By Allen Best
To have and have not
In the first days of 2012, ski resorts with snow smelled opportunity to carve a larger slice of market share.
Those resorts blessed with snow were either far north or far south, but leaving a large band of resorts across the middle of the United States looking woefully over their shoulders for precedent. Usually in La Niña winters, the line cleaves more cleanly across the nation’s middle between the haves and the have-nots.
Among the haves: Montana’s Big Sky Resort, which announced a special “Epic Package,” available to holders of the Vail Resorts Epic Pass. Passholders booking lodging with the Big Sky Central Reservations during January could ski free.
Grand Targhee, located on the flanks of the Tetons in Wyoming, more broadly offered free lift tickets to anybody with a season pass to a U.S. or Canadian ski resort for as many nights lodging as were booked through Targhee’s lodging division.
Whistler-Blackcomb couldn’t help but gloat. It posted a bar chart on its Facebook page. As of Jan. 5, it had 517 centimeters (204 inches) of snow, almost twice as much as the next in line, Snowbird and Alta.
In the Tahoe Basin, Homewood Mountain Resort announced it would be closed Mondays through Thursdays “until snow conditions permit full operations or further notice.” It had just a handful of trails open.
Truckee’s Sierra Sun also reported rumors — dismissed by resort representatives — of other resorts closing down.
“If anyone hears rumors, they should question the intellect, the judgment and the motivations of the people who are forwarding those rumors along,” Andy Wirth, chief executive of Squaw and Alpine, told the newspaper.
But ski areas were closing. Mt. Ashland Ski Area in Oregon was one.
Bogus Basin, outside Boise, Idaho, never opened. The latest opening ever before for the ski area was Jan. 6 one year. It has been operating 69 years. Ski area representatives told the Idaho Statesman they could open the runs with as little as 16 inches, but last week they had only 3 to 10.
“We are confident in the fact that it’s going to snow,” general manager Mike Shirley told the newspaper. “If it didn’t, that would be breathtaking.”
Shirley was foregoing pay during a time when the ski area takes in as much as $100,000 in revenue. Other year-round employees are getting 10 percent pay cuts, and some reduced hours.
Bogus season pass-holders were extended discounts at other Idaho resorts, including Brundage. That resort opened late, but has snow – and warm weather. “I’ve never seen so many people willing to ski in the rain and actually smiling about it,” spokeswoman April Russell told the Statesman.
A weekend storm left some smiles in Colorado. Aspen and Snowmass got eight inches, the first significant snowfall since Dec. 14, reported The Aspen Times – and the last until Jan. 20, according to a local meteorologist.
Loopy liquor laws
WHISTLER, B.C. – Everybody knows that Utah has had some bizarre laws governing liquor. But organizers of the 20-year-old gay ski week at Whistler say that British Columbia can make it very difficult to put on a festival.
“It’s really hard to do events in Whistler,” says Dean Nelson, chief executive of Alpenglow Productions, which sponsors the event catering to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender snow sports riders. Pique Newsmagazine did not specify the exact source of Nelson’s complaint.
Winter Pride in Whistler last year drew 2,500 people. This year, the municipality took the additional step of issuing a proclamation, designating Feb. 5-12 as Pride Week. Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said she had met with Winter Pride organizers, and she was happy to issue the proclamation, particularly after being told that some participants are persecuted in their hometowns for their sexuality.
S & R sounds alarm
WHISTLER, B.C. – Several big, early season storms have yielded unnerving stories in the Northern Rockies and Canada.
In the Whistler area, research and rescue teams issued a rare announcement. They were, they said, alarmed by the disregard displayed by a segment of backcountry recreation user groups who seemingly ignore the hazard levels as published daily by the Canadian Avalanche Association.
“This is definitely stretching the capabilities of search and rescues,” said Dave Steers, one of the rescue group members. Steers’ team was responding to two avalanches that had buried people when a third call came in.
Heading to the shrink?
JACKSON, Wyo. – Carbon constraints are gradually ebbing into commerce. As Jonathan Schecter, a columnist for the Jackson Hole News&Guide, observes, the European Union will implement a cap-and-trade system requiring major airlines to offset the greenhouse gas emissions produced during their European flights.
Jackson Hole, says Schechter, should up the ante. Operators of the local airport should declare it the first carbon-neutral airport. Airlines would be required to raise fares to cover the cost of carbon offsets. In 2008, he says, that would have cost $468,372, or $1.75 per passenger.
In Colorado, the Aspen Skiing Co. reports “slow but not explosive” progress in reducing its carbon footprint during the past 10 years. Despite expansion of operations, including high-speed detachable quad lifts, which use more electricity, the company has shaved its carbon footprint by 2 percent. “That’s not horrendous, but it’s not exactly saving the planet, either,” says The Aspen Times, referencing the ski company’s “Greenletter.”
The company has replaced the boiler that serves its largest hotel with a more efficient model. On the generation side, it has built a small solar farm, a hydroelectric plant and looked into other forms of renewable energy production. A current idea being explored would tap the methane being vented by a coal mine in Colorado to make electricity, though which mine hasn’t yet been specified.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – The Steamboat Pilot correctly points out that Colorado still hasn’t decided exactly what it wants to do about marijuana.
Voters in 2000 approved dispensaries for medical use. But in fact, that has been, in many cases, a charade for recreational use. “I’ve never seen so many 21-year-olds with neck pain,” one mountain-valley sheriff said several years ago.
An initiative that proposes to legalize marijuana altogether now appears headed to voters in November, and the Pilot says that this is good. However, the newspaper says it reserves judgment whether it will support the proposal.