Mountain Town News
Ski areas envision OneWasatch
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Wasatch Range of Utah is phenomenal in many respects, including the number of ski areas located along the spine of the narrow range, all within a few miles of each other.
Last week, the general managers of the seven ski areas gathered in one room to share a common vision of being connected via lifts, with one pass good for all.
The vision is not particularly new. It has been, noted the Salt Lake Tribune, been talked about for 50 years, or about as long as some of the ski areas have existed.
What was remarkable was that the ski areas have united around one vision.
“You couldn’t get resort operators to talk to each other at a cocktail party in the (old) days, let alone agree on a master concept,” Mike Korologos, a Utah ski historian, told the Tribune.
The vision is called OneWasatch, and it would allow skiers to access more than 18,000 acres of terrain, three times the size of Vail Mountain and twice as much as at Whistler Blackcomb.
The operators say that just a few new lifts, strategically located on private land between the ski areas, could knit them together, providing customers access to a total of 100 ski lifts. Cost is estimated at $30 million.
Included are Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley, and Canyons Resort, all based on the east side of the range, with Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude, all on the west.
This new plan, if implemented, would give the Utah resorts something else unrivaled in North America, the interconnections found in resorts of the Alps.
“You combine that with our accessibility and the airport, and there’s not a ski community in this country that can beat us,” said Jenni Smith, general manager of Park City Mountain Resort.
But will it happen? The Salt Lake Tribune, in an editorial, was not exactly gushing. “With much fanfare this week, the seven ski resorts…joined together in a historic moment to announce … a logo.”
Grassroots environmental groups also weren’t gushing. “It’s a concept we’re definitely not excited about, whatsoever,” said Carl Fisher, who directs Save Our Canyons,
Jamie Kent, board president of the Wasatch Backcountry Alliance, also expressed skepticism of the presumed economic benefits of the interconnections.
“Since the 1997 merger of Whistler and Blackcomb ski resorts in British Columbia to create Canada’s largest ski complex, skier/rider visits to the area have remained stagnant,” he wrote in an op-ed published in The Park Record. “It appears that combining the resorts into one complex has not created any additional economic or social benefit to the resorts or to surrounding businesses and communities.”
Silent in last week’s press coverage was the Salt Lake City government. The city gets its water from creeks coming off the Wasatch Range, and when a more limited ski area interconnect was talked about over the last several years, water officials expressed reservations, citing potential impacts to the watersheds.
But Mike Goar, general manager of Canyons Resort, said having all seven ski areas agree on revenue sharing and the three crucial connection points was a major accomplishment.
“The idea was finally baked enough,” he told The Park Record.
Swiss banker acquires Tamarack
TAMARACK, Idaho – Credit Suisse, the major creditor for Tamarack, the new resort in Idaho that went belly-up with the recession, has applied a total of $8o million in credit to gain control of three properties in a series of sheriff’s auctions.
The Idaho Statesmen reports that Credit Suisse gained control of the ski area, a chunk of platted but undeveloped land, plus a lease agreement with the state of Idaho.
The bank had already gained control of 15 homes in a previous auction.
Still up for grabs is the undeveloped shopping and residential plaza.
Turning Hawaii into a ski area
TURTLE BAY, Hawaii – Several former key figures in Intrawest, the real estate and ski area developer, have regrouped in Hawaii in the business venture called Replay Resorts. There, they are at work on a Hawaiian resort called Turtle Bay, reports a correspondent for Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine.
Michael Coyle, the chief executive, said the team is applying what it learned in mountain resorts to the beach.
“We cut our teeth building Intrawest and spending a lot of time at Whistler,” Coyle told Pique. “We got an understanding there of what the customer wants, and how the customer is evolving, and how connected that experience needs to be to the local.
The highest compliment you can pay a guest in a destination like this is to mistake them for a local.”
Most of the locals thereabouts are surfers, and Turtle Bay has now created an alliance with Surfer, a magazine.
Skip Taylor, one of the founders of Crankworx, the renowned mountain biking event, has been hired by Replay to be part of the “experience creation” aspect of the resort.
“We are taking our learning from the mountain-resort world and bringing it here to the North Shore,” says Taylor.
“We don’t want tourists here. We want people who want to feel the ways of the place. Whether you are a surfer, or whether you want to just watch them, we want you here. Nowadays, we are a very atypical beach resort: we are embracing the community and the culture of the waterman.”
This sounds like marketing jargon, but Pique’s correspondent reports that a simple walk around the resort confirms execution of that concept.
Still in play is an 800-acre swath of undeveloped land, most if it only steps from the ocean. The state government wants to pay $40 million to the resort to preserve a large parcel of undeveloped land while also agreeing to ongoing development that would yield hundreds of new homes and up to two new hotels.
Intrawest on the move
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Intrawest is on the move. The company, owner of Steamboat ski area and operator of Winter Park, got out of a horrendous debt by spinning off several properties. Now, as the result of a public offering called an IPO earlier this year, it has $29 million.
At a recent call with investors and reporters, chief executive Bill Jensen said the IPO and the restructuring have placed the company in a better position for acquisitions. He said the company’s focus on deals in the Northeast U.S. hasn’t changed, according to Steamboat Today, which sat in on the call.
Gary Ferrera, chief financial officer for Intrawest, said the company would like to get some real estate deals gong on its 1,150 acres of base area land across its resorts in the next year or two.