserves to earn great praise", gaining the "Heimberg" 14 points (13 up to now). The press release goes even further: "Christian Geisler is the shooting star in the village. … we expect great things from him".
The Restaurant Dolce Vita is a new addition, although without an entry with points, as Roland Kilian only works in the Dolce Vita in Zermatt in winter. Like other chefs in Zermatt practically overwinters here like a migratory bird. He is now here for the second time (2012/2013 season).
The Hotel Matthiol also managed only an entry, as Chef Maria Gross is moving on with Patrick Zeh stepping into her shoes. He first needs to prove himself.
Nine Zermatt hotels included Tourists continue to seek out beautiful hotels where they can enjoy outstanding food. Of the 100 hotels designated by Gault Millau as "Gourmet Hotels", nine of them are now in Zermatt. This is because the Hotel The Omnia is now in the club, too. Zermatt has a total of over 150 restaurants, 50 of which are mountain restaurants plus a further 50 bars and nightclubs.

The 20 best restaurants in Zermatt
Gault Millau points
Hotel Alpenhof, Restaurant Le Gourmet15
Hotel Cervo13
Restaurant China Garden13
Restaurant Dolce Vita-*
Findlerhof Mountain Restaurant14
Restaurant Chez Heini13
Restaurant Heimberg14 (+1)
Hotel Matthiol-*
Hotel Mirabeau, Restaurant Le Corbeau d’Or15
Hotel Mont Cervin Palace, Ristorante Capri16
Hotel Mont Cervin Palace, Grill “Le Cervin”14
Restaurant Myoko13
Hotel The Omnia14 (new)
Hotel Post, Restaurant Portofino13
Hotel Schönegg, Restaurant Gourmetstübli15
Hotel Riffelalp Resort, Lounge / Al Bosco13
Hotel Sonnmatten13
Restaurant Zum See bei Max und Greti14
Chez Vrony Mountain Restaurant13**
Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Restaurant Prato Borni13

*Two Zermatt restaurants have not been awarded points but have still been included. This is because the chef's successor must first prove himself (Matthiol) and because Roland Kilian is "only" working as a guest chef (Dolce Vita). However, he has cooked his way to 16 points in his former Rebstock Restaurant in Tschugg (Berne).
**Chez Vrony (picture attached) is one of a few restaurants that serves their own organic produce. The cattle eat nothing but the grass that grows on the mountain pastures. The dried meat, homemade sausage and mountain cheese served at Chez Vrony is all made according to time-honoured recipes handed down from one generation to the next, just like the restaurant itself. Indeed, all dishes on the menu are natural and authentic regional fare, but are often combined with a cosmopolitan touch.

Gault et Millau is one of the most influential French Restaurant guides. It was founded by two restaurant critics, Henri Gault (1929–2000) and Christian Millau in 1965. Gault Millau rates on a scale of 1 to 20, with 20 highest (Restaurants below 10 points are almost never listed). The points are awarded based on the (1) quality and freshness of produce, (2) creativity and professionalism in food presentation, (3) harmony of the menu, (4) timing of service, (5) presentation and salubriousness of dishes, and (6) consistency of performance.
Based on this rating, high ranking restaurants may display one to four toques.
The Swiss guide was established in 1982. Recognition is highly prized and requires a minimum of 12 points summarised as follows:

12 points. Good kitchen offering conventional and traditional cuisine
13 - 14 points. Very good kitchen with more than conventional cuisine
15 - 16 points. High level of cuisine and quality
17 points. Award for the best quality and consistency
18 points. Award for exceeding quality of cuisine and creativity
19 points. Award for a groundbreaking and outstanding cuisine
20 points. Never awarded

Mountain Rider’s Alliance and Brendle Group Announce Partnership to Advance Sustainable Ski Industry Model

Mountain Rider’s Alliance (MRA) has formed a partnership with Brendle Group, a Colorado-based engineering firm focused on sustainability that has worked for over a decade with the ski industry on climate change, energy, and other sustainability issues. MRA, a grassroots organization, is committed to transforming ski mountains into sustainable, eco-friendly playgrounds that benefit local economies and promote accessible outdoor recreation. Together, the two organizations will have a major influence in forging a new model for sustainability in the ski industry, focused on alternative business models for small and medium-sized resorts.
On the heels of MRA’s announcement of their partnership to convert Maine’s Mt. Abram—a recipient of a 2012 Golden Eagle Award from the National Ski Areas Association for its environmental stewardship—into its first sustainable Mountain Playground, Brendle Group and MRA will work together to develop and test a model for sustainability at Mt. Abram that can be replicated elsewhere. This will include comprehensive assessments of energy use, land use, procurement, and community sustainability to identify options for net zero carbon, energy, and water operations as well as integrating sustainability and local economic development.
Brendle Group will complete several other projects in support of MRA’s mission, including analyzing how sustainable practices can make small and medium-sized ski areas more economically viable. Furthermore, the firm will develop a screening tool for MRA’s future mountain conversion projects that includes environmental, financial, and community/social sustainability factors of the ski area and its local economy. MRA and Brendle Group will be working closely to coordinate their expertise and materialize their vision.
Jamie Schectman, CEO of MRA, has expressed his confidence in the collaboration: "We are extremely excited to be partnering with such an outstanding organization that has been a longstanding leader in ski industry sustainability. We look forward to implementing Brendle Group’s roadmap to sustainability at our first partner ski area, Mt. Abram. Our partnership will help MRA achieve its goal of creating sustainable Mountain Playgrounds around the world".
"By partnering with MRA, we have the exciting opportunity to help advance MRA’s Mountain Playground vision while bringing our newest services in net zero water, ecosystems services, and sustainable economic development to the ski industry. We believe Mountain Playgrounds will create a valuable new offering to the mix of skier experiences today",  says Judy Dorsey, President of Brendle Group.

Mountain Rider’s Alliance is a group of like-minded people dedicated to making a positive change in the ski area industry, as well as supporting the environment and surrounding communities. We believe riding is more than a sport, but rather a way of life.
MRA is an ongoing global collaboration, with over 50 active team members from 6 different countries contributing to our grassroots organization.

MRA signed an agreement to partner with the Mt. Abram ski area in Maine to try out a new ownership and management model aimed at boosting regional visitation, increasing awareness of sustainability issues, and focusing on the core values of skiing.
Mt. Abram, with 560 skiable acres and 1,150 feet of vertical, is located about 90 miles from Portland. In 2012 Mt. Abram have won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence in the small ski resort category. The award is given annually by the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) to three ski industry leaders for their environmental excellence. Mt. Abram is owned and operated by Maine businessman and recent Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductee Matt Hancock.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Wonder Reels: Episode 1 - Snow

Snow. Our common obsession. It covers our steep craggy terrain and rounds out the sharp edges to make Whistler Blackcomb rideable like nowhere else on earth. This is the story of how we are transformed every winter, told through the distinct visual artistry of Sherpas Cinema.

Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.